One of our manufacturers, Moko, has some new videos demonstrating how beacons can be used. The first one shows beacons being used by shopkeepers:
The second demonstrates smart parking:
We often get asked what’s the best iBeacon? Unfortunately, there is no one best beacon for all scenarios. It depends on your particular project and business requirements. Having said this we have some favourites based on specific characteristics:
Best for Price: FSC-BP103 – Inexpensive beacon that transmits up to 10 channels simultaneously:
Best for Features: M52-SA Plus – Large easy replaceable battery, long range, temperature, humidity, accelerometer:
Best for Battery Life: SmartBeacon-AA Pro – Allows use of 4x AA batteries. Use lithium AA batteries for 7+ year battery life (also depends on settings).
Best for Setup App: Minew range – Minew’s latest BeaconPlus range (those supporting both iBeacon and Eddystone) provides the best in class app.
View our complete range.
Our article on Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT) provides short summary how to use Bluetooth for IoT.
If you need a more rigorous description take a look at the book IoT Projects with Bluetooth Low Energy. It covers the fundamental aspects of Bluetooth Low Energy scanning, services, and characteristics. It goes on to describe examples of how to monitor health data, perform indoor navigation and use the Raspberry Pi for Bluetooth solutions. The book’s code is also available on GitHub.
There’s a new Mr Beacon podcast with Eason Huang of Minew. It describes how Minew focus mainly on hardware rather than full solutions and how they provide re-branded hardware for many platforms and beacon providers. Steve Statler (Mr Beacon) provides the insight that many of those platforms don’t really want to sell hardware and they are often focussing on software their customers might not necessarily want.
The conversation turns to the growth and challenges of IoT. The main challenges are lack of clarity of return on investiment (ROI), proof of concepts (POC) taking too long and end results not being scalable. Eason identifies that better preparation is required before starting. Steve suggests projects should initially bring in consultants to provide expert and neutral advice.
The podcast resonates with what we do at Beaconzone. We set up Beaconzone because we identified the reliance on subscription-based cloud platforms and beacons locked to platforms was limiting the available information, products and solutions. We set up BeaconZone in 2015 to provide for standalone solutions, using original manufacture beacons, not locked to subscriptions. We use and stock Minew and tens of other manufacturers’ beacons and gateways.
The issues of IoT projects also resonates with what we have seen through providing consultancy. Too many people come to us, too late, with projects that shouldn’t have been started because they had obvious technical limitations or have been developed in a direction that makes them technically or financially non-viable. A small amount of expert advice, early on, can make a huge difference and reduce risk.
Even when organisations know they should seek initial help and contact us, we sometimes find they are reticent about investing what is a relatively small amount of money compared to a failed POC cost. The reason is that these organisations have no experience of using Bluetooth for IoT so don’t know the unknown unknowns. Everything looks feasible until they are deep into the POC. It’s for these situations that we also offer quick, low priced Micro Consultancy.
Feasycom have a new video showing how to set up the FSC-BP103:
The FSC-BP103 is popular for use on a key ring or lanyard due to its small size (37.8mm x 33.8mm x 7.9 mm).
It’s also relatively inexpensive allowing it to be rolled out to a large number of people. For example, we have London Queen Mary University Barts Cancer Institute using this beacon with BeaconRTLS to audit room occupancy for Covid. The button is also used as an SOS in the case of lone working.
Many of our suppliers have notified us the current global shortage of chips is starting to hit the Beacon ecosystem. While there isn’t currently a shortage of beacons, semiconductor prices are causing Bluetooth beacon prices to increase.
Factories are having to plan the purchase of components 6-12 months ahead rather than buy just in time. If components don’t arrive in time, they have to be purchased last minute on the more expensive spot market.
Stocks we already have in the UK won’t increase in price until we re-stock. We are experiencing special and custom orders being higher in price and/or having longer lead times, depending on the manufacturer. This is a short term problem for 2021 and 2022. Some in the industry predict it could be two years before new manufacturing facilities can ease supply concerns.
Bloomberg has a great in-depth article The Chip Shortage Keeps Getting Worse. Why Can’t We Just Make More? if you wish to learn more.
Flutter is a UI software development platform created by Google used to develop cross platform applications for Android and iOS.
There’s a recent plugin flutter_beacon that scans for beacons and can also act as a transmitter. It supports Android API 18+ and iOS 8+. Features include permission management, iBeacon ranging, iBeacon monitoring and transmitting as iBeacon. This plugin is open source on Github.
Nordic Semiconductor, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) used in many beacons, has published the latest online issue of Wireless Quarter Magazine. It showcases the many uses of Nordic SoCs.
The pandemic has increased the use of Nordic Semiconductor chips in health oriented devices such as the Warmie continuous infection monitoring device, the AppSens 7 Smart Heart Sensor and the Ellume COVID-19 home testing kit.
Asset tracking market will double from $17 billion in 2020 to $34 billion by 2026Research&Markets quote in Wireless Quarter Magazine
Tracking highlights include:
ESP32 are small, low cost Bluetooth/WiFi boards that can be programmed using Arduino IDE. Shogunxam has a project, ESP32 BLETracker that detects Bluetooth LE devices and sends the information to a MQTT server.
The software provides a web interface that allows setting of the devices to be tracked, the scan period, MQTT parameters and viewing of the logs.
The project is open source on GitHub.
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