Sensor Beacon List Updated

We offer a range of sensor beacons but what each beacon actually senses or detects is buried deep in the respective beacon descriptions.

As we have recently added new sensor beacons, we have updated our downloadable pdf showing what each beacon can detect.

If you want to know how you might use these beacons, take a look at our articles on Beacon Proximity and Sensing for the Internet of Things (IoT)Using Bluetooth LE and Using Bluetooth LE Sensors.

The Risk of SaaS-based Beacon Solutions

Beacons have emerged as a crucial tool for businesses, especially in retail, logistics and asset tracking. However, the issue regarding how beacons are managed is becoming increasingly pertinent. We advocate for the use of generic beacons over those tied to specific Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms for a multitude of reasons, primarily centred around risk mitigation.

Some platform vendors have a vested interest in locking you into their proprietary beacons and subscription platforms. This approach may seem convenient at first, but it comes with a host of limitations and risks. For instance, you’re tied to a particular platform, often with a paid subscription that is subject to price changes. Moreover, if the vendor is a venture capital-funded company there’s always the risk, as we have witnessed, that they might not be around next year, leaving you stranded with unsupported hardware.

Opting for generic OEM beacons liberates you from the constraints of a single platform. You’re not tied to a paid subscription for a specific service, giving you the flexibility to adapt as your business needs change. Generic beacons don’t limit you to the advertising types and sensors provided by a particular locked beacon. You can mix and match different beacon types and manufacturers to suit your physical environment. This flexibility also allows you to second or even third source beacons, thereby reducing longer-term risk.

When you’re not limited by the technical constraints of a proprietary platform, you have the freedom to innovate. You can host the platform yourself or choose a hosting provider that aligns with your business needs. This means you can keep your business data away from a shared server, enhancing security and compliance.

Using generic beacons means you’re not dependent on the service level of a shared platform. If a cloud-managed service experiences downtime or other issues, it can have a cascading effect on your operations. Self-managed beacons offer a level of reliability that cloud solutions may not be able to guarantee.

Lastly, when you opt for generic beacons, you don’t have to lock your code to use a particular proprietary beacon app SDK. This gives you the freedom to develop your applications without worrying about compatibility issues down the line.

In conclusion, while cloud-managed solutions may offer a quick and easy entry point, the long-term risks and limitations can make them a less attractive option. Self-managed, generic beacons offer flexibility, security and independence.

New Human Presence Sensors

We have new, innovative, Minew human occupancy sensors in stock that use millimeter wave radar sensor to detect numbers of people as opposed to just human presence. They both look similar:

The MSR01-A tracks the location (x,y,z) of individual people with a limit of 15 people. The MSR01-B provides information on the number of people entering or leaving the area.

A self-learning function detects the environment state to identify and eliminate interference sources. Statistics are provided via Bluetooth advertising, with a range of up to 150m, for detection via a gateway or app.

Is Beacon Outdated?

When you do a Google search query “Is beacon outdated?” and similar queries, you might be directed to a warning about the Google beacon platform being deprecated as of December 7, 2020, with a complete shutdown on April 1, 2021. This information, while accurate, pertains specifically to the Eddystone-URL and Google Nearby, not to iBeacon technology. It’s crucial to understand the distinction to avoid misconceptions about the current state of beacon technology.

Eddystone-URL, a beacon format developed by Google, was indeed phased out. This format was designed for broadcasting URLs to nearby devices, a feature that found limited adoption and was eventually deemed no longer necessary. The discontinuation of Eddystone-URL and Google Nearby, a related service, led to a broader assumption that all forms of beacon technology were becoming obsolete. However, this isn’t true.

iBeacon, Apple’s beacon technology, is still very much in use. iBeacon operates differently from Eddystone-URL. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity sensing to transmit a universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system. This technology has a wide range of applications, from retail to event management, and continues to be relevant in various sectors.

