How Do You Build Your Own iBeacon?

To build your own iBeacon from scratch you need electronics and software skills. You start by choosing an SoC manufacturer and using their prototypes boards and SDKs. When you have working design, you move it to your own printed circuit board and case. You then need to get CE or FCC approval. Read our inside a beacon series of posts for more details.

In practice, it’s less expensive to find a manufacturer who has something as close as possible and ask them to modify for your needs. Many organisations come to us having failed to source custom beacons themselves directly from manufacturers. Unless you have an existing relationship with a manufacturer, you will usually find your enquiries either aren’t taken seriously, aren’t answered, are misunderstood or the purchased beacons aren’t as expected. Sometimes organisations make the costly mistake of dealing with disreputable Alibaba middle-men rather than the end manufacturer.

For large custom orders we usually work on a consultancy fee basis. We are the best connected and experienced company in the industry when it comes to dealing with the beacon manufacturers. Manufacturers trust us. We help you choose the right beacons. We jump start purchasing through knowing which manufacturers are open to doing the various types of customisation. We know the pertinent questions to ask of manufacturers, contact the right people for you, sidestep known problems and negotiate the best price for you as we know what is a sensible price. You end up buying direct from the manufacturer but with the assurance of advice and direction from ourselves.

We provide:

  • Consultancy related to using beacons with your idea.
  • Refining of your beacon specification based on your needs, including regulatory certification.
  • Working with our technical contacts at suitable manufacturers to work through a solution and price (this usually takes 5 to 8 weeks). We take no commission from the manufacturer.
  • Advice on initial settings to be programmed at the factory to save you considerable configuration time.
  • Advice on software integration.

We charge a fixed upfront fee for this service.

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SensorCognition™ – Machine Learning Sensor Data at the Edge

The traditional IoT strategy of sending all data up to the cloud for analysis doesn’t work well for some sensing scenarios. The combination of lots of sensors and/or frequent updates leads to lots of data being sent to the server, sometimes needlessly. The server and onward systems usually only need to now about abnormal situations. The data burden manifests itself as lots of traffic, lots of stored data, lots of complex processing and significant, unnecessary costs.

The processing of data and creating of ongoing alerts by a server can also imply longer delays that can be too long or unreliable for some time-critical scenarios. The opposite, doing all or the majority of processing near the sensing is called ‘Edge’ computing. Some people think that edge computing might one day become more normal as it’s realised that the cloud paradigm doesn’t scale technically or financially. We have been working with edge devices for a while now and can now formally announce a new edge device with some unique features.

Another problem with IoT is every scenario is different, with different inputs and outputs. Most organisations start by looking for a packaged, ready-made solution to their IoT problem that usually doesn’t exist. They tend to end up creating a custom coded solution. Instead, with SensorCognition™ we use pre-created modules that we ‘wire’ together, using data, to create your solution. We configure rather than code. This speeds up solution creation, providing greater adaptability to requirements changes and ultimately allows us to spend more time on your solution and less time solving programming problems.

However, the main reason for creating SensorCognition™ has been to provide for easier machine learning of sensor data. Machine learning is a two stage process. First data is collected, cleaned and fed into the ‘learning’ stage to create models. Crudely speaking, these models represent patterns that have been detected in the data to DETECT, CLASSIFY, PREDICT. During the production or ‘inference’ stage, new data is fed through the models to gain real-time insights. It’s important to clean the new data in exactly the same way as was done with the learning stage otherwise the models don’t work. The traditional method of data scientists manually cleaning data prior to creating models isn’t easily transferable to using those same models in production. SensorCognition™ provides a way of collecting sensor data for learning and inference with a common way of cleaning it, all without using a cloud server.

Sensor data and machine learning isn’t much use unless your solution can communicate with the outside world. SensorCognition™ modules allow us to combine inputs such as MQTT, HTTP, WebSocket, TCP, UDP, Twitter, email, files and RSS. SensorCognition™ can also have a web user interface, accessible on the same local network, with buttons, charts, colour pickers, date pickers, dropdowns, forms, gauges, notifications, sliders, switches, labels (text), play audio or text to speech and use arbitrary HTML/Javascript to view data from other places. SensorCognition™ processes the above inputs and provides output to files, MQTT, HTTP(S), Websocket, TCP, UDP, Email, Twitter, FTP, Slack, Kafka. It can also run external processes and Javascript if needed.

With SensorCognition™ we have created a general purpose device that can process sensor data using machine learning to provide for business-changing Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘Industry 4.0’ machine learning applications. This technology is available as a component of BeaconZone Solutions.

Devices That Can See Beacons

When people think about beacons they often imagine them being detected in smartphone apps. This post explores other devices that can also see beacons allowing for different interaction possibilities and new scenarios.

Apps – Apps aren’t limited to just smartphone apps. You can run apps on TV boxes that run Android. Just make sure they have Bluetooth 4.3 or later.

GatewaysGateways are small single pupose devices that look for beacons and send the information on via MQTT or REST (HTTP) to any server. This allows web servers to see beacons.

Desktops and Laptops – PC/Mac devices with built-in Bluetooth or dongles can see beacons.

Walky Talkies – Motorola manufacture the MOTOTRBO range of digital radios that can detect iBeacons and show their location on a map.

Raspberry Pi – This has Bluetooth and can be used to detect beacons.

AndroidThings – This special IOT version of Android can run apps that detect beacons and store and/or forward information to other devices.

ArduinoArduino boards often have Bluetooth and can do things based on the presence of beacons.

Other Beacons – Some specialist beacons such as the Puck.js can communicate with other beacons.

Pixl.js – The manufacturer of the Puck.js also supplies a device with a screen that can detect and interact with beacons.

Single Board Computers (SBC) have an advantage over gateways in that data can be cached locally when there isn’t an Internet connection. They can also make decisions locally and send out alerts directly rather than having to rely on a server. This is so called ‘IoT Edge’ computing.