A Comprehensive Guide about iBeacon Technology

A Comprehensive Guide about iBeacon Technology

You are here because you want to learn iBeacon technology. This article will guide you about different aspects of this amazing Technology such as its setup requirements, working, and its advantages.

Beacons are wireless transmitters that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send signals known as BLE to the nearby smart devices. Beacons are installed at different locations and send push notifications to the customers on their cellphone. The push notification has content related to the person’s current location. The purpose of iBeacon technology is to enhance marketing and better customer experience.

What is iBeacon?

Most of the time, beacon and iBeacon terms are used interchangeably. However, iBeacon is basically a trademarked term used by Apple for its location-aware system. It allows different mobile apps running on the different Android and iOS devices to receive signals from this device in the physical world.

This device sends push notifications that contain useful information on the basis of the customer’s current location. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy for its communication.

What do you need to make an iBeacon works?

There are two important requirements for this technology working. First, a complete setup of the iBeacon transmitter to send push notification and the other one is a compatible device to receive signals.

  1. The iBeacon transmitter is a device that is fixed in one place anywhere such as the wall and table. You will learn the complete working of this technology in the upcoming section.
  2. You need a mobile device that is capable to receive BLE signals from beacons. The device should support Bluetooth Smart and need Bluetooth to detect beacons. Almost all mobile devices today have Bluetooth by default. A complete BLE-compatible list is available on the Bluetooth official site so you can verify your device there.
  3. To interact with this device, a cellphone must contain compatible versions of Operating systems. If cellphones contain older versions, this beacon technology will not work on your device.
  4. In the case of this device, the app requires location permission to use this service properly.

It is important to note that smartphones don’t trigger actions themselves based on proximity to beacons. A specific app installed on these devices detects beacons by using different APIs such as Estimote SDK or some other native frameworks by Apple.

How does iBeacon technology works?

To understand the complete working of Apple’s iBeacon technology, you need to understand the requirements of this technology. Here is what you need:

  • Different iBeacon compatible devices such as iBeacon from MOKOSMART.
  • Sometimes, an internet connection is required.
  • An app that could be a brand app or any third-party app to receive a notification.
  • You need a compatible device that supports the iBeacon app installation.

Now, let’s understand the complete working of iBeacon technology:

The devices are attached to the wall or any other place that sends BLE signals to different nearby devices with a serial ID number. The relevant app on smartphones detect signals and react. Without a relevant app, it is not possible to catch the signals. This standard device used for BLE advertising has 4 pieces of important information as follows:

  1. Unique Universal Identifier – UUID: This is basically a 16 bye string that gives a unique identity to the iBeacon. For example, if Coca-Cola has a network of beacons in the grocery store, all beacons belong to Coca-Cola have the same UUID code. This unique identifier contains general information related to the beacon such as who owns it and which business owns it.
  2. Major: This is basically a two-byte string that is used to identify a smaller subset of beacons uniquely within the larger group. For example, if Coca-Cola utilizes 4 beacons in a specific grocery store, all 4 beacons would contain the same major. It helps Coca-Cola to know the exact location of its customers in the specific store.
  3. Minor: This is also a two-byte string that helps to identify beacons individually. Let’s take the Coca-Cola example again. There are 4 beacons in the one grocery store. All 4 beacons have a unique minor. So minor helps a company to uniquely identify the exact location of a customer inside the store.
  4. Tx Power: It provides the proximity distance of the customer from the beacon. How does Tx Power work? Tx power exactly determines the strength of the signal exactly 1 meter from the beacon device. It is hardcoded and calibrated in advance so devices used this as a baseline and provide the estimate distance of the user.

The difference between iBeacon and Eddystone beacon?

A beacon is a small wireless device used to broadcast radio signals with different product information. A nearby smartphone captures these signals automatically. Most of the time, people used the term iBeacon and beacon interchangeably. However, iBeacon is a beacon developed by Apple. There are some other famous types of beacons such as Eddystone beacon.

Here is the difference between the aforementioned beacons:

1> Technology

iBeacon technology is basically a beacon protocol developed by Apple. iOS 7 or later versions support this protocol and allow iPads and iPhones to scan for different Bluetooth devices nearby. On the other hand, Eddystone beacons are open-source beacons that can be manufactured by any business at an affordable price.

2> Compatibility

iBeacon is compatible with Android and iOS but it is native only for iOS. However, Eddystone is compatible with Android, iOS and all platforms that have support for BLE beacons.

3> Profile

iBeacon is basically a proprietary software so Apple controls its all specifications. However, Eddystone is open-source software. Anyone can use the specification from GitHub. So different businesses and developers access this and contribute to it.

4> Ease of Use

iBeacon is extremely easy to implement. However, Eddystone is much flexible and requires more coding for integration. Actually, different companies develop beacons with Eddystone in their own way so it can be complicated.

5> Usage

In iBeacon, UUIDs, a specific code, have a link with the developer’s server. So when this code is sent to any smartphone, so the device requires a special app to perform a special task after receiving the code. So it requires an app for proper working. On the other hand, Eddystone uses a URL instead of UUID so that user can open that easily in the browser. So it doesn’t require any app for its working.

6>Security and Privacy

iBeacon transmits its signal publically. So anyone can easily detect it by using iOS devices. Moreover, there are different apps available for both Android and iOS that can detect UUID code. So it is not much secure. However, Eddystone has a feature known as Ephemeral Identifier that allows beacons to send a signal such that only authorized clients can identify that signals.