For instance, in retail, iBeacon technology is used to enhance the shopping experience. Retailers implement beacons in stores to send targeted offers and information to customers’ smartphones, based on their location within the store. This personalised approach not only improves customer engagement but also provides valuable data to retailers.

In the event management industry, iBeacon technology is used for attendee tracking, networking facilitation, and personalised notifications during events. For example, at a conference, attendees can receive information about sessions they are near, facilitating a more interactive and engaging experience.

Moreover, museums and galleries have adopted iBeacon to provide visitors with detailed information about exhibits as they move through the space, enhancing the educational aspect of their visits.

In conclusion, while the Google beacon platform, specifically the Eddystone-URL and Google Nearby, has been deprecated, it’s important not to generalise this as the end of all beacon technologies. iBeacon, among others, continues to thrive and evolve, finding new applications and integrations in various industries.

MG5 Outdoor Mobile LTE Gateway

We now stock the MG5 Outdoor Mobile LTE Gateway.

This is a waterproof (IP68) gateway that detects Bluetooth devices and sends this information via cellular LTE-M or NB-IoT. It also includes internal GPS, accelerometer and temperature sensors.

It’s now possible to have standalone sensing in remote places such as farms, production facilities or even war zones. All you need is a power supply in the range 8v-52v. The sensors can be any Bluetooth sensor beacons, not just Minew devices. Alternatively, the gateway can be installed on movable items such as a vehicle or trailer where the GPS can provide the latest location. This opens up a large number of usecases.

Is iBeacon Still Used?

You might have stumbled across comments on social media saying something like ‘Is iBeacon still used?’, ‘Remember iBeacon’ or ‘Is iBeacon still a thing?’. It’s a question that tends to crop up now and then. The truth is, iBeacon technology is not only still around, but it has flourished and evolved, becoming integral to various industries.

When Apple first introduced iBeacon technology back in 2013, it was mainly designed for retail notifications. At the time, it seemed like an interesting innovation, enabling stores to communicate with their customers via their smartphones. But, in reality, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the last decade, beacons have evolved from a technology used exclusively in retail stores to one that’s employed across a multitude of industries. The technology has seen enhancements and adaptations, moving well beyond simple notifications and sales promotions.

One of the most significant adaptations of iBeacon technology has been in real-time locating systems (RTLS). Used to track objects and people within confined areas, this technology has made its mark in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics. Hospitals, for instance, utilise RTLS to monitor equipment and patient movement, reducing waiting times and improving efficiency.

Sensors have become more sophisticated with the help of beacons. From monitoring environmental conditions to tracking health metrics, these smart Bluetooth beacons are integral in gathering vital information. Think of applications such as monitoring temperatures in office buildings or tracking the temperature and humidity in agricultural settings.

IoT represents a world where everyday objects are connected to the internet, sharing information and interacting with each other. Beacons play a pivotal role here, together with gateways. Whether it’s smart homes adapting to your preferences or industrial equipment notifying operators of required maintenance, the applications are boundless.

What began as a way for retailers to send notifications to shoppers in a store has become a technology with applications that stretch as far as the imagination. The beacons of today is more sophisticated, more versatile and more integral to modern life.

So the next time someone on social media questions the relevance of iBeacon, you’ll know the answer is not only a resounding ‘yes,’ but a testament to how far a single technology can evolve.

View Bluetooth beacons

Subscription-free Bluetooth Gateways

Bluetooth to WiFi gateways allow Bluetooth devices to communicate with WiFi networks and onward to local or Internet servers. A gateway converts the Bluetooth data into data that’s received at the server. This data usually includes the gateway MAC address, the beacon MAC address, the received signal strength (RSSI) and the raw beacon payload that’s usually iBeacon but can alternatively contain sensor information.

