What is a Bluetooth beacon?
A beacon could be defined as a device that transmits packets of data using the wireless technology Bluetooth, it is powered by batteries. “Beacon” like its name states, provides guidance. These devices are used to transmit data with the use of (BLE) Bluetooth Low Energy signals. Any mobile phone that possesses the function of Bluetooth can be used to detect and display these devices around us. One of the most useful service beacons provides is that it could be used for advertising in places such as, shopping malls, stores, parks, events and any venue that consists of people.
It is necessary to have a device that is compatible with the beacon in order to be used with it. Bluetooth beacon transmitters are available in various forms and factors such as; USB Sticks, small coin cell devices, Bluetooth 4.0 supported USB Dongles, etc.
Which devices support Bluetooth beacon?
The number of Bluetooth beacon supported devices was limited in the past. However, almost every smartphone built in the last decade has the compatibility to be used with Bluetooth beacon. In order for a device to support Bluetooth beacon, it is necessary for the device to have Bluetooth connectivity and Bluetooth low energy connectivity.
A number of devices support Bluetooth beacon, iPhone 4 or newer, iPad, Android phones/tablets with Android 4.3 or later version.
What’s the difference between iBeacon, Eddystone and Bluetooth beacon?
It was introduced by Apple in 2013. Many experts believe it is developed to help the retail industry by simplifying the payment methods and enabling the use of on-site offers. McDonald’s has used iBeacon devices to give special offers to customers in its outlets.
Different hardware iBeacons are available in the market ranging from $5 to $30. All of these iBeacons have varying default settings for their iBeacon advertisement and default transmit power frequency. iBeacons have different advertising frequencies, some may operate at 1Hz while many can be as fast as 10 Hz. One well-reported such software quirk exists on Android with support of Android 4.4 or later.
Eddystone is developed by Google. It is capable of supporting three types of packets, Eddystone-URL, Eddystone-UID, and Eddystone-TLM, while iBeacon does not support these packets. It is said that Eddystone-UID is very similar to Apple’s iBeacon. However, it supports additional telemetry data with Eddystone-TLM. The telemetry information is sent along with the UID-data. Displayed beacon information includes beacon temperature, battery voltage, number of packets sent since last boot and beacon up-time.
Using this protocol, Google developed Google nearby that allowed Android users to receive beacon notifications without installing any third-party application. Google nearby was stopped by Android on Dec 6, 2018.
Bluetooth beacons are used to transmit data to nearby devices. This technology enables devices to perform actions when close to a beacon supported device. Eddystone by Google and iBeacon by Apple are Bluetooth beacon platforms.
The structure of a Bluetooth beacon
BLE data transfer is one-way communication.
Let’s take an example of a BLE Beacon trying to communicate with a mobile phone that is available within its range. A Bluetooth low energy beacon is used to transfer data in the form of data packets at regular intervals.
These data packets are scanned/detected by pre-installed services or any third-party applications on the mobile phone. This leads to action such as promoting an app.
To behave energy efficient and provide much better data transfer speed, the entire communication system consists of 40 Frequency channels with the separation of 2Mhz. 3 of these are considered primary channels while the remaining 37 are said to be secondary channels. This Bluetooth communication begins with the 3 primary channels and then moves on to the secondary channels.
What does a Bluetooth beacon transmit?
Bluetooth beacons can be used to send any packet of information that has a universally unique identifier (UUID). This UUID is used to activate events specific to the beacon.
In Apple’s iBeacon the UUID will be identified by an application on the user device that will activate the event. This event is totally manageable by application developers. However, with a UID Based system, the user’s device must connect to any online server which is capable of understanding the beacons UUID.
Why is a beacon so appealing to marketers?
In the present time, most of the people are frequent smartphone users. Beacons are proven to be quite useful in order to engage with consumers if they are within the range of beacon.
Marketers can use a beacon to track the movements of clients/customers that are available within the spot, they can even assess how long a consumer stays in a store and they are able to send the specified messages on the basis of location.
Beacons are quite similar to analytics tools & website tracking that are used by companies to monitor the pathways that clients take to reach a purchase decision. Companies can use the specific location of clients in a store as the beacon picks up.
Bluetooth signals from their smartphone can be used to deliver personalized or promotional messages. If a retailer uses any branded mobile application. It makes sending push notifications even easier to highlight any content such as discounts or sales.
What is a beacon used for?
Beacons can be used for numerous purposes. Such as to provide important information, to check the status of an airport, etc.
It is also used on vehicles to attract the attention of surrounding pedestrians and other vehicles. Emergency vehicles, ambulances, cop cars, etc. use the vehicular beacons.
It can be used for navigation to help navigators find their destination. Type of navigational beacons is radio beacons, radar reflectors, visual and sonic signals. Handheld beacons are also provided in aircraft marshaling and are used to deliver instructions to the crew in the aircraft.
It can be used for defensive communications as well in such a way as a fire is lit on the top of a mountain or any high place. Its work is similar to a lighthouse that is used for navigation at the sea.
Beacons basically act as a bonfire and are used to celebrate any event or mark any occasion and therefore have many other uses.
How to activate, install and maintain a Bluetooth beacon?
The activation process varies on the type of beacons you are using. Some beacons require batteries whereas some beacons come with inbuilt batteries.
Depending on the beacon, batteries are needed to be put in beacon and then you need to press and hold the power button. After following this process, the beacon will be activated and it will be ready to transmit data. Once activated, it will start working and transmitting to the smartphones within its range.
|Beacon||External battery needed?||External power button?|
|Long range beacons||No||Yes|
It takes several test runs with real customers before a retailer could establish beacon connectivity to its best.
