What's a Bluetooth Beacon?

Bluetooth beacon likes a smart lighthouse: it repeatedly transmits a single signal that other devices can see. Instead of emitting visible light, though, it broadcasts a radio signal that is made up of a combination of letters and numbers transmitted on a regular interval of approximately 1/10th of a second. A Bluetooth-equipped device like a smartphone can “see” a beacon once it’s in range, much like sailors looking for a lighthouse to know where they are. Check Bluetooth beacon solution

what is bluetooth beacon

Main Beacon Products

Advantages

Bluetooth Beacon exploded view

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Bluetooth beacon solution

Applications

moko smart bluetooth beacon in Asset Tracking solutions

Asset Tracking

Bluetooth beacon can tell you where is asset at any given time. You can tracking any moving asset. The Company can be easily track high-value assets, improve business efficiency and reduce operating costs resulting from misplaced assets.

moko smart bluetooth beacon in Indoor Positioning solutions

Indoor Positioning

Do you want to find your favorite products in the shopping mall quickly? Do you want to find the parking location of the shopping mall? You can do it all with Bluetooth low energy(BLE) beacons spread all around your business.
moko smart bluetooth beacon in Retail shop solutions

Retail Shops

Creating a more engaging in-store experience With Bluetooth beacon, clients can receive instant and limited offers as they walk inside the store or grocery shop. With these markers, customers can also navigate through the store and you can generate statistics on their behavior.
moko smart bluetooth beacon in Animals Management solutions

Animals Management solution

Using Bluetooth beacon,improves the animals wellbeing and productivity by monitoring the health and behavior (activity, eating, drinking…) and providing direction to employees as to where they need to be and what actions they need to take.

Bluetooth Beacon Comprehensive Overview

Understanding the Beacon Market

The beacon market is booming at a rate never seen in other forms of technologies before. This is due to its increased adoption of modern communication techs like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near-field communication (NFC), and Radio-frequency identification (RFI), in collaboration with the booming popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) tech. Industries like entertainment, construction, and building, transportation, and logistics are highly demanding the new Bluetooth beacons with advanced Bluetooth applications, likes of Bluetooth 5 beacon and Bluetooth 5.1 beacon. Most governments in the world are initiating smart city building projects. Therefore, they will need to deploy BLE beacons to provide services like bearings, advertisements, and promotions, among others. BLE Bluetooth beacons demand is only expected to rise even higher, taking the current hunger for this technology from other industries like hospitality, BFSI, retail, and many others.

This is why Tech Giants like Apple and Google are sparing no penny in investing and developing their beacons protocols to feed the market. Apple, Inc. prides itself with the iBeacon while Google LLC Eddystone.

bluetooth-beacon Market

Brief history of Bluetooth & BLE Beacons

Bluetooth technology was initially known as Short-link radio tech. It was intended to create wireless headsets. This technology was created by Dr. Nils Rydbeck in collaboration with Dr. Johan Ullman back in the year 1989. 5 years later (1994), Dr. Jaap Haartsen came up with the first standard development at Ericsson. 15 years later (1999), the first consumer Bluetooth was launched, and in the same year, Bluetooth 1.0 specification was introduced. After 2 years (2001), Sony released the first Bluetooth mobile phone called T39. The Bluetooth technology continued to advance, and in 2004, the first Bluetooth 2.0 specification was released with a max range of up to 30 meters. 5 years later (2009), Bluetooth 3.0 was released with a higher connection speed. Things became even better in 2010 when Bluetooth 4.0 was released. It came with the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the Bluetooth classic. In 2013, Apple introduced iBeacon as part of iOS 7 and was the first officially supported protocol. 1 year later, businesses in the US started using the blue tooth beacon technology for data gathering and contextual advertising. Google released its Bluetooth beacon-Eddystone 1 year later, following its failure in 2017. Currently, Bluetooth low-energy beacons technology is implemented in many industries and is projected to increase its applications even further.

Reason for Google Beacon Platform Failure

Google introduced its BLE Bluetooth beacon-Eddystone in 2015 as an open-source and cross-device beacon profile. 2 years later, Google removed Eddystone beacon detection from Chrome on Android and iOS devices and subsequently didn’t support the physical web. But why?

