What are beacons and how are they used?


We get a lot of questions about beacons and their usage, and if you are also confused with this new technology, keep reading.

Beacons are small Bluetooth based devices with an electronic sensor inside. This sensor emits a unique ID that is detectable by smartphones. You can think of it like a lighthouse that interacts with the boat. Beacon (lighthouse) emits signal saying “Hey, I’m here”. Smartphone (boat) then picks up this signal and shows it on the map.

Beacon technology was first developed by Apple as their iBeacon protocol, and it was presented at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2013. That year, 250 US Apple Stores started using iBeacons. In 2015, Google followed their steps and created their version of the protocol, Eddystone. Here is comparison between these two most popular protocols at the moment:

Eddystone iBeacon
Send messages using UID, URL, Telemetry, and EIDs Send messages using Proximity UUID only
Can receive messages without the mobile app Must have mobile app to receive messages
Open source Proprietary

UID / Proximity UUID – UID / Proximity UUID stands for Unique Identifier. It is a 128-bit value that identifies a specific beacon. That beacon is then detected with an application on a smartphone. For UID/ Proximity UUID to work, the user needs to download an application, which is less practical in some situations.

URL – Users don’t have to download an application, thy will get a notification with URL. Clicking on it, they can see more details on the web. This option is available only for Android

Telemetry – Telemetry is a frame in which information of the Eddystone beacon (e.g. temperature, battery level, date of last activity) are sent to the users.

How to use beacons?

There are two ways you can use beacons:

  1. Proximity detection
  2. Triangulating with signal strength

Proximity detection is beacon’s original function. Beacon detects when someone is in their range and sends the notification. There are 3 types of range: far, near and immediate which can be used in application to determine when to send a notification to the user.

Triangulating with signal strength allows pinpointing user’s position instead of simply indicating proximity. This is where GoIndoor excels – it enables more variety of uses in different industries.
For example, you can use it to create an indoor navigation system in the specific area and send push notifications to the user based on their exact location (for example, in front of your store). Or, instead, you can define notifications according to different user profiles and their position.

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