Ways to Use Beacons

Most current uses of beacons rely on an Android and/or iOS app detecting and acting on the advertised ids or Eddystone URL. 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. We also sell gateways that can detect beacons and send the data to Internet servers via WiFi.

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 'near', 'intermediate' 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 switches that can cause the phone to ring so you can find it.

Eddystone beacons advertise a URL. This acts much like a QR code in that it provides a convenient way to supply the user with a web address. You can learn more about this in our article on Eddystone and the Physical Web. We also have a related FAQ Which Beacons Send a Message/Notification to Phones?

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 WiFi gateway. AI Machine learning can be used on data from sensor beacons to create actionable intelligence that can be used to improve efficiency, save costs, increase competitiveness and sometimes create 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. Sending proximity information is the basis for Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS).

The above scenarios involve things happening in response to beacon broadcasts. The opposite is possible in that Bluetooth signals can be sent to beacons to control electrical items. Relay modules contain beacons that control their general purpose IO (GPIO) to switch electrical relays. This allows Bluetooth LE devices such as smartphones to switch electrical devices, including mains voltage devices, on and off. 

More information

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

Learn about the different types of beacon implementation.

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 more about iOS and Android Apps.

Tags: ibeacon, eddystone