Google strives on advertisement income, and they developed their beacon BLE mainly for advertisement purposes. Therefore, Eddystone beacons installed in stores and different premises sent notifications and ads to visitors and smartphone users whenever they came into the Bluetooth beacon range. However, most people, especially shoppers, didn’t like this experience leading to the death of Eddystone beacon Bluetooth.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Vs. Bluetooth classic

When Bluetooth 4.0 specification was released in 2010, it came with two major technologies: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Bluetooth Classic. Both technologies are integrated with Internet of Things technology and applied differently. What mainly separates the two techs is how they consume power. The table below will enlighten you further on their differences based on specific factors.

 

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Classic

Power consumption

15mA or less (can survive on several batteries for years.

30mA or more. (very high power consumption rate)

Speed (Time spent to send data/info)

Usually, 3ms

Usually, 100ms

Applications

Best applied in use-cases that don’t need a continuous flow of data. For example, in proximity marketing ads and campaigns.

Best applied in use-cases that demand a continuous flow of data. For example, in headphones or Bluetooth speakers.

Data Transfer Rate

Can only transfer 200 kilobytes per second (200kbps)

Can transfer 2 to 3 Megabytes per second (2-3 Mbps)

Simultaneous Connection

Can support up to 20 connections at the same time

Can only support up to 7 connections at the same time

The main reason why most industries prefer BLE tech is due to its low power consumption rate.

BLE Vs. iBeacons

iBeacons is simply how Apple iOS gadgets detect/sense beacons. Apple integrated the Bluetooth Low Energy technology in the iOS as iOS Bluetooth beacon (iBeacon), which is an extension of the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol. A Bluetooth Low Energy will tell you the data being transmitted as well as the strength of the RSS signal while iBeacons estimates the specific distance without the help of RSSI. Apple has now used the iBeacon tech in their new iOS devices, enabling them to have both the roles of a receiver and a transmitter. This is not the case for regular low energy Bluetooth beacons, also called android Bluetooth beacon, since most use android operating systems.

Advantages and disadvantages of Bluetooth beacons

Just like any other technology, beacons Bluetooth have their benefits and downsides. Read on to learn more.

Advantages of BLE beacons

  1. Bluetooth beacons are easy to assemble and install
  2. They are cheap to purchase and maintain. This makes them have a remarkable cost to value ratio compared to other techs.
  3. They have a long battery life of up to 48 months.
  4. BLE beacons are easy to operate and implement.
  5. They offer multiple Bluetooth beacon applications, i.e., Navigation, marketing, analysis, engagement, data transfer, among many others.
  6. Perfect for business marketing since they’re able to collect customer data and suggest products/services they are likely to want, also called personalized advertisement.
  7. Their functions cut across multiple sectors/industries, i.e., Hotels, Offices, airports, events, culture, education, etc.

Disadvantages

  1. To enjoy proximity or personalized marketing, prospects must have an app installed on their mobile devices
  2. BLE beacons triggers can be inhibited by the quality/strength of the internet connection of the receiver’s device.
  3. Beacon low energy beacons use batteries which might cause some minor maintenance issues.
  4. If BLE Beacons are implemented the wrong way, they can send too many ads or push notifications to potential customers making them hate it and uninstall the app.

Features of Our BLE Beacon

  1. Real-time Location/positioning

Bluetooth le beacon is a great asset when it comes to locating and navigating people indoors or outdoors. Whether you’re navigating a museum or you’re in the mall looking for your favorite product or the parking lot, beacons installed all over will help you locate anytime and anyplace easily.

  1. Proximity Interactions and Marketing

Whether you want your customers or potentials to buy your new releases or you want to direct people remotely, you can use MOKO BLE beacons for your marketing and interactions. With apps installed in their phones, your beacons will send push notifications or pop up to help your customers or visitors interact with your premises harmoniously.

  1. Asset Tracker

Using our MOKO BLE beacon, you’ll be able to track your asset(s) at any time, whether stationary or moving. Your highly valued assets are now safe from misplacements or loss. What’s more, you can track people like your employees with our BLE beacon, provided they have an app that connects with the beacons in your office.