- Plot the floor plan
Start from figuring out the place where do you need the beacon to be placed. An ideal plan should be to cover the entire floor with minimum devices without forming a dead zone in between.
2. Install the beacons
Once you have arranged beacons with your floor plan, install beacons on all of those locations and invite a few people you know with their mobile phones in order for them to check beacons for any dead zone and if any dead zone is found. You can replot the floor plan in accordance to the fix.
3. Run the Trials
Your customers’ mobile phones will start detecting the beacon if they have a Bluetooth service. If you wish to see how effective they are on your crowd, you can run a few trials such as running exclusive beacon offers.
Beacons are well known for their cost-efficient maintenance costs. A pair of AA batteries can be used to constantly keep running a beacon for up to 5 years and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) plays an important role in this. Five years of battery life might be impossible to be achieved in real but if compared with any other battery-powered technology, even 2 years of a lifetime sounds good enough for Beacons. The frequency of signals affects battery life. The lower the frequency, the less battery life gets consumed.
Physical inspection, firmware updates, and battery monitoring also require persistent care and checkup.
How do end-users interact with a beacon?
When any beacon is activated to transmit the specified data, it broadcasts them to all the Bluetooth enabled mobile-phones available within its range. iPhone requires a third-party application that supports beacon services meanwhile Android users can instantly scan and start receiving the broadcast on their phone. Whoever connects with the beacon can start receiving the specified information that beacon has been provided with to broadcast. It can be any type of advertisement, URL, etc. It can appear as a notification to the users and after users click on it, users will be taken to the campaign.
These are some ways to make users interact with your broadcast:
- Relevant Videos
The use of relevant videos in your broadcast can appear to be very appealing to the users and can leave a good impact on them.
- Call to action
Using this feature, you can provide users any email, phone number, email or URL to any website where they will be redirected for further interaction.
How to buy a Bluetooth beacon?
There are a number of things that need to be considered in order to buy the beacon of your requirement,
- Battery Life
- Transmission Range
- Indoor Vs Outdoor
- Protocols Supported (iBeacon or Eddystone)
- Beacon Platform
Battery life plays an important role in the Bluetooth beacons:
|4-5 months||Keychain Beacons|
|1 year||Pocket Beacons|
|2 years||Different types of Outdoor/Indoor Beacons. Long Range.|
|Up-to 82 ft||Key-chain Beacons|
|Up-to 164 ft||Pocket/Portable Beacons|
|Up-to 262 ft||Outdoor Beacons/Indoor Beacons/USB Beacons|
|Up-to 984 ft||Long-Ranged Outdoor Beacons|
Based on the usage
- Indoor Beacons
- Helping guests to check-in the hotel
- Offering free Wi-Fi in certain locations
- Navigating their way into different stores
- Confirming the availability of a product by the use of it.
- Outdoor Beacons
- Outside stores.
- At bus stops.
- Sports venues or any relevant place.
Besides this, you need a beacon compatible app that is downloadable on the user’s smartphone in order for them to connect with the beacon and receive the specified content.
There are a number of apps available i.e. NearBee. And if you wish to develop your own application, that’s a possibility too using App building platforms.
Based on budget
The iBeacon/Eddystone beacon price mentioned below is for a pack of 3
|Indoor beacons/USB beacons||$78|
|Long Range outdoor beacons||$129|
Based on Protocol of beacons
All Mokosmart beacons support both iBeacon and Eddystone protocols. This means you don’t have to buy iBeacons or buy Eddystone beacons separately. The minimum OS version on Android should be 4.3, iOS 7.1, Windows 7, and Mac OS X 1.
There is a number of beacon manufacturers in the market but Mokosmart makes sure you get what you desire and we are willing to provide you with beacons made of best material. We believe in thinking ahead for the betterment of our client’s future and we wish for you to join us on our path to success and help us develop a better community that can improve our technology and methods.
The timeline of beacon technology
Beacons are easy to use, cheap and can be executed on batteries. A beacon has been able to connect the physical world with digital due to a beacon being able to inform any mobile phone of their location and context.
As we know Bluetooth is necessary for the use of beacon technology, Bluetooth has evolved and come a long way since it was first introduced in 1989 by Dr. Nils Rydbeck CTO.
Different versions of Bluetooth technology have appeared in the market from time to time, there was a time when Bluetooth technology had the maximum transfer rate of 700 Kbit/s which was called Bluetooth 1.2.
The release of Bluetooth 2.0 as a successor of Bluetooth 1.2, increased the transfer speed up to 3Mbit/s. Bluetooth 2.1 was introduced with improved connection speed and better security. Bluetooth 3.0 was quite a big step in the technology of Bluetooth as it was capable of handling data transfer speed up to 24Mbit/s. In 2010, Blue tooth 4.0 was released that possessed the feature of being power efficient.
Bluetooth is basically used as a two-way communication but with the help of Bluetooth 4.0 that isn’t the only case anymore, Bluetooth now can be used as one-way communication and it does not require a paired connection like previous Bluetooth supported devices.
The future and trend of Bluetooth beacon
The global beacon market is more likely to evolve in the future as it has in the past.
According to a report by several business insights;
The market of beacon technology is likely to expand at a good rate due to the impact of advancements in technological industries. The increasing number of Bluetooth devices has played a major role in the growth of the global beacon market. According to a report by Bluetooth SIG, around 4Bn Bluetooth devices were manufactured in 2018.
The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) concepts has created numerous opportunities for the growth of the global beacon market. Various companies have stepped in to contribute to the assistance of the growth of global beacon technology.