Which Beacons are Compatible with iOS and Android?

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.

Rather than beacons being compatible with iOS/Android, we find that there are more problems with particular Android devices not seeing beacons, when in background, due to some manufacturers killing background services.

Also see Which Beacon’s Are the Most Compatible?

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Differences in Beacon System on a Chip (SoC)

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.

nRF51822 in a round beacon

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.

The newer SoCs have much more memory. This isn’t used for most beacons except for those that store data.

The use of standard SoC manufacturer designs and software means that all beacons work well, adhere to Bluetooth standards and compatibility is never a problem.

Q3 Nordic Semiconductor Wireless Q Magazine

Nordic Semiconductor, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) in many beacons, has published the latest issue of Wireless Quarter Magazine. It showcases the many uses of Nordic SoCs.

It showcases a gym management platform using beacons that analyses equipment and zone use. It also mentions the nRF52 SoC, used in beacons, being used in

  • MEZOO’s ECG monitor that detects heart arrhythmia
  • Xiaomi’s Bluetooth LE smart door lock
  • M Lura Health’s 1000 tooth sensor
  • Escort’s fuel level sensor

Juniper Research reports on how the pandemic is accelerating use of IoT:

IoT connections driven by early industrial deployments and pandemic-driven telemedicine applications are projected to reach 83 billion by 2024, a 130 percent growth rate

There are also articles on using tech to prevent deforestation, wellness tech, smart street lighting and precision positioning.

iBeacons for PeopleHR

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.

PeopleHR is one such solution that has information and a blog post on how to set up tap in and out using beacons.

Checkin/out systems use the iBeacon type of beacon because it can be detected on iOS (and Android) even when the app isn’t in foreground.

Using Beacons to Prevent a Lunchtime Attack

There’s a new paper on DE-auth of the Blue! Transparent De-authentication Using Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon. While the paper is behind a paywall, the paper’s abstract provides enough information to determine the intent.

When people move away from their desk, for example for lunch, they often don’t log out. It can be some time before the screen saver kicks in and logs the user out. The paper takes a look at the use of beacons to provide de-authentication when the person moves away from their desk.

De-authentication move away from desk

This is a much simpler method than previous research that used Seated Posture Biometrics (pdf).

Vehicle Parking Management Using iBeacons

There’s new research by Chi-Fang Chien, Hui-Tzu Chen and Chi-Yi Lin of Tamkang University, New Taipei City, Taiwan on A Low-Cost On-Street Parking Management System Based on Bluetooth Beacons (pdf).

Current smart parking systems are very expensive as they rely on image recognition and wireless magnetometers. The image recognition isn’t perfect and sometimes fails to acquire the identity of vehicles under poor illumination or due to obstruction of vehicle registration number plates.

Instead, a system has been developed using low-cost Bluetooth beacons. Beacons are installed in the vehicles and receivers are deployed along the roadside parking spaces.

Vehicle Parking Management System
Vehicle Parking Management System

The system uses Raspberry Pi for receivers and gateways. The Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) of beacons is processed, filtered and sent to a gateway. The system detects the occupancy of parking spaces and identifies the vehicles.

Smart On-Street Parking System
Smart On-Street Parking System Using iBeacons

It’s unfortunate the researchers didn’t consider Bluetooth Mesh for the receivers and gateways. It’s ideal for situations such as this where nodes are within range of each other and the data is small in size and sporadic. The use of Bluetooth Mesh would have reduced the hardware requirement considerably.

Read about Beacons and the Bluetooth Mesh

Getting the Most Out of Coin Cell Batteries

Nordic Semiconductor, the manufacturer of the system on a chip (SoC) inside most beacons, has a useful recent post by Jon Gunnar Sponås on Improve battery life in Ultra Low Power wireless applications.

It explains that while a battery has a fixed initial capacity, how you draw current from the battery affects how much of that capacity you get to use. At a relatively low constant current of 0.5mA you get most of the capacity while at 3mA you only get 60%.

For Bluetooth LE the current isn’t usually constant. Instead, it advertises at up to 7mA, for of the order of a milliseconds followed by a pre-set inter-advertising period between 100ms and 10 secs. This gives the battery time to recover.

The article explains how Bluetooth LE firmware should be designed to not turn everything on at initial startup so as to not stress the Battery unduly. It also mentions how it’s also wise to test the battery in the actual situation rather than relying on the battery mAh rating to calculate expected battery life.

New Thin Beacons in Stock

We have two new thin beacons in stock. The Meeblue U1 and UL1 are only 4.8mm x 45mm x 25.5mm and weigh only 7g.

These beacons are similar to the iB001M in that they are particularly suitable for wearing by humans or animals. These new models have twice the battery power of the iB001M and use the more battery efficient Nordic Semiconductor nRF52 series system on a chip (SoC).

An accelerometer can be used to provide for motion triggered advertising. The accelerometer is only used for motion triggered broadcast and has adjustable movement threshold. They can also be set up to only advertise when the button is pressed. Advertising can be iBeacon, Eddystone UID, Eddystone URI or user defined. In addition, the UL1, has a light sensor that can be set up to cause the beacon to advertise when it’s either dark or light.