  1. Extended Battery life

With a battery life expectancy of 2-5 years, MOKO BLE beacons can serve you for a very long time compared to their counterparts which require direct current to operate. What’s more, the maintenance cost is low, making the overall cost of a BLE beacon fair. If you’re looking for a Beacon solution that won’t fail you, go for MOKO’s BLE beacon.

  1. Animal management

Most are the times when we forget about our animals and how technology can make their lives and ours easier. Animal management is quite a hassle if you don’t have a workable solution. Luckily, with MOKO BLE beacons, you can monitor your animal health and behavior to improve their productivity and overall well-being. I’m sure you concur that this is every farmer’s dream!

BLE Beacons Accuracy

According to a research, the accuracy of a BLE beacon varies when used at different distances from given smart mobile devices. The highest accuracy ranges from 0.7 meters to 1 meter, while the highest inaccuracy ranges from 7.81 meters to 10 meters.

Bluetooth Beacons Vs. Wi-Fi, Geofencing & NFC

The table below shows a comparison between BLE beacons and their 3 counterparts-Geofencing, Wi-Fi, and NFC in form and function. Read on.

#

Beacons

Geofencing

Wi-Fi

NFC

Battery life

Low power consumption

Moderate power consumption

Don’t use a battery (Uses AC)

Don’t use battery

Range

Up to 230ft (70 meters)

No range limit

Up to 330ft (100 meters)

Just few centimeters(0-1ft)

Accuracy

Up to 3ft (1 meter)

Up to 16ft (5 meters)

Accuracy ranges from 3-16ft (1-5 meters)

Just few centimeters(0-1ft)

Cost

Low purchase and maintenance cost

Low cost since it doesn’t need infrastructure.

High cost. Needs infrastructure and maintenance.

Low overall cost

Ideal for…

Indoor navigation, Indoor proximity marketing and interactions, Data collection, and analysis.

Outdoor navigation, Outdoor marketing, Customer analysis, and retargeting.

Indoor marketing campaigns, Data collection, and analysis, Loyalty.

Information transfer at a click, Loyalty, security checkpoints

The Types of Bluetooth Beacons

There are different kinds of Bluetooth beacons, each suited for a specific use case. They include;

  1. Parent Beacons.

It’s used for tracking other types of beacons and collecting and storing data, among other functions.

  1. USB Beacons.

It looks like a flash drive and is used to track assets and offer other proximity solutions like marketing and interactions.

  1. Standard Beacons.

Best for proximity interactions & marketing and indoor navigation & tracking.

  1. Small Beacons.

Also called portable. Ideal for proximity solutions and asset(s) tracking.

  1. Sticker Beacon

Sicked on assets and used for tracking them.

  1. Dedicated Beacon.

Used to offer indoor navigation, tracking, and proximity marketing & interactions in harsh surroundings. They are dust, shattering, water, and UV resistant)

What Are Beacons Used to Track?

By using BLE beacons, you can track;

  • Employees
  • Assets
  • Visitors (at home or work)
  • Returning or Recurring customers
  • The number of views for your marketing campaigns
  • Conversion rates of your indoor campaigns
  • Your visitor’s remote locations
  • The time your visitors take in your place
  • Possible visitor’s age and gender

How Does a Bluetooth Beacon Communicate and What Does It Transmit?

Bluetooth beacons transmit unique signals (a code name) to a receiver device to let it know the nearby beacons.

For instance, in a museum with beacons, each beacon bears a unique registered ID in their apps. Therefore, when you visit the museum, your smartphone will detect and recognize the IDs coming from the beacons are from that specific museum. For this system to work, an app or a similar program need to recognize the IDs first. After your smartphone recognizes the signals from the beacons, you can proceed to request navigation or coupons, depending on what you want. The capabilities are endless.

Bluetooth Beacon Communicate Schematic diagram

How Beacons Connect to The Bluetooth Web

Bluetooth is very important to the IoT since it’s present in about 90% of all mobile devices. Bluetooth technologies have advanced over the years giving birth to other techs like BLE beacons. These gadgets have been adopted in many industries, including hospitals, schools, malls, and many others. For beacons to work efficiently, they need to be in a web of devices, other beacons as well as devices offering internet services. Bluetooth has created an infrastructure to support the beacon ecosystem. This is the web into which beacons tap into and connect with smart devices and other IoT devices for various use cases.

