Unexpected Beacon Solutions

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.

Add GroupMe Members Using iBeacon

GroupMe is Microsoft’s free messaging application that works across HoloLens, PC and mobile devices. GroupMe is published by the Skype part of Microsoft.

We recently learnt that it’s possible to use iBeacon to add members.

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.

View iBeacons

Do you have an Estimote Alternative?

We sometimes get asked if we have a replacement for Estimote beacons. There’s no exact replacement because Estimote manufacture their own custom product and only allow their own beacons on their platform.

However, if your app doesn’t use the Estimote SDK and just detects iBeacon advertising using the standard iOS and Android Bluetooth libraries then you can use any iBeacon. Also see our post regarding compatibility.

Read about the advantages of generic beacons

Remote Team Management Using iOS as an iBeacon

S Sindhumol of Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi, India presents recent research into Implementation and Analysis of a Smart Team Management System using iOS Devices as iBeacon (pdf).

The key thing about this research is that it uses iOS rather than a beacon to advertise iBeacon. The system allows the entire team to determine the location of other members, perform location based tasks, receive announcements and communicate via instant chat.

iBeacon Team Management Screens

The paper contains some useful analysis of accuracy of distance measurement on distance, interference, measured power and obstructions:

Effect of iBeacon distance accuracy with obstructions
Effect of iBeacon distance accuracy with presence of another iBeacon
Effect of measured power variation on proximity and accuracy
Effect of obstructing objects on RSSI and Accuracy

On iOS it’s only possible to advertise iBeacon if the app is in foreground:

The major limitation of the proposed app is battery drainage while keeping the app active all the time in the foreground

A more practical system would have been implemented by having the users carry a separate wearable beacon. This would have allowed presence to be detected when the app isn’t in foreground and there wouldn’t have been a problem with excessive iOS battery use.

Mist WiFi Access Points Broadcast as Bluetooth Beacons

WiFi access points are increasingly supporting the broadcast of Bluetooth beacon signals. The main usecase is to allow for smartphone apps to detect the Bluetooth advertising and provide for location based information and navigation.

We recently learnt that Mist access points support the advertising of iBeacon and Eddystone:

There are also some interesting uses in retail that automatically provision smartphone WiFi access settings based on the detected presence of a beacon.