How the Range Varies with Beacon Orientation

Most people imagine Bluetooth beacons transmit equally in all directions. However, this isn’t usually true. The 2.4 GHz frequency that beacons use is easily blocked or affected (through electronic resonance) by items such as the casing, the battery and even the printed circuit board itself. Also, the design of the antenna, that’s usually etched onto the printed circuit board, causes the transmission to vary depending on the direction.

antenna

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Antenna

The above 2D design leads to different radiation depending on whether you are viewing face on, sideways or end on. The following diagram from a very informative Cypress article (pdf) demonstrates how the radiation pattern can vary in the x y and z planes:

antennaradiation


In practice, it’s best to perform tests to assess how the beacon radiation changes with beacon orientation. You can do this by measuring the change in RSSI as you orientate the beacon. You can measure the RSSI using an app such as nRF Connect.

For example, with the long 300m range iB003N-PA, we determined experimentally that the best range was when the non-battery face of the beacon was facing the observer.

iB003N-PA – Strongest signal for us was downwards in this photo

However, this was for our particular scenario. How and where the beacon is mounted can also affect transmission and hence range.

So, the next time you are testing the range or installing beacons, take some time to assess how the beacon orientation might be affecting the range.

Inspecting Data from Bluetooth Gateways

Bluetooth gateways scan for beacons and send detected data your server, BeaconServer™ or BeaconRTLS™. However, what if you don’t have a server yet or want to determine if a gateway is actually sending data?

Ubeac allows you to set up a hook to receive gateway data. What’s more, they have some informative setup videos for our INGICS, Minew, AnkhMaway and Aprilbrother gateways.

Ubeac INGICS Setup

Read about Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)

View Bluetooth gateways

New AKMW-iB004N PLUS (ZeroConf™)

We have a new variant of the iB004N, the AKMW-iB004N PLUS (ZeroConf™) that has evolved through this beacon being using with BeaconRTLS™.

Asset tracking systems don’t need beacons advertising of the order of hundreds of millisecs or even a second. Better better use can be made of gateways, servers and beacon battery life if the advertising period is longer. For the AKMW-iB004N PLUS (ZeroConf™) it’s set to 30 secs which gives a 10+ year battery life. The calculated life is actually much longer, of the order of 30 years. However, the shelf life of the Panasonic battery is only 10 years so other (chemical?) things might happen to the battery over this time so 10 years is a conservative estimate.

Another feature of asset tracking is that you usually have to set up lots of beacons and determine their Bluetooth MAC addresses. This can take a lot of effort and, being a tedious activity, can be prone to error. The AKMW-iB004N PLUS (ZeroConf™) comes already set up and advertising. The MAC address is on a label on the outside of the beacon.

Read about Using Beacons, iBeacons for Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS)

Read about Asset Tracking for Manufacturers

Setting the iB003N State

The iB003N can transmit up to three channels: iBeacon, Custom and Accelerometer Data. If you only want to send iBeacon, the iOS and Android app ‘Config’ screen implicitly sets the state to iBeacon only transmission when you set the iBeacon parameters.

On iOS only, the Eddystone screen allows you to set the custom channel to send Eddystone that implicitly sets the state to transmit the Custom channel only.

What if you want to transmit both iBeacon and Custom channels or also send the acceleration data? What if you want to enable motion triggered broadcasting? For cases such as these, you have to set the beacon state explicitly (manually) via the Bluetooth Service Characteristic 0x2A80 as described in the iB003N user guide .

Sleepy bit rot on Twitter has produced a useful table showing what values have to be set for some specific configurations:

Beacon Programming Examples

We have some new documentation for our AnkhMaway customers*. In the Ankhmaway Technical Area we have two new Android examples on:

We also have a new user guide for the iB001W rechargeable wrist beacon.

* Password protected – only available to customers who have purchased products.

New iB006N Bluetooth WiFi Gateway

We have the new iB006N Bluetooth WiFi Gateway in stock. It scans for beacons and forwards the one or more beacons’ advertising data, as a JSON POST, on to your HTTP server.

Configuration is via an iOS app. The gateway can also be configured to act, itself, as an iBeacon or Eddystone beacon.

Gateways are used for IoT and Real Time Locating (RTLS) applications. Read more in our articles on Beacons and the IoT and RTLS.