How Can End-Users Interact with BLE Beacons?

If you’re using beacons in your hospital, mall, or any other premises, here are ways to encourage interaction between your beacons and the end-users:

  • Come up with CTAs (Call to Action) messages to incite your end-users to take a certain action.
  • Featuring relevant and powerful videos to create a visual memory of your products in the end-users’ brains.
  • Suggest surveys, polls, and forms to encourage your users to offer their feedback for something in return.

What is a beacon packet?

Beacon packets are strings of data that houses information that is meant to be translated by the receiving device. They are sent to the receiving devices via radio waves. Data packets can either be self-contained or can be used to trigger events like a marketing campaign or push notifications. 

bluetooth beacon packets

The parameters of how a BLE Bluetooth beacon works

Beacons have a theoretical connection radius of up to 100m. Its latency lies at 6ms when at a disconnected state. However, the actual response time and connection radius will trickle down to the specifics of how it is programmed to perform. They function through BLE technology.

BLE’s spectrum range is similar to Bluetooth classic (which lies at 2.400–2.4835 GHz ISM band) albeit through different channels. Since BLE works through three different channels, it connects with the receiving device faster and reduces the scanning time. BLE is also great at circumventing narrowband interference problems. It utilizes direct-sequence spread spectrum or frequency hopping via digital modulation techniques to get around this problem.

BLE beacons are typically used for short-range applications – normally using the standard 1M PHY. In fact, most beacon BLE devices will reliably transmit up to 30m without any disruptions. The typical operating range falls between 2 and 5 meters. While you can always increase your Bluetooth beacon range, an increase will mean higher battery consumption. 

Lastly, beacons typically rely on mobile applications to transmit data. The beacon device will send out data packets that will be received by a mobile device and translated by the app. Apps ensure automated connection occurs.

Configuration specific factors are defined by?

Bluetooth wireless sensors are not only small but also quite affordable. They are easy to retrofit onto or into an existing system to support the transfer of data. The ideal location of sensors is areas without a connection to the main power supply or areas that are quite inaccessible. Since they have a long battery life, they can run for years without needing any battery replacement.

Devices like gateways, single board computers and smartphones can easily scan the sensors to see their data. This only allows them to see this data but not connect. You can use sensors to read all types of data, including temperature, humidity, and heart rate.

Common sensors for beacons and tags

Bluetooth wireless sensors are not only small but also quite affordable. They are easy to retrofit onto or into an existing system to support the transfer of data. The ideal location of sensors is areas without a connection to the main power supply or areas that are quite inaccessible. Since they have a long battery life, they can run for years without needing any battery replacement.

Devices like gateways, single board computers and smartphones can easily scan the sensors to see their data. This only allows them to see this data but not connect. You can use sensors to read all types of data, including temperature, humidity, and heart rate.

Apart from the sensor data, telemetry carries other important bits of information

Sensors do more than just offer external data; they can also provide data that makes monitoring their efficiency easier. Some of this important information includes:

  • Battery level: monitoring your beacons’ battery level is essential if you want a reliable system.
  • Time of the device: devices typically come with a real time clock (RTC) that helps beef up security and save power.

What does a beacon Bluetooth device look like on the inside?

Beacons mainly have a battery and a Bluetooth smart module that’s combined with an ARM computer. It also comes with a circuit board that houses its firmware – the low-level software that guides the beacon on what to do and how to behave. 

Even though beacons typically have a small CPU and a low memory, it is enough to get things done. The last thing is the antenna, which helps broadcast electromagnetic waves to nearby devices and beacons.

The physics behind beacon technology

There are two drivers to the reach and stability of beacon signals; the broadcasting power and the advertising interval (frequency). Beacons don’t continuously advertise data; they blink instead. The time between any two intervals of blinks makes the frequency. The receiving phones won’t be receiving packets continuously too – they too have a frequency for that.

This is why the default frequency for beacons lies at 950ms, which can be changed to any value between 100 and 2000 Ms. For instance, iOS devices scan for beacons every other second, meaning that the default value is enough. However, this might result in missed data in noisy environments unless the advertising intervals are increased. The only caveat is that increasing these intervals might strain the beacon’s battery life.

