Beacons periodically transmit a small amount of standard Bluetooth data. The format of that data varies depending on whether it’s iBeacon, Eddystone and sensor data.
Beacon advertising protocols
We sometimes get asked which beacons support advertising of multiple protocols simultaneously. The ‘simultaneous’ category on the web store shows beacons that can be set to advertise more than one protocol.
Note that, in actual fact, no beacon can send multiple protocols simultaneously. Instead the advertising data is sent for a protocol, very shortly, milliseconds, after the other.
The researchers explain how standard beacon advertising works and documents the existing iBeacon and Eddystone protocols.
New protocols, LP4S-6 (for resource-constraint beacons), LP4S-X (for more powerful beacons) and LP4S-J (for beacons able to run complex firmware) are proposed that can be used to allow IoT telemetry systems to discover new nodes and to describe and auto-register the sensors and actuators connected to a beacon.
The paper describes the resultant JSON, shows how a new protocol can be added to an Eddystone beacon and proves how the new latency and power consumption remain low.
Note that updating the firmware of a beacon is non-trivial because it requires the implementation of what’s already on the beacon without access to the original source code.
We sometimes get asked how many connections an iBeacon can support? The answer is ‘1’ but it’s often the right answer to the wrong intended question. The intended question is usually “How many receivers can see a beacon?”
Beacons don’t usually connect. They just advertise and can be seen by an infinite number of receivers that include phones, gateways or single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi.
The receivers only usually connect once, during setup via an app, to set the initial iBeacon parameters. When connected, the beacon doesn’t advertise which prevents extra receivers from connecting. Once set up, the app disconnects and the beacon starts advertising again.
Beacons provide a significant improvement in the sign in process, reducing administration and providing for a quicker and easier sign in using the Ostara app. 1300 Bluetooth Beacons have been installed that are used by over 10,000 engineers.
Occasionally, our customers ask for things we didn’t expect, contradictory requirements or requests that require unusual solutions. Here are some examples:
We were once asked for the beacons we considered to be least attractive. The idea was that they were going to be rolled out into a busy public space and would otherwise easily get spotted and stolen. Small, black beacons turned out to be the solution.
We have been asked for beacons that last the longest time. While, we instantly thought about our energy efficient beacons, the best solution turned out to be to use a less efficient, timed beacon set to be on for only a few hours a day.
We are often asked what’s the best beacon for Android (or iOS) development. There actually isn’t a best one as they all advertise similar data. Instead, the best beacons are those that can be easily turned on and off to test triggering.
Some people ask for mains powered beacons. We aren’t aware such products exist. Instead look at USB beacons that can be powered by USB mains adapters.
It’s often the case people want the longest possible battery life and the smallest possible beacon. These two factors are mutually exclusive because a large battery is required for a long battery life. It’s necessary to either decide which is the most important or compromise on both factors.
We are sometimes asked to recommend beacons that have the best iOS and/or Android SDK. In these cases the best SDK is no SDK.
These examples demonstrate what’s right for one project isn’t necessarily right for others. This is why we stock the widest beacon range in the World.
This is another example of an application adding iBeacon support as a side feature as opposed to using iBeacon to drive the main purpose of the application. Applications can gain ease of use by using iBeacons for locating.