7> API

As iBeacon is proprietary software so it doesn’t contain a specific API. However, Eddystone is an open-source and its API is available for open use.

Overall, both beacons have some pros and cons so you can pick any of them according to your needs. If you want to develop your own beacon, you will definitely go for Eddystone because it is open source.

8> The device compatible with iBeacon

Compatibility is the most important factor for the working of iBeacon technology. Android and iOS are the most used operating systems on smartphones. Luckily, it is compatible with both types of devices.

9> iBeacon for iOS

It is extremely important for the working of this device to install a relevant app for iOS devices. This is a crucial way so that the iBeacon protocol can communicate with the device. There are numerous useful apps available for iOS devices. You can use a brand app or any other third-party app to communicate with this device. For example, you can use Launch Here, Proximitask or BeHere apps for iOS devices.

10> iBeacon for Android

These devices also require a relevant app for iBeacon protocol communication with Android devices. If the beacon device uses the Eddystone protocol, you don’t need to install any app. However, the iBeacon protocol requires an app. You can use different brand apps or third party app to communicate with beacon devices. It is important that there are several apps that are multifunctional. It means, they can communicate with different types of beacon protocols such as iBeacon & Eddystone Scanner. This app is compatible with Eddystone, and AltBeacons as well.

How does iBeacon technology affect our life?

Beacon marketing is becoming a trend day by day as its accuracy is increasing. Moreover, this technology provides the most unique and interesting way to interact with customers. It is interesting that 50% of the top 100 brands are already utilizing this technology for marketing in their stores. So this technology will really affect our lives.

Use cases and Applications of the iBeacon

iBeacon technology plays a significant role in marketing strategies. Here are different use cases and applications of this technology:

  • Tracking: Every business wants to know the satisfaction level of their customers. This technology works for the same. You can analyze collected data related to the customers. So when a user enters the store, this device sends notification according to the need of the customers.
  • Automation: Automation is another most important benefit of iBeacon. Imagine: a person who has your mobile app in his cellphone enters your store and the door automatically opens! It is the best use case of this technology.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: These devices are really cost-efficient as compared to NFC. NFC has a 0.2 meters range but iBeacon covers up to 50 meters area. Moreover, the hardware of this device is cheaper as compared to NFCs.
  • Micro Location: GPS is extremely useful for the best navigation and tracking, however, it is not beneficial for the interior of the buildings. On the other hand, the micro-location geofencing of iBeacon is really good for navigation inside any building.

How much energy does an iBeacon technology consume?

Beacons are basically standalone devices that utilize batteries for working. So it is extremely important to have an idea about iBeacon energy consumption. So a question arises here how long a beacon works until its battery leaves functioning. Well, as we have already mentioned that these devices work on Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE so they don’t consume much energy.

Roughly, an average beacon can work at least an entire year and don’t require battery replacement. Moreover, battery life also depends on the type of beacon. For example, H1 – Keychain beacon and M1- Ultra ThinBeacon offered by MOKO Smart with 16-month battery life.

How secure is the iBeacon protocol?

There is a question mark at the security of the iBeacon protocol. So you should keep in mind that this protocol doesn’t provide any security at all. Basically, it is extremely easy to scan your beacon ids. Therefore, if you find out UUID, Major, and Minor strings or ids, you can simply clone that beacon, by assigning its current parameters to another beacon device or emulate that by utilizing your smartphone. Although all smartphones are not capable to emulate beacons, this number will be increased in the future.

It would be much better not to use iBeacon technology to exchange sensitive data. Let’s understand the security of this device by taking a hypothetical situation. Let say, you use this device to open your gate. Someone from your authorized staff scans his or her beacon to come in or out. As you know the beacon range is approximately 30 meters on average, so it means an offender can easily create a beacon key identical to the original one by sitting somewhere besides your home or office. So by using that key, he can open the door.

You might be thinking that how does the offender get beacon ids? It’s not a big deal. There are different apps available that give you this functionality. These applications give all of the beacon’s information in a specific range.

How to protect iBeacon technology Security?

Is there any way to protect iBeacon security? Well, beacon technology is getting advanced day by day. Now different companies are intending to secure beacons with passwords so no hijacker can send notifications to the customers. Still, we recommend you not to use beacons for your sensitive information. Moreover, you should purchase this device from a trustworthy seller such as MOKO Smart.


Written by ——
Nick Lee

Nick Lee

As one of the product managers in our R&D department, Nick work closely with sales, engineering, testing and marketing. He was a product engineer developing wireless sensors before joining MOKOSMART. With 10 years of experience in this industry, he is particularly proficient in the development of wireless products based on Bluetooth and Lora. The product lines he has participated in includes Bluetooth beacon, Tracker, Sensor, Gateway, plug-in, and Module. Dive deeply in MOKOSMART's products through his articles!
Nick Lee

Nick Lee

As one of the product managers in our R&D department, Nick work closely with sales, engineering, testing and marketing. He was a product engineer developing wireless sensors before joining MOKOSMART. With 10 years of experience in this industry, he is particularly proficient in the development of wireless products based on Bluetooth and Lora. The product lines he has participated in includes Bluetooth beacon, Tracker, Sensor, Gateway, plug-in, and Module. Dive deeply in MOKOSMART's products through his articles!
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