BLE Beacon deployment landscape

Currently, data from BLE beacon devices can be consumed in either of two ways; through a gateway or an app on a phone or tablet.

Collecting data through a gateway

BLE gateways will mainly listen to data before sending them to a ‘core’ in the cloud. In most cases, they run under Wi Fi, LTM-M or NB-IOT protocols, or even through an Ethernet connection. Next, a serverless app will parse and spin up the beacon signals into the most appropriate fields within a database.

Retailers can easily use this information to identify where their customers linger the most in their store. The data can also be used to tell employees when certain thresholds like temperature and humidity are passed.

Collecting data through an app on a phone

iOS and Android devices can easily consume beacon data, as long as they have the right app installed. These apps can work even when the device is offline. The device’s owner can use the app to interpret the beacons’ signals.

Bluetooth Beacon Security

The security posture of your business is only as strong as your weakest point. In other words, you could have encrypted your network and used the best security practices on the cloud, but it will all be in vain if the beacon isn’t secure. All it takes is one weak point for a data breach to occur. Hackers can easily use the beacon to access information or for malicious intent. 

Be very cautious when ordering beacons from manufacturers. Ask them how they have worked on their security. Are they secured from spoofing? Do they come with strong beacons Bluetooth security features like passwords and encryptions? Most importantly, be sure to counter-check these security measures and work towards correcting any errors.

That’s why you should work with a historically secure manufacturer. You will at least rest assured that you aren’t purchasing something to the detriment of your business.

Can You Test a Device’s Bluetooth Strength?

Bluetooth signal strength is typically rated between 0 and -90, with -90 being on the lower end. If you are experiencing poor network strength, it could be caused by an external environment, software or hardware issues. Testing issues with your software is pretty easy, and it might only take a few minutes to get a comprehensive report. You will simply need to use a phone diagnostic tool to both identify and troubleshoot the issues.

The external environment issues could stem from the device’s signal being interrupted. This could include through:

  • Interfering radio frequencies: these are radio frequencies that block the transmission of your device unintentionally, such as microwaves, electric railroad tracks, and power lines.
  • Physical barriers: a number of physical barriers could block your signal if they stand between the beacon and your phone. This might include metallic objects, walls and even bulletproof glass.
  • Wi-Fi and wireless signals: it is common for wireless signals like Wi-Fi to use the same bandwidth as Bluetooth devices, often resulting in blocking the signal.
  • Channel hopping: Bluetooth has evolved into a smart signal. Once it identifies interference in one channel, it will jump to another better one. However, there will be a drop in strength as it makes the jump.

When testing BLE beacon for signal strength, it is wise to first conduct a phone diagnostic test to ensure that there aren’t any hardware or software issues. If there aren’t any, you can proceed to assess whether external factors are the reason behind the declined signal strength.

Do iBeacons require a Bluetooth beacon application? Will all beacons work with my app?

Apart from some smart beacons, most beacons only send data without receiving any. This means that without an app, you might not interact with the beacon. The same applies to iBeacons. That’s why you need to develop an app or tweak it to make it easier to engage with your beacons.

Almost all beacons broadcast in the same manner, meaning that they can be used interchangeably with your app. However, some manufacturers have device-specific configurations that call for app tweaks to take advantage of. Once you make the right adjustments, it becomes easier for your app to interact with the beacons.

The future of Bluetooth beacon devices

Beacon technology costs less to invest in when compared to the benefits it presents businesses. It can create a non-intrusive platform for customer engagement since customers get to opt into it. Other industries like manufacturing, tourism, aviation, and medicine could also leverage this technology. 

Google has been among the biggest driving forces behind beacon technology as it sent free beacons to small businesses in a bid to increase the ease at which customers can find their location. The fact that beacons are created around an already existing standard means that more and more businesses will continue adopting it. Thanks to their ease of adoption and emergence of tech like beacon AI, mass adoption is imminent. 

