Learnings from Using iBeacons in Wales’ Oldest Gallery

There’s a useful article on the Nesta site on Using Proximity Technology to Enhance the Gallery Experience.

Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw in Llanbedrog on the Llyn Peninsula is Wales’ oldest art gallery. They created a mobile app that uses iBeacons to deliver content to gallery visitors.

They have some insights:

  • They found that audio-only content was best so as not to distract from the art itself.
  • Users were most interested in content presented by the artists themselves rather than other commentators.
  • Positioning the beacons was important. Planning and positioning of beacons was vital in ensuring a glitch-free experience.

Our experience of using beacons in art galleries shows that, as with Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw findings, most problems occur when beacon transmissions overlap. You have to fine tune beacon power and/or trigger on specific ranges in order to prevent false triggering or ‘bouncing’ between exhibits when the user hasn’t even moved. Apps can also be set to ignore multiple triggers that happen within a very short time.

How to Open the iB004N Case?

There’s a manufacturer-supplied video in our Ankhmaway technical information that shows how to open the iB004N. We haven’t been happy with this video for some time. Firstly, if you open the beacon as shown you are likely to crack the case. Secondly, it shows someone wielding what looks like a metal screwdriver that, given where it’s used, could easily short or damage the circuit board. Thirdly, if you snap it shut as shown, you will snap off the retaining lugs.

We have found that the best way to open the iB004N is with a plastic sharp edge such as a guitar pick. Push it down as shown, where there isn’t a retaining lug:


Lever and the case top pops off. Use a plastic tool to lever up the printed circuit board and replace the battery.

To put the lid back on, first place the lid side with the two lugs into the corresponding two holes in the side. Push the lid down and use the plastic sharp edge, in the same position as you used to take the lid off, to widen the case slightly as you push the lid right down. This way, the lug won’t snap off.

Beacons and the IoT Value Chain

There’s a thought provoking article at the news arm of the GSMA, Mobile World Live. It quotes Nokia who think that applications are set to dominate the IoT value chain.

This isn’t applications, as in apps, but platforms, systems (and sometimes controlling apps) that create ecosystems for specific vertical needs. Nokia said:

It’s not the iPhone selling at $800 that’s going to make IoT grow, it’s going to be the devices and sensors that are sub-$10

Today’s sensor beacons are early devices upon which we can start building these IoT ecosystem applications.

nRF Connect Now Has Macros

The Nordic nRF Connect app (formerly known as nRF Master Control Panel) allows you to manipulate beacons directly at the Bluetooth GATT Service/Characteristic level. It works with all beacons, not just those containing Nordic SoCs. There’s also a version for iOS. The app is particularly good at recognising known Bluetooth profiles and giving them useful human descriptions rather than leaving the Bluetooth Services as numbers.

The Android version of the app has recently been updated to support macros:


This means that if you are configuring lots of beacons, it’s now much less tedious, quicker and less error prone if you record and replay a macro setting all your desired Service/Characteristic settings.

Beacons For Bees

There’s an interesting new project on GitHub that uses Eddystone-URL beacons to tag wild and domestic beehives.

“There are many reasons to geo-tag wild and domestic Beehives, one is simply to raise awareness of HoneyBee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and the state of health of local Beehives; another would be to alert those that might be susceptible to anaphylactic shock that they should be mindful of their surroundings. (i.e. Don’t climb that lovely tree with the huge wild Beehive in it…)”

It’s questionable whether Eddystone-URL is the best solution in this particular scenario. Eddystone-URL will only show up when users are interacting with their devices (when the screen is on). People avoiding beehives due to possible anaphylactic shock would want to be alerted even when not using their phones. This requires use of an app and iBeacon if background notification is required on iOS.

Nevertheless, Eddystone-URL does provide an inexpensive, easy to create solution for educational and awareness (PR) purposes.

Crowd Analysis Using Beacons

With so many uses of beacons centred around notifications to users, it’s interesting to see Queen Mary University of London doing something different. Research by Kleomenis Katevas, Laurissa Tokarchuk, Hamed Haddadi and Richard G. Clegg of the Department of Computing of Imperial College looks into detecting group (crowd) formations using iBeacon (pdf).

They used beacon RSSI and phone motion together with algorithms based on graph theory to predict interactions inside the crowd. They verified their finding using using video footage as ground truth.


The paper has some particularly interesting observations from testing RSSI in an EMC screened anechoic chamber and also has some information on distance estimation models.

Bluetooth Beacon Ecosystem Profit and Risks

There’s an interesting article by Stephen Statler at StreetFightMag on Bringing Brands Into the Fold, inMarket Touts Its ‘Three-Sided’ Beacon Network. The article is based on an interview with Todd DiPaola, CEO of inMarket on How to build a profitable Beacon enabled advertising network for brands, apps and venues.

The article questions how to make money with beacons and says Todd:

joked that many of his competitors behave like “non-profits,” given the rate they are burning through cash

There are many, perhaps hundreds of, businesses in the beacon ecosystem that aren’t sustainable and are dependent on initial bootstrap funding. This raises two questions 1) What risk does this pose to their customers? and 2) How can companies in the beacon ecosystem actually make money?

As we mentioned in our article on Trigger Data and Beacon Servers, probably the largest consideration is whether some of these startups will continue to be around as long as your solution. Many retail-targeted solutions are struggling to sell beacons to retailers. Also, no one solution or beacon is good for all usecases, especially if move outside retail.

On risks, think about choosing and using platforms and beacons in such a way so they can be easily swapped out should your supplier significantly raise prices or go out of business. Have a second-sourcing strategy even if it’s only in your head.

On profit, take the lead from Todd DiPaola’s inMarket (the interviewee) or even ourselves. Avoid trying to make profits from beacons, make money from something else that uses them. InMarket make money by selling innovative contextual-based (advertising) services, that sometimes uses beacons, to brands. We make money from beacon software development. Beacons are a way of strengthening existing business models to produce more profit. It’s much more difficult to have beacons support a profitable business model in they own right.

Wearable Tech for Dementia Patients

Dexigner has a new article on how Mettle and their use of beacons to monitor Dementia Patients. When the patient wanders out of sight the signal is lost and the app alerts the carer by notification and vibration.


While it’s an interesting piece of design, the companion app is very similar to the usual beacon-based ‘lost luggage’ type of app. In fact, many standard beacons are wearable.

There are also many more health applications waiting to be discovered that make use of the accelerometer, temperature sensor and the buzzer found in some beacons.