10 Things to know about… BEACONS

1) Let’s start at the beginning: What is a beacon?

A beacon is basically a small plastic box containing a chipset that sends signals on Bluetooth low-energy standard with a range of up to 40 meters. Beacons send a signal at a certain time interval, which can be assigned by the correct receiving device. Depending on the use case the device is for example a smartphone or tablet with the appropriate app or a beacon tracker, that forwards the received signal to a backend for further processing. In the signal, an ID is transmitted with which each beacon can be identified.

Beacons | Technology | Favendo

Accordingly, it requires a complete environment that can interpret its signals, a backend on a server that can interpret and process the data and be connected to any existing system, or a smart device with a corresponding app installed.

Beacons can be deployed for various use cases in various industries like Retail, at Museums, Airports, Shopfloors, in Manufacturing Halls or Hospitals.

2) Beacons are Platform independent

Beacons are platform independent. Whereas they were pioneered by apple (iBeacon), there is also a version from google called Eddystone. Eddystone Beacons can send not only an ID but also a complete URL.

3) They are data secure

As the beacon signal is literally a one-way road – beacons can not “see” the device that is receiving it. They do not store any data – except knowing and sending out their unique ID – and are thus not able to “steal” any data. For working properly, e.g., when checking your indoor location based on the proximity to a beacon, the user must have an app installed where there is always the need to opt into the location services.

4) Beacons need no internet connection

By default, beacons need no internet connection to function. All they need is a working battery to send out their signal. Necessary firmware updates can be done over the air.

5) They help to detect distance via RSSI

RSSI stands for Received Signal Strength Indicator and describes a method for calculating the position – in our case with the help of BLE signals. The term beaconing is also used similarly. RSSI is the standard positioning method in many Indoor Positioning Systems and Real Time Location Services. With the received RSSI signal of one beacon the system can determine proximity. With multilateration (the signal of three or more beacons) positioning accuracies of 1 to 3 meters are achieved. For this accuracy the term “room accuracy” is also used analogously.

6) Beacons come in various sizes

The size of a beacon is totally variable and can be adjusted to the use case. Deciding factors are for example: battery runtime, update rate, range, indoor- or outdoor use (IP), frequency or if other sensors are supposed to be enclosed (like temperature, humidity, pressure).

7) They deliver Messages via proximity

Proximity Marketing is especially relevant for example in large shopping malls or at traffic hubs. Visitors – always under the condition they have installed the according smartphone application and have agreed to get messages from the app – receive push messages when being in the proximity of defined places. The ID sent by the beacon triggers the application to send a message belonging to the place for example the hint on today’s special menu of a restaurant, discount offers from stores and so on. Proximity Marketing is therefore part of location-based services.

Proximity Alerting | Services | Favendo

8) Beacons make indoor navigation possible

Indoor navigation means the flexible guiding and wayfinding of people within an infrastructure – where GPS is not working – using a smart device. Fixedly mounted beacons send out their ID, which is processed in an application on the user’s smart device. The position is calculated through tri- or multilateration and in a first step displayed as a “blue dot” on a map on the device screen. In a second step the user is shown his or her route to the point of interest he or she has chosen.

Indoor Navigation | Services | Favendo

9) They help to track assets

Beacons can also be used as tags for asset tracking for example in industrial environment. Moving production assets such as tools, goods, mobile machines or semi-finished products can be equipped with beacons to follow their whereabouts through the production process or locate their position on the factory grounds. The beacon’s ID is received by fixedly mounted beacon trackers that forward the information to the backend where the position of the asset is calculated and displayed in a dashboard.

Asset Tracking | Technology | Favendo

10) 6 years of proven technology

Since arriving on the market more than six years ago, beacons have proven that they are no science fiction but practical and cost-effective devices to make communication and processes easier. Their deployment is easy to handle and – together with an infrastructure perfectly tailored to the use case – the amortization happens quickly.

Meet Favendo

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