New Minew E2 in Stock

We have the new Minew E2 in stock. It’s a waterproof beacon advertising iBeacon and Eddystone.

What’s special about this beacon is the 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. However, as with any long range beacon, the maximum range is achieved only when there’s line of sight.

New Radioland NRF52832 beacon in stock

We have the new Radioland NRF52832 beacon in stock. Along with the iB002M and i7 (Eddystone), these use the nRF52 rather than nRF51 series of Nordic System on a Chip (SoC). nRF52 is more power efficient and provides twice the memory for more ambitious scenarios such as mesh networking.

The Radioland NRF52832 is the first beacon we have supplied unprogrammed. It’s for R&D users creating their own solutions. You will need to create your own firmware using the Nordic SDKs. The pinout for programming is available in our product description.

Open Source Eddystone Beacon Firmware

Google has just open sourced firmware that implements Eddystone on Nordic nRF SoC beacons. Their aim is to get wider distribution of Eddystone beacons and also encourage other devices, for example vending machines and remote control toys, beyond just beacons. This open source release is intended for manufacturers rather than end users. However, hobbyists might also use the software to re-program currently available Nordic-based beacons.

By providing reference software, it should make it easier for manufacturers to support Eddystone. Also, as this implements the Eddystone Configuration GATT Service, beacons using this software will also be configurable via the Web Bluetooth Configuration Page. The standard GATT Service also allows common configuration apps to be used such as the Nordic nRF Connect app rather than having to rely on specific manufacturer configuration apps.

So far, take up of the Eddystone Configuration GATT Service by manufacturers has been slow. Only one of our manufacturers, Sensoro, supports the Eddystone Configuration GATT Service and when you use this mode iBeacon and all Sensoro-specific features get turned off. This is the problem for manufacturers. Not many people want Eddystone-only beacons so manufacturing them is currently a low volume specialist edge case for manufacturers. Also, while Google is trying to standardise firmware and configuration, the higher profile beacon providers probably think it’s in their interest to continue with proprietary features that lock users into using those particular features and their particular platforms.

UPDATE: We now stock a version of the i7 that supports the Eddystone GATT Service.

Radioland Beacons in Stock

We now stock the range of Radioland beacons. They are mainly PCB (no case beacons) suitable for experimentation, reprogramming or putting inside other projects. They are particularly small (25mm diameter) and the default firmware transmits iBeacon. There’s an Android app to change the iBeacon parameters.

rl-cc2640_smaller

The beacon comes in the three main System on a Chip (SoC) types: Texas Instruments CC2541, CC2640 and Nordic nRF51822. The CC2640 is especially interesting as it’s a newer, more efficient SoC offering very low power with a longer range.

New Low Power Bluetooth LE SoC from Toshiba

The type of System on a Chip (SoC) can greatly affect beacon battery life. At one time it was only Dialog that had low power SoCs. TI, NXP and Nordic followed and now Toshiba has joined them with their new TC35678FSG, TC35678FXG and TC35679FSG (PDF).

Toshiba has more information on these products.
The BeaconZone store has a special category for low power SoC beacons.

The Affect of Beacon Processor Chip

You can find the processor chip in the specification section of our beacon descriptions. Most people don’t know what this means or implies. This article will hopefully help you make a more informed choice and provide some insights into what’s coming in the near future.

There are currently three main chip families from Texas Instruments (CC254x), Dialog (DA14580) and Nordic (nrf51822). These chip manufacturers publish standard electronic circuit and printed circuit board layouts that beacon OEMs use for their beacons. Hence, most beacons, within a chip family, have very similar designs. However, small differences in implementation of board layout in areas such as the power supply, grounding, terminations, connectors and the antenna can cause electrical differences that can cause loss of power or noise that can affect operation. Hence the quality of the beacon radio signal is affected more by the quality of the implementation than the choice of chip. This is also evident in real world tests. We have performed RSSI strength and stability tests on the beacons we sell and haven’t yet found any correlation between signal quality and chip family.

The CPU type does significantly affect battery use. For the same transmit power and advertising interval configuration, the Dialog DA14580 provides 2x to 3x battery life of Nordic nrf51822 based (e.g. Estimote) beacons and up to x6 the battery life of TI CC254x based-beacons.

However, chip families are evolving ecosystems and there are also new contenders. In our talks with manufacturers, we know that the newer TI CC2640 is being used in new beacon designs and will provide a x3.5 battery life, at a compromise of a slightly reduced signal range, compared to the CC254x. NXP (used be part of Philips Semiconductors) also have the QN9020 that provides x3.5 battery power compared to the TI CC254x. We’ll be stocking beacons with these new processors in the near future.