How Bluetooth 5.1 will affect beacons

Bluetooth 5 beacons have been used for Indoor Positioning Services (IPS) for long. From identifying an item’s location in a store to tracking assembly progress on a factory floor, Bluetooth technology has revolutionized tracking and monitoring. However, the conventional Bluetooth technology had some downsides when it came to IPS:

  • Its signal strength often affects the range it can transmit IPS data.
  • It only indicates distance not direction
  • You have to factor in noise during deployment, or else its range will be affected.

Bluetooth 5.1’s target is to solve these problems. It offers information on the angle-of-departure (AOD) and the angle-of-arrival (AOA), which provides a more accurate depiction of device location. This provides centimeter-level accuracy, which was a problem with the previous iterations of Bluetooth.

In fact, most use areas, like hospitals, hotels, and airports might not need centimeter-level IPS, but they could benefit from a more focused tracking system. The fact that Bluetooth is an already established standard makes the Bluetooth 5.1 beacon ideal for mass adoption in the IPS market.

How to buy beacons

Your ideal beacon will be contingent on your specific budget and intended use. Here is what to consider as you buy beacons:

  1. Transmission range

How far do you want to send out data? This will boil down to your intended use. For instance, store managers who want to advertise offers to their in-store customers will only need beacons whose reach is 30m maximum. A real estate agent who wishes to get people to their open house might need beacons that transmit data as far as 300m.

  1. Battery life

No one wants to be anxious about their beacons dying on them in the middle of a campaign. That’s why you ought to pay attention to the specifications of the beacons you purchase. Keep in mind that some factors will reduce the battery life of your beacons, such as increasing their transmission intervals.

You might want to get something with a better battery life than usual if you are advertising in a noisy environment. Consider getting a USB beacon if battery life is a huge concern for your usage scenario. These are plug-and-play beacons that will have you at ease when it comes to battery life.

  1. Indoor vs. outdoor

Indoor beacons typically don’t require a lot of care. They aren’t exposed to as many harsh elements as the outdoor beacons are. However, when it comes to buying outdoor beacons, you ought to consider the kind of environment you will be using them in. For instance, they need to be at least waterproof to protect them from water damage.

  1. Beacon platform

The right platform will help you both configure and run your beacons. However, it all depends on your intended use of the beacons. If you are looking to use them for sending location data, ordinary beacon platforms will be enough. Anyone looking to run a marketing campaign might need a more comprehensive beacon platform.

The ideal one should provide an end-to-end solution. This will make sure that you can share data, assess the analytics, and organize your related beacons with ease.

  1. Budget 

Among the most appealing characteristics of beacons is that they are quite affordable as marketing tools. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that you need to focus solely on price when looking for the perfect beacon for your business. Instead, you should also focus on the value they drive to your intended use.

Besides, there are multiple ways to get price breaks. For instance, most manufacturers usually offer discounts for large order quantities. Other factors that will sway the price include the order delivery timeline, whether they will come white-labeled, and whether they will be configured out-of-the-box.

  1. Supported protocol

What protocol does your beacon run on? It can either be Eddystone or iBeacon. While the latter runs well with iOS Bluetooth low energy beacons, the former is ideal for Android Bluetooth beacons. It all trickles down to the target use. However, it would be wiser to pick beacons that support both Eddystone and iBeacon for maximum deployment flexibility.

  1. Advertising interval

The ideal advertising frequency will depend on your intended use and the environment. If you are using them in normal environments, the typical frequency will be enough – 950ms. For noisy environments, you might need to lower this frequency to increase the chances of the beacon packets reaching the intended receiver. Keep in mind that increasing frequency decreases the battery life.

  1. Availability of a compatible app

The recipient of the beacon’s data needs to have an app on their phone that can receive and translate the data. This can either be a hardware-agnostic app or integration into your own app. If you are willing, you could always build your own app from the ground up, thanks to the availability of platforms that help you easily do the same.

  1. Tx power

Tx power represents the level at which your beacon submits signals. It typically ranges between -30dBm and +4dBm. The Tx power drives signal range. A high Tx power means a higher data transmission range. Keep in mind that transmitting signals over a longer range will drain battery life. If you need to send signals over a wider range, purchase a beacon with a superior battery life.

  1. Portability

While most beacons are stationary, they do not always need to be. In some cases, they might need to be moved around from place to place. The good thing is that there are beacons that can be held in the palm of your hand.

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