Tracker beacons are different from normal beacons in that they are designed to be connected to an app for the majority of the time. Normally beacons just advertise and aren’t connected except for setup or obtaining sensor data in realtime.
The F4 comes with iOS and Android SDKs that provide for bonding/pairing with a password, listening to events such as connecting, connected, disconnected, getting the MAC address and RSSI, ringing the tracker, receiving a button press event, receiving a notification n seconds after disconnect and disconnecting at a given distance (received signal power level, RSSI).
Minew have a new video showing how easy it is to set iBeacon parameters with their BeaconSET+ app:
BeaconSET+ is the newer app that works with MiniBeacon Plus beacons. These are Minew beacons supporting both iBeacon and Eddystone as opposed to those only supporting iBeacon for which the older BeaconSET app should be used.
This is part 1 of a 3 part series that explains what’s inside a beacon. In this part we take a look at the physical beacon.
All beacons are similar inside because they are based on standard circuit designs from Nordic Semiconductor, Dialog Semiconductor or Texas Instruments. These semiconductor manufacturers produce a complete system on a chip (SoC) that requires minimal external components. The SoC is a small computer with memory that runs software created by the manufacturer of the beacon. We will take a deeper look at the SoC in part 2 and the software in part 3.
For this series of articles we going to take a deeper look at Minew’s i7 beacon. It’s based on Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 SoC.
Inside the case is a PCB with a CR2477 slide in battery at the rear.
The main chip you can see is the mRF52832. At the top you can also see the antenna that’s created using a track in the printed circuit board. The holes at the bottom right are connections used to program the beacon.
To understand more, we need to look at the printed circuit board design and circuit schematic:
It can be seen that there aren’t many external components. Y1, the metal component at the top is the crystal used to maintain timing. The SoC has a number of programmable input/output (PIO) pins that are multi-purpose. In a beacon some are usually connected to LEDs and a switch as shown at the left hand side of the circuit diagram. There are also capacitors that need to be external to the SoC.
The Minew E2 is a waterproof beacon advertising iBeacon and Eddystone. It has a 10+ year battery life that comes through using the power efficient Nordic nRF52 SoC and 4 AA batteries. The in-use battery life will depend on settings. This beacon also has a power amplifier that provides for an exceptional range of up to 500m.
We have opened up the beacon to examine in more detail: