Ways to Use Beacons

Ways to use beaconsMost current uses of beacons rely on an Android and/or iOS app detecting and acting on the advertised ids. There doesn't necessarily need to be a smartphone app as any device equipped with Bluetooth LE, for example a single board computer (SBC) or Raspberry Pi , can detect and act on the presence of beacons. Gateways can detect beacons and send the data to Internet servers via WiFi or Ethernet.

The device receiving a beacon signal has access to a Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) that can be used to imply the distance to the beacon. On iOS, Apple wrap this into a more friendly 'immediate',  'near' and 'far' indication. The raw RSSI must be used on Android. The derived distance can be used to trigger different actions in the smartphone app. Learn more in the article on Determining Location Using Bluetooth Beacons.

The most common implementations are currently in retail or visitor spaces (museums, galleries) where the advertised id is matched with details obtained from a server to present information or offers.

Another common use of beacons is finding lost items or not losing them in the first place. The smartphone app can trigger a buzzer in a beacon to find a lost item or trigger a notification on the phone if an item (or person!) is going out of range. It can also work the other way. Some tracker beacons have buttons that can cause the phone to ring so you can find it.

Sensor beacons are used in IoT applications to send proximity and sensor data to enterprise, IoT or cloud platforms. As sensor beacons aren't directly connected to the Internet/Intranet, this requires the use of an intermediate Bluetooth LE device such as a smartphone, single board computer or gateway. Data is sent, without an intermediate platform or subscription, to your server or cloud providers such as AWS IoT, Google Cloud IoT and Azure IoT Hub. AI Machine learning can be used on data from sensor beacons to create actionable intelligence that can be used to improve efficiency, save costs and increase competitiveness. Sometimes the machine learning models themselves are so useful that they become new intellectual property (IP) for an organisation.

Some dedicated hardware such as the Motorola MOTOTRBO range of two-way radios include beacon detection so that they can support indoor positioning in this case with TRBOnet dispatching software. Sending proximity information is the basis for Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS).

More recently, the COVID pandemic has brought about social distancing beacons that listen as well as advertise and provide alerts, tracking and tracing.

More information

View the ideas gallery that showcases areas where BeaconZone beacons have been used.

Learn about the different types of beacon implementation.

View beacons

Discover more about beacons and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Learn about Using Beacons for Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS).

Browse the directory listing ready-made solutions that work with generic beacons.

Read about Using Bluetooth Low Energy (LE).

Read more about iOS and Android Apps.

Tags: ibeacon, eddystone