New Sensoro Stocks

After about a month of waiting, we have had a consignment of Sensoro beacons come in which means we now have ample stocks of the SmartBeacon-4AA.  We were impressed when we found that this beacon would last 7.7 years on 4 standard alkaline batteries.

We have had a few customers asking about the Yunzi so we also now have some samples in stock.

yunzi_smaller

The Yunzi is probably the most attractive beacon available and is great for demos where you need to impress. It also has a high specification including simultaneous iBeacon/Eddystone transmission, accelerometer, light and temperature sensors.

Sensoro will also be supporting Eddystone-EID via a firmware update.

The TI CC2640 and Future Beacons

We have been looking into the TI CC2640 SoC used in our latest PC062 beacon. The main advantage of the TI CC2640 is exceptional battery life. However, the CC2640 specification provides added features that we expect to be utilised in feature beacons.

cc2540

The CC2640 has 3 processor cores so that the application (M3 core) and Bluetooth stack (M0 core) can run separately. Previously, they both ran on the same core preventing the beacon from doing additional CPU intensive tasks such as WiFi. The third core (SCE) deals with sensors/peripherals allowing the main core to spend longer time sleeping thus saving power.

Hence, in the near future we expect beacons to become much more capable, for example supporting multiple wireless protocols. IoT sensor beacons will also be able to be produced that will still able to be extra low power despite the extra sensors.

New BeaconZone Solutions Directory

We have received so many enquiries as to whether we know of Beacon software solutions for specific tasks that we have decided to start a Beacon Solutions Directory.

We have listed solutions that work with generic iBeacon and Eddystone beacons and implemented as web platforms or stand alone mobile apps. We are continually adding solutions so check back regularly to discover new solution providers.

If you know of a solution we haven’t listed or your company provides a solution, please contact us to get added. Solution providers linking back to us will be featured on the front page of the directory.

BeaconZone Mentioned in SD Times Article

sdtimesThe SD Times has a new article, by Alexandra Weber Morales on Why developers are sitting pretty for IoT.

The article explains how mobile developers such as ourselves are moving to the IoT and how beacons are part of the IoT. Other important areas for IoT are (big) data and security. The article concludes with several ways to get started and explore the IoT.

You might also like to read an article on Beacons and IoT that we wrote on LinkedIn last January.

BeaconZone Now Stocks Minew Beacons

We now stock Minew beacons and have the i1, i3, i4, i7 and i8 available. Of particular interest and different in some way are the i1 and i3:

i1_smaller

The i1 is a wearable keyfob type beacon. It’s the only keyfob type we stock that’s Apple certified that also has a larger CR2477 battery. It’s also waterproof.

i3_smaller

The i3 is a double AA battery beacon with a longer than normal 200m range. It’s waterproof, Apple MFi certified and comes with two backs, with and without tags with holes.

We now have several beacons that have an exceptional range so we have created a new Ultra Long Range category.

New Ruuvitag Sensor Beacon

There’s an interesting new sensor beacon at Ruuvitag.  It provides temperature, humidity, air pressure and acceleration and will be coming soon to kickstarter.

ruuvi

At first sight it doesn’t provide that much more than standard sensor beacons. However, the differentiating factor is that this beacon is open source.

This means that the beacon is not just configurable but also fully user-reprogrammable. For example, you can run proprietary protocols and form mesh networks. The open hardware and software design to allows adaptation for your proprietary solution. Open hardware and software also reduces the risk should you base your system on it and Ruuvitag (the company) no longer support it.

How Does Sensoro Support Eddystone-EID?

We stock Sensoro beacons that support Eddystone EID.

Sensoro supports two ways to get Eddystone EID. The first adds Eddystone EID into the Sensoro Config App and cloud offering while the second reconfigures the beacon firmware completely to implement full Eddystone as per the Eddystone GATT spec.

For the Sensoro compatible EID mode, as of the time of writing this, you will only be able to configure EID using the Android version of the Config app.

For the fully Eddystone mode, once converted to the Eddystone GATT firmware the beacon doesn’t support any Sensoro features and the beacon becomes a generic Eddystone beacon, with no iBeacon support, that has to be managed using generic Service/Characteristic editing apps. It’s a one way process that can’t be undone.

For either method, the beacon needs to be running firmware 4.3 or later. Update tips, access to the upgrade app and .hex firmware files are available to our customers via the BeaconZone Sensoro technical area.

If you enable the switch to Eddystone GATT firmware, you will then need to configure using a generic Service/Characteristic editing app such as LightBlue on iOS and Nordic nRF Connect on Android. The Nordic nRF Connect app is especially useful as it knows about Eddystone GATT and displays useful information against the respective Eddystone GATT Service Characteristics.

 

Eddystone-EID and Eddystone Configuration GATT Service Practicalities

Yesterday, Google announced Eddystone-EID, a more secure advertising frame (data) that provides for beacons that can’t be spoofed and hence can exchange information more securely and privately.

While beacon spoofing isn’t yet a problem, it’s great that Google is pre-empting a problem that’s bound to become more prevalent as beacons are used as IoT devices. Eddystone-EID is an alternative to UUID rolling as provided by a few platform providers such as Estimote.

From what we understand, Eddystone-EID relies on a “resolution service such as Proximity Beacon API” that implies it currently needs a working network connection and http – that many indoor scenarios lack. It will be interesting to see how reliable and quick this will be. A key metric for many of our clients is beacon detection time and anything that slows this down or makes it less reliable will be impractical. Let’s hope Google has had thoughts on how to make the ‘resolution service’ local to the phone. At the moment, the implementation seems to require cloud resolution of ephemeral ids. However, the research paper, on which Eddystone-EID is based, does mention an Extension: Offline Resolution by Non-Owners.

Google also announced a new Eddystone Configuration GATT Service . At the moment, each beacon manufacturer needs to write an app that allows their beacons to be configured. A common Configuration GATT Service means one app could be used to configure all beacons. However, things won’t be so simple.

It’s our expectation that it will take a long time before Eddystone-EID and the Eddystone Configuration GATT Service become commonly available. As with Eddystone itself, many beacon manufacturers will probably delay implementation until they see there’s a market demand for these new capabilities. Google tellingly mentioned 15 manufacturers, ‘will’ rather than ‘do’ support these new features. Even now, most beacons don’t support Eddystone-TLM yet.

Meanwhile (and even into the future), there will be a mix of old and new beacons that will complicate comprehension thus further. Also, all this only covers Eddystone. iBeacon beacons will still need their own individual manufacturer configuration apps and as beacons supporting Eddystone tend to be a subset of those supporting iBeacon (rather than the other way around) it’s likely we will still have many different configuration apps.

Looking top-down, most rollouts still use iBeacon rather than Eddystone so these new initiatives are likely to have little short-term affect. However, with Eddystone gaining features faster than iBeacon, given time, it might tip the balance and help it become more popular.

New Google Beacon Tools App

Google has just published a new Beacon Tools App. It allows you to register Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons (Eddystone and iBeacon) with the Google Beacon Registry and create small attachments for them.
This then makes them available to be seen via APIs such as Google Nearby or the Proximity Beacon API that are both readable via iOS and Android. Beacons need to be registered against a Google API project.

BeaconToolsApp

The new app provides an easy way for developers to associate data with their beacons without doing this programatically. However, you still currently need a different app, server, web UI or something to read this data back.

One of the attributes you can set in the Beacon Registry is a Place Id that allows you to associate a beacon with a Google Places API place. It remains to be seen if Google will make beacon data publicly accessible via the Google Places API as this would open up a new set of without-app usecases (and potential privacy problems for projects not wanting their data visible).