A new beacon in the gloom?

Google have called their beacon technology “Eddystone.” - Apple, “ibeacon”

Beacons are an interesting foray into the world of “Point of Interest Information” that can be called up by devices like mobile phones when the phone is in proximity to a transmitting beacon.

Several things have to be in place before a beacon can be “Read”

First: the beacon has to be transmitting, then the mobile has to have one or all of these services activated.

  1. Bluetooth

  2. Location services

  3. For iBeacons an app that translates the beacon signal to an action

  4. Googles “Physical Web”

  5. An app specific to a set of beacons

So what use are they?

Good question.

Many think the technology is at the same stage as the lighthouse pictured: built and transmitting a light but swept away only five years after commissioning. To be replaced by something better.

But however nascent the beacon scene is it is able to do what it was intended for: low level Bluetooth transmissions carrying information to be picked up by those with an interest to enable their device to receive the signal.

This is where it gets interesting.

Pokemons, yes Pokemons.

The app developed for the Pokemaon game relies