Some commercial gateways require financial subscriptions and use of a specific Internet platform. All gateways BeaconZone supply have open HTTP and MQTT data format allowing use of your own local or remote server. This is much more cost-effective and eliminates the need for ongoing fees. Another advantage of a gateway that doesn’t require a subscription is that it offers greater privacy and security. Platforms may collect and store user data that can raise concerns about privacy and security.

Not using a subscription-based platform means you are not dependent on a provider’s technical issues. You also become isolated from any existential business provider issues that might cause large increases in pricing or the service disappearing because the company is no longer in business.

Controlling your own server ultimately provides more options for customisation and scalability, allowing you to meet specific requirements that are unique to your business processes.

The iBeacon Protocol

iBeacon is a protocol developed by Apple that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit a signal that can be picked up by nearby devices, such as smartphones. The iBeacon protocol format is based on the standard BLE advertising packet, which is a small amount of data that is broadcast at regular intervals.

The iBeacon protocol format includes the following components:

  • Proximity UUID: This is a unique identifier that is used to identify a group of beacons. It is typically a 128-bit value.
  • Major and Minor: This is a 16-bit value that is used to identify a specific beacon within a group of beacons.
  • Measured Power: This is a value that is used to indicate the expected signal strength of the beacon at a distance of one meter. This value is used to estimate the distance between the device and the beacon.

Together, the Proximity UUID, Major, and Minor values make up a unique identifier for each beacon, which can be used to determine the beacon’s location or trigger an action on a nearby device.

It’s worth noting that the iBeacon protocol is one of the many implementations of BLE beacons, and other protocols and vendors have different formats.

Beacon Advertising Cheat Sheet

Radio RSSI

RSSI stands for Received Signal Strength Indicator. It is a measure of the power level of a radio signal being received by a device, for example a smartphone, in dBm (decibel-milliwatts). The RSSI is accessible to receiving devices via APIs such as the standard iOS and Android Bluetooth libraries.

The RSSI value is typically used to get an indication of the distance between a device and a beacon. A higher RSSI value indicates a stronger signal and therefore a closer proximity to the beacon, while a lower RSSI value indicates a weaker signal and a farther proximity to the beacon. Note that RSSI is usually -ve so a larger negative more usually indicates the beacon is further away.

RSSI is not a perfect measure of distance, as it can be affected by factors such as the environment and the type of device that is receiving the signal. However, by comparing the RSSI value of a beacon’s signal with the known transmission power of the beacon, it is possible to estimate the distance between the device and the beacon.

RSSI is commonly used in wireless communications such as WiFi, Zigbee, Bluetooth and cellular networks to measure the signal strength of the received signal. It is also used to estimate the quality of the signal, and to determine if the signal is strong enough to maintain a reliable connection.

RSSI is not a standard or a regulated measure and varys depending on the technology and the manufacturer of the device.

The relationship between RSSI and distance is not linear, and can vary depending on the environment and the type of device that is receiving the signal. In general, as the distance between a device and a beacon increases, the RSSI value decreases. However, the rate at which the RSSI value decreases with distance can vary depending on factors such as the environment and the transmission power of the beacon.

In free space, the RSSI value decreases at a rate of approximately 6 dB per doubling of distance. This is known as the inverse square law, which states that the power of a signal decreases proportionally to the square of the distance from the source.

Inverse square law

However, in a real-world environment, the rate of decrease can be affected by factors such as walls, obstacles, and interference from other devices, which can cause the signal to weaken faster or slower than expected.

It’s also worth noting that the RSSI value can vary depending on the type of device that is receiving the signal, as well as the type of radio technology used. The sensitivity of the device’s radio receiver will also affect the received RSSI value, a more sensitive device will be able to detect weaker signals at farther distances than a less sensitive device.

While equations can be used to infer distance from RSSI, the above factors mean the most accurate way to determine distance is to compare with previously measured RSSI-distance values.

If accurate distance is essential, up to about 3m, consider using a beacon such as the iBS03R that uses a time of flight (ToF) sensor rather than using RSSI.