Beacons Don’t Transmit Content

Some things bother us. One such thing is platform providers saying beacons send content to phones. People contacting us expect this to happen (without an app) and we end up spending a lot of time explaining how it really works. Now Live Beacon on Kickstarter is saying something similar…

Live Beacon is a small, battery-powered, cloud-controlled device that transmits web content and notifications to nearby smartphones.

This isn’t strictly true and we expect there might be a few disappointed users when they get their beacons. The beacon doesn’t send content to phones, it sends an id (or URL) that the Live Beacon app uses to get content from a server. It doesn’t work without an app. It’s a subtle difference but one that means you need to somehow get the Live Beacon app on to users’ phones.

We are not saying you shouldn’t support Live Beacon – especially if it’s as easy to configure as they claim. Their USP is in their software. A free portal where you can configure your content AND beacons is worth having. It’s just that they might be heading for some fallout if people end up expecting it to magically work without the app.

The only beacon that does sent content is Google’s experimental FatBeacon.

Puck.js Javascript Programmable Beacon

An interesting beacon has appeared on Kickstarter that’s not just technically interesting but has a high likelihood of coming to fruition because it has been created by someone who has already delivered twice on Kickstarter.

puck

Puck.js is a Nordic nRF52832 SoC beacon that can be programmed via Javascript. The Open Source JavaScript interpreter Espruino is installed in the beacon that allows the user to program what ends up in the advertising data based on the board’s NFC, temperature and magnetometer sensors. The 4 leds and 6 GPIO can also be controlled. Being advertising-data programmable it will support Eddystone, iBeacon or any other custom protocol you might wish to invent.

The programming can be in Javascript or via a visual programming language in a web browser…

puckprogramming

Another aspect of the beacon that’s different is that it can act as a Bluetooth master as well as slave. Most beacons are slaves in that things connect to them. The puck beacon can do the connecting and connect to other Bluetooth devices such as other Pucks. This allows for mesh style networking or can be used to cause the beacon behaviour to change depending on the status of other Bluetooth devices in the vicinity.

The hardware, software, libraries and documentation are all Open Source that future-proofs any ideas based on this beacon should the developer be no longer be able to support the product or if your design needs to move outside the original hardware and software scope.

We hope to stock this beacon when it becomes available.