We often get asked what’s the best iBeacon? Unfortunately, there is no one best beacon for all scenarios. It depends on your particular project and business requirements. Having said this we have some favourites based on specific characteristics:
Best for Price: TON9108 – Well built, Apple MFi certified beacon.
Best for Features: iB003N – Waterproof, large easy replaceable battery, long range, accelerometer, ultra long range and sensor variants.
Best for Battery Life: SmartBeacon-AA and SmartBeacon-AA Pro – Allow use of 4x AA batteries. Use lithium AA batteries for 7+ year battery life (also depends on settings).
Best for Setup App: Minew range – Minew’s latest BeaconPlus range (those supporting both iBeacon and Eddystone) provides the best in class app.
View our complete range.
We have had some stocks come in from Sky and we now have three extra beacons available.
The first is a variant of the Forecum 200 that’s mounted in a wristband.
We also have a new rechargeable, wearable beacon, the HV104 that recharges via USB:
Finally, we have an unusual beacon, the HF300 in that it can be powered by USB or AA batteries. We believe the intention is that it is usually powered by the USB and the AA batteries act as a backup in case of loss of USB power:
We now stock Minew beacons and have the i1, i3, i4, i7 and i8 available. Of particular interest and different in some way are the i1 and i3:
The i1 is a wearable keyfob type beacon. It’s the only keyfob type we stock that’s Apple certified that also has a larger CR2477 battery. It’s also waterproof.
The i3 is a double AA battery beacon with a longer than normal 200m range. It’s waterproof, Apple MFi certified and comes with two backs, with and without tags with holes.
We now have several beacons that have an exceptional range so we have created a new Ultra Long Range category.
One of the problems with using iBeacon and Eddystone beacons is that it’s not easy to predict how long batteries are going to last. Battery life depends not just on the battery capacity but also the transmitted power, advertising interval, beacon processor chip type and whether the beacon has timed transmission. Also, beacons vary from model to model, sometimes even between revisions of the same model. It would be nice to know how much power a particular beacon is going to use and which beacon models are the most power efficient.
We have spent several months looking into how we can measure actual battery use. It’s not that simple. The majority of the power is expended in very short, few millisecond (ms) transmit pulses, inbetween which the beacon goes into low power sleep.
Nordic Bluetooth Advertising
Testing needs to integrate the current used over multiple advertising periods. The test equipment needs to capture this data at sub 1ms precision in order to catch the pulses. The testing also needs to be flexible enough to work for advertising periods from 100ms to 1 sec.
After lots of false starts we now have custom in-house designed test equipment capable of real-time battery current testing. This has enabled us to compare different manufacturers’ beacons having the same configured settings and we can now provide our consultancy clients with beacon battery use data based on their exact configuration settings.
As an example, an interesting test we did was was to compare the Sensoro AA transmitting just iBeacon vs iBeacon at the same time as the 3x Eddystone advertising packets. With only ibeacon @ 760ms, 0dBm advertising, 4 typical alkaline batteries would last 7.7 years. Transmitting all 4 iBeacon and Eddystone frames reduces the battery life to 2.9 years.
Another interesting observation has been that the beacons that have the strongest signals aren’t necessarily the ones using the most battery power. Design of aspects, such as the antenna, contribute to power efficiency.
We now offer case-by-case beacon battery use testing.
After project rollout, human effort used in regularly replacing batteries can be significant and the human resource cost of doing so can dwarf the actual cost of the beacons. Hence, unless it’s a temporary scenario it’s best to specify beacons with as large a battery capacity as possible. Beacons with smaller capacity batteries are only suitable for short trials, temporary events or use during development.
While BeaconZone stocks a very large range of beacons, we purposely haven’t stocked any beacons with batteries smaller than CR2032 because the battery life of CR2025 and CR2016 beacons is usually too short. One exception is the iB003M that requires a CR2016 in order to be slim but you can set it to motion triggered to save battery power. All our other beacons use either CR2032, CR2450, CR2477 or AA batteries.
How long a battery lasts depends not just on the battery capacity but also the transmitted power, advertising interval, beacon processor chip type and whether the beacon has timed transmission. This article only considers the battery itself.
Battery capacity is measured in mAh. The mA part (without the h) is the unit of current. As an example, a CR2477 battery typically has a capacity of 1000 mAh which means it can supply 1 mA for 1000 hours or 2mA for 500 hours. However, most beacons only use tens or hundreds of µA when transmitting, where 1 µA is 1000 times smaller than a 1 mA. Also Bluetooth beacons only transmit for a few milliseconds (1 ms = 1/1000 sec) at a time so you can see how a coin battery can last a long time.
Here are the main battery sizes and their typical mAh rating:
CR2032 = 250 mAh
CR2450 = 500 mAh
CR2477 = 1000 mAh
2 x AA = 2200mAh (Alkaline), 3000 mAh (Li)
4 x AA = 4400mAh (Alkaline) or 6000 mAh (Li)
You can see that a beacon such as the SmartBeacon-AA containing 4 Lithium batteries can last 6x one with a CR2477 battery and 24x one with a CR2032 battery. This gives a battery life of up to 7 years depending on other configuration parameters.
Lithium AA batteries such as the Duracell Ultra Lithium and Energizer Ultimate don’t just last longer than Alkaline AA batteries. Their voltage also doesn’t vary so much with temperature which might be a consideration if your rollout is outdoors.
We have a new very long range beacon that uses a range extension power amplifier circuit to reach 200m outdoors and 50m indoors. This beats the Forecum 201 that previously held the record for the longest range in our BeaconZone tests.
The beacon is powered by 2 AA batteries and can be mounted on the wall with the supplied screws or 3M sticker.
We have started selling the twin AA battery AKMW-iB004N AA. It works the same way as other AnkhMaway beacons in that to configure it you tap it onto a table or something hard to make it ‘ring’.
It’s also worth mentioning that this and all AnkhMaway beacons come with Panasonic rather than cheaper Chinese brand batteries.