New Long Range 210L Beacon

We just received the 210L ultra-long 200m range beacon into stock.

Most beacons tend to have a range of 30m, 50m or 100m. The normal output is 0dBm but they can be boosted to +4dBm to achieve the maximum ranges. Read our article on Choosing the Transmitted Power for more information.

The 210L beacon transmits at +10dBM which is the maximum allowable for this class of Bluetooth 4 device. This is just over 3x the power of a beacon transmitting at 0dBm. Hence, there’s respective reduction in battery life.

View our ultra-long range beacons

Interview with Ajay Malik, author of RTLS for Dummies

Mr Beacon has a new interview with Ajay Malik, the author of RTLS for Dummies.

It starts with a discussion that tries to define what’s a Real Time Location System (RTLS) in terms of the technologies that can be used. Ajay explains how he ended up working with RTLS and writing the book.

There’s discussion on business drivers and how RTLS relates to machine to machine (M2M) and IoT. Usecases mentioned include promotional marketing, asset tracking and autonomous navigation. There’s a useful explanation of trilateration, triangulation, angle of arrival, time of arrival and time distance of arrival.

Ajay sees asset tracking as currently the most important application. However, going forward, RTLS will feed more into AI to provide context.

Read more about RTLS

Beacon Settings Retention When There’s a Loss of Power

A beacon has many settings such as the mode (iBeacon, Eddystone), transmission (ids or URL), power and advertising period. These settings are set via the manufacture app. However, what happens if the beacon is switched off via a button on the side of the button? What happens if the battery is removed? What happens to the settings?

First of all, if you turn off a beacon via a side switch beacons don’t power down but instead go into a very low power sleep mode.

All beacons have a portion of non-volatile flash memory that can be used to save values even when the power is removed by taking out the battery or removing from a USB slot. This means for almost all beacons, removing the power doesn’t cause the beacon to lose its settings. We say ‘almost all’ because we have found one exception to be Sky beacons that while they retain settings when the side switch is pressed on/off, they don’t retain settings if the battery is removed. This is because the firmware (code) in the beacon isn’t saving settings to non-volatile memory.

One thing to be aware of is that the non-volatile memory can only be updated so many times before it stops working. The number of times is very large and isn’t of consequence unless you have your own app that is frequently programatically changing settings. However, for some specialist beacons, for example mesh beacons, internally saved data can and will change more often thus introducing the possibly that beacons can become ‘worn out’ if the software isn’t designed to reduce the frequency of changed saved data.

Beacon Waterproofing Insight

Some of the beacons we sell are waterproof. When most people think about waterproofing electronics they think about protection from splashes or submersion. However, there are some scenarios where waterproofing might not seem to be needed but is actually is required.

One such example is in vehicles. While the inside of a vehicle might seem dry, it can have long periods of high humidity. This can cause the metal parts of the beacon and/or the battery to rust leading to failure of the beacon. Waterproofing also keeps humidity out. So, also think about potential humidity when specifying your beacon.

Indianapolis Colts Lose First Round In Battle Over Beacon ‘Eavesdropping’ App

There’s an article on DigitalNewsDaily about the Indianapolis Colts where a federal judge has ruled that the basketball team must face a lawsuit alleging that the team’s mobile app eavesdropped on fans.

“The app activates phones’ microphones in order to listen to Lisnr’s beacons”

To be clear, these aren’t Bluetooth beacons. Instead, Lisnr uses beacons emitting audio to trigger events in an app:

“LISNR is an ultrasonic audio technology — a communication protocol that uses inaudible sound, called Smart Tones™, to transmit information.”

Unlike with Bluetooth beacons, this necessarily uses the smartphones’ microphone to detect the audio beacons. Had the Colts used Bluetooth Beacons, there would have been no issue over whether microphone listening was being used for nefarious purposes.

Motorola Radios and iBeacons

Motorola manufacture the MOTOTRBO range of digital radios that can detect iBeacons.

Used together with the TRBOnet PLUS (pdf) control room software, the location of people with digital radios can be plotted onto maps:

Supported handsets currently include:

  • MOTOTRBO DP4000e Series
  • MOTOTRBO SL4000e Series
  • MOTOTRBO DP3441e
  • MOTOTRBO DP3661e

Motorola handsets work with any iBeacons. We recently supplied beacons to a power station for lone worker monitoring using TRBOnet PLUS. Buy from our wide range of iBeacons.

Are you an established 2-way radio company?
Contact us for advice on which beacons we have supplied for use with TRBOnet.

Small, Long Battery Life, Long Range Beacon

It’s surprising how many enquires we get asking for small beacons that also have a long battery life and long range. Such things don’t exist. The range and battery life relate to the battery size. Both need a larger battery and hence this implies a larger beacon.

You need to choose what’s most important for your project. If you need a very small device then the iB001M is only 2.6mm thick but has a small CR2016 battery. If battery life and range are more important then look at the larger battery beacons and long range beacons. If you have the possibility of mains (USB) power then you might consider a USB beacon that can be small.

Improving on Beacon Immediate, Near and Far

We recently highlighted an article on Beacon Trajectory Smoothing. Faheem Zafari, Ioannis Papapanagiotou, Michael Devetsikiotis and Thomas Hacker have a new paper on An iBeacon based Proximity and Indoor Localization System (pdf) that also uses filtering.

They use a Server-Side Running Average (SRA) and Server-Side Kalman Filter (SKF) to improve the proximity detection accuracy compared to Apple’s immediate, near and far indicators.

The researchers found:

The current (Apple) approach achieved a proximity detection accuracy of 65.83% and 67.5% in environment 1 and environment 2 respectively. SRA achieved 92.5% and 96.6% proximity detection accuracy which is 26.7% and 29.1% improvement over the current approach in environment 1 and 2 respectively

What’s interesting here is that the researchers have quantified the accuracy of Apple’s implementation in two scenarios. The accuracy isn’t that good and as the researchers have shown, can be improved upon significantly.

Chrome, Eddystone and the Omnibox

There are some posts on Twitter and articles talking about how Eddystone appearing in iOS Chrome’s Omnibox might transform proximity notification scenarios. So what is this and what does it look like?

This came about due to the Physical Web/Chrome teams experimenting with new ways to show Eddystone notifications:

At the moment, notifications appear at the end of the ‘Today’ view. They get a bit lost because you have to swipe down get the notifications, swipe left and then scroll to the bottom:

BeaconZone Eddystone notification at the bottom

Noone is going to see this unless they know it’s there and are trying very very hard. Even though Eddystone detection is designed to be ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’, it’s a bit too difficult to find local Physical Web beacons.

With Google’s experimental Omnibox implementation, beacons come up when you go to do a Chrome search. At the moment, to try it out you have to enable an experimental flag by visiting chrome://flags:

After you do this, local physical web beacons appear when you start a search:

It’s far more likely people will see this rather than the Chrome widget at the bottom of the notifications Today panel.

It’s unknown whether this will find it’s way into future versions of Chrome without having to set the flag or whether it might appear on Android. Android has more visible Eddystone detection as it’s built in Android itself (Play Services to be more specific) and appears near the top of the notifications panel.

UPDATE: As of October 2017, Google removed Eddystone detection from Chrome on iOS and Android. Only Android can provide notifications.