Pushcut, the HomeKit and workflow automation iOS app, has some updates that now allow iBeacon triggered in background. Delayed notifications and ‘do not repeat’ durations are also possible with iBeacon triggers.
Pushcut allows you to execute online actions and web requests in the background providing IFTTT triggers from an iBeacon.
We often gets asked what are the best beacons for iOS and/or Android. As mentioned in our post on Which Beacons Are The Most Compatible, all beacons, whether iBeacon or Eddystone, are compatible with iOS and Android.
The universal compatibility comes about because all beacons are slight derivations of a few standard circuit designs and firmware provided by Texas Instruments, Dialog and Nordic who produce the System On a Chip (SoC) inside beacons.
Instead, you should be looking at more physical aspects such as battery size, battery life, range, on-off buttons, waterproofing and included sensors.
There are a large number of offshore development companies currently spamming social media, claiming to do iBeacon development. We recommend you do your due dilligence before engaging development as many like to say ‘yes’ to anything and it’s often companies such as ours that have to pick up the pieces.
Here’s are some things to consider when looking for an iBeacon app developer:
Can they give examples of iBeacon apps they have written?
Can they give you references to past work who you can talk to?
Do they release development versions regularly so you can test and gauge progress? If everything is released at the end, it’s likely you are going to end up disappointed.
Who will actually be doing the development? There can be intermediaries in the development ecosystem that confuse and compound communications problems. Right from the start, you need to be talking direct with the person who will be doing the development.
Do they really understand you? Many aren’t native English speakers and if you are getting misunderstandings during initial engagement, this doesn’t bode well for the development.
Have they provided constructive comments on your proposed app rather than just saying ‘yes’? Developers should be able to improve on your ideas so as to get the best out of iOS and Android.
Getting iBeacon apps through Apple approval can be difficult. Can they give you examples why and the possible mitigations?
App development is an area where cheapest isn’t usually the best. Compromised development will cost you in the longer term through late or aborted development, tricky problems, significant end user support, poor app reviews and difficulty adapting the apps in the future for future phones and new features.
Beaconzone was founded by app developers in 2015 after we had previously created several iBeacon art gallery apps. We have since written many more iBeacon and Bluetooth LE apps on iOS and Android. Read about beaconzone.solutions
Nordic, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) in most beacons, has a new blog post on Five Things You Didn’t Know About Nordic’s Mobile Development Apps. The post mentions less visible features of nRF Connect on iOS and Android. For example, you can get a useful RSSI graph by dragging the screen towards the right from the centre:
If you are developing a beacon solution it can be tricky to set up physical scenarios where beacons come and go. Peter Alt of Philadelphia Museum of Art has a useful iOS app called BeaconWalker that simulates a sequence of iBeacons with custom durations per beacon.
The Swift source code is also available on GitHub. While you are there also take a look at the museum’s mobile framework, a collection of utilities for caching data, iBeacon ranging and indoor navigation. There’s also framework demo that explains how the framework features work.
When scanning for Bluetooth devices from an app or gateway you will usually pick up lots of iOS devices.
Every Bluetooth LE device, including iOS, has a unique MAC address. MAC address randomization is used on iOS so it’s not possible to track a particular device over time. However, there have been studies that have shown other Bluetooth information can be used to fingerprint devices.
The Bluetooth advertising uses a proprietary protocol and has no use for anyone other than Apple. The advertising is used to provide for what are called continuity messages that allow handoff of tasks, such as writing email, universal clipboard, making calls from a another Apple device, instant hotspot, auto unlock from Apple watch and photo transfer between Apple devices.
An iPhone only advertises if it is associated with an iCloud account to which at least two devices are registered. Advertising can be manually turned off in the Settings Menu. Disabling Bluetooth from the Control Center does not stop the transmission of continuity messages.
It’s surprising iOS devices advertise so often, even when continuity messages aren’t being used, because it uses a lot of battery power. This must be the cost of being able to provide the app handoff messages without the user having to initiate a manual action at both ends. Maybe Apple will be able to overlay the new ‘Find My’ messages in same or similar Bluetooth advertising so as to make best use of the battery.
As we have previously mentioned, nRF Connect is the the best app for detecting if a Bluetooth LE device such as a beacon is working. The Android version has always had more features than the iOS version but that is changing. nRF Connect for iOS has been completely re-written and now has a very pretty UI.
We still recommend using the Android rather than the iOS version because iOS apps can’t see Bluetooth MAC addresses due to some peculiar decisions made by people at Apple. Scanning also can’t see an iBeacon UUID, major and minor in the advertising. It’s more difficult to uniquely identify Bluetooth devices in apps such as nRF Connect on iOS than it is on Android.