Beacons Aid Accessibility in Toronto

Mohari Hospitality and SH Hotels & Resorts have just opened the re-designed 1 Hotel Toronto as part of downtown Toronto’s urban regeneration.

1 Hotel Toronto

Beacons have been placed in the communal indoor and outdoor spaces as part of CNIB’s Accessible Neighbourhoods Project. The project improves access to city areas by making them more accessible.

Improving accessibility in Toronto

The BlindSquare Beacon Positioning System (BPS) broadcasts a unique ID that’s received by smartphones. The ID is used to look up the information linked to the beacon that’s presented to the user.

BPS App

There’s more detailed information on the BPS in the user guide.

Can You Provide iBeacons That Pop Up Smartphone Notifications?

You might have read that beacons can be used to pop up notifications. Such a mechanism, called Google Nearby Notifications, existed prior to October 2018 after which it was discontinued.

Today, there are two ways to cause beacons to trigger notifications:

Nordic Semiconductor Wireless Quarter Magazine Published

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.

Highlights include:

  • Nordic Semiconductor has launched an Apple Find My network compatible SDK
  • A new Bluetooth device that could help vapers quit
  • A Bluetooth LE smart pen that monitors aesthetic levels during surgery

There’s an in-depth article ‘Evolving Intelligence’ that covers AI machine learning. It explains how bandwidth limitations, latency demands and privacy concerns are dictating that machine learning move from the Cloud to edge devices. Battery powered IoT modules are able to perform machine learning inference in real-time allowing decision making near to where sensor data is generated and used.

Learn about Beaconzone SensorCognition™

What’s the Best iBeacon?

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:

iBeacon

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.

IoT Projects with Bluetooth Low Energy

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.

View Sensor Beacons

ESP32 iBeacon Advertising

There’s recent example code for the M5StickC, usable on almost any ESP32 device, that shows how to advertise iBeacon. The nice thing about this example is that it also shows the iBeacon parameters on the OLED display.

While adding iBeacon advertising to an ESP32 project can make sense, it’s often not the best choice if you only want advertising functionality. Stand alone beacons are more physically robust, use much less power and settings are configurable via ready-made apps rather than fixed in code.

Bluetooth Buttons for Lone Worker and SOS

Some beacons can be used to detect a button press. This is useful for lone worker, SOS or paging type applications. There are two main mechanisms:

Keypress Shown in Advertising

Depending on the beacon, this can be setup either to only advertise when the key is pressed (button triggered) or advertising all the time and the advertising changes. The former is better for longer battery life while the latter is better when you need to continuously know the beacon is working.

Advertising can be detected:

  • In apps using standard Apple and Android Bluetooth APIs
  • On single board computers such as Raspberry Pi
  • Using Bluetooth to WiFi/Ethernet gateways that send the advertising to a server
  • On Macs and PCs using built in Bluetooth (on laptops) or using a Bluetooth dongle
  • On any devices that have a USB connection, using a scanning dongle

Keypress Detected via a GATT Connection

A few beacons allow a keypress to be notified to a connected application. Apps on iOS and Android, applications on single board computers and desktops/laptops can connect to a Bluetooth Service Characteristic to be notified when there’s a key press. Connection suspends advertising and prevents the button device from being seen/connected to from other devices.

Beacons

Beacons via
Advertising
GATT
Connection
Notes
AKMW-iB001M and AKMW-iB002M Yes Yes Transmits the iBeacon or custom channel for 5 secs when the beacon button is double pressed. Alternatively, this beacon can be connected to, for example via apps, and single button presses notified.
H4YesNoTriggers on a button double or triple press.
iBS01, iBS04, iBS01G, iBS01H, iBS01RG,iBS01T, iBS03G, iBS03RG, iBS03TYesNoButton press is in the advertising data.
iBS02M2YesNoCan connect your own button.
M52 Plus, M52-SA, M52_SA Plus, M52-PA, U1, UL1 ThinYesNoButton triggered broadcast.
S1, i7, D15N, E2YesNoSet any of the advertising types to trigger on a button double or triple press
F6 Tracker BeaconNoYesvia SDK
STiE10, STiE9NoYesLong pressing OFF does not cause the beacon to turn off but instead puts the beacon into ‘SOS’ mode where the configured advertising is stopped and the ‘SOS’ can be detected in the configuration app or your custom app and the ‘SOS’ state cancelled.
W2-P5202D3YesNoButton triggered advertising.
RC10YesNoMultiple buttons.
FSC-BP103YesNoAdvertises more often.
Puck.jsYesProgrammable to do what you want on a button press.
V.ALRT, V.BTTNNoYesDetect a short press, a long press or a fall. Can also be used with the V.ALRT iOS and Android apps that txt/call up to 3 contacts your location when button is pressed or the device detects a fall.

We offer consultancy if you need more project specific advice.

How Many Connections Can an iBeacon Support?

We sometimes get asked how many connections an iBeacon can support? The answer is ‘1’ but it’s often the right answer to the wrong intended question. The intended question is usually “How many receivers can see a beacon?”

Beacons don’t usually connect. They just advertise and can be seen by an infinite number of receivers that include phones, gateways or single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi.

The receivers only usually connect once, during setup via an app, to set the initial iBeacon parameters. When connected, the beacon doesn’t advertise which prevents extra receivers from connecting. Once set up, the app disconnects and the beacon starts advertising again.