Bluetooth tags/beacons detect the position of people and assets. Software maps jobs, valuable tools, parts, sub-assemblies and people onto your floor plans or maps.
The main uses are:
Searching. Knowing the location of something such as a piece of equipment, parts, stock, pallets, a job or person without ringing round. Locating expensive, shared, equipment so fewer spare assets are required to cover an area.
Security. Alerting when people or assets enter or leave an area.
Protection. Detecting quantities such as temperature and humidity for sensitive items that can spoil.
Process Control. Knowing where things have been. Knowing what happened at a particular location. Knowing when measured values exceeded their expected range.
Bluetooth LE is particularly suitable because it is:
Real Time. Better than barcode scans and NFC tags where the data is only as up to date as the last successful manual scan.
Compatible. Bluetooth LE works with existing devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.
Inexpensive. Commodity hardware is more affordable than non-standard technologies such as ultra wideband (UWB).
The end result is reduced downtime, less time re-ordering or re-making things that have been lost, optimum productivity and better use of skilled staff doing their job rather than searching for assets and people.
Occasionally, our customers ask for things we didn’t expect, contradictory requirements or requests that require unusual solutions. Here are some examples:
We were once asked for the beacons we considered to be least attractive. The idea was that they were going to be rolled out into a busy public space and would otherwise easily get spotted and stolen. Small, black beacons turned out to be the solution.
We have been asked for beacons that last the longest time. While, we instantly thought about our energy efficient beacons, the best solution turned out to be to use a less efficient, timed beacon set to be on for only a few hours a day.
We are often asked what’s the best beacon for Android (or iOS) development. There actually isn’t a best one as they all advertise similar data. Instead, the best beacons are those that can be easily turned on and off to test triggering.
Some people ask for mains powered beacons. We aren’t aware such products exist. Instead look at USB beacons that can be powered by USB mains adapters.
It’s often the case people want the longest possible battery life and the smallest possible beacon. These two factors are mutually exclusive because a large battery is required for a long battery life. It’s necessary to either decide which is the most important or compromise on both factors.
We are sometimes asked to recommend beacons that have the best iOS and/or Android SDK. In these cases the best SDK is no SDK.
These examples demonstrate what’s right for one project isn’t necessarily right for others. This is why we stock the widest beacon range in the World.
We have the new M52 Plus in stock. It’s similar to the M52-SA sensor beacon except without the sensors. It’s useful if you just need a standard inexpensive beacon.
This beacon is waterproof, supports iBeacon, Eddystone and custom advertising. The ‘Plus’ means it has a large CR2477 battery which, together with the use of nRF52832, means it it’s energy efficient leading to an long battery life.
We often get asked the question which beacons are compatible with iOS and Android. All beacons, whether iBeacon, Eddystone or sensor beacons can be used with iOS and Android. The compatibility is achieved through the implementation of common Bluetooth standards on these mobile platforms.
However, there are some caveats:
Android only supported Bluetooth LE as of Android 4.3. Older devices can’t see Bluetooth beacons. Over 95% of users are on Android 4.3 or later so most people can see beacons.
Apple iOS doesn’t have background OS support for Eddystone triggering. While iOS apps can scan for, see and act on Eddystone beacons, the iOS operating system won’t create a notification to start up your app when there’s an Eddystone beacon in the vicinity.
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 help you make a more informed choice.
There are currently three main chip families from Texas Instruments (CC25xx, CC26xx), Dialog Semiconductor (DAxxxx) and Nordic Semiconductor (nRF51xxx and nRF52xxx). These chip manufacturers publish standard electronic circuits and software SDKs that beacon OEMs use for their beacons. Hence, most beacons, within a chip family, have very similar designs. 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.
The strength of the beacon radio signal is affected more by the quality of the beacon implementation, particularly the antenna, rather 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 strength and chip family.
The choice of SoC affects battery use. Newer chip families such as the Nordic nRF52 (as opposed to nRF51) and Texas Instruments CC2640 (as opposed to CC2541) are more power efficient.
Most beacon SoCs transmit up to +4dBm output power for a longer range. A few such as the nRF52840 and CC2640RF can be set to higher output power of +8dBm and +5dBM respectively, with a consequent reduction of battery life. If you are looking for longer range, it’s more usual to use a long range beacon with an additional output amplifier chip.
A growing number of checkin/checkout systems are using iBeacons. Having an iBeacon at an entrance to a building allows employees to be automatically clocked in and out. It provides confirmation that a worker did actually arrive at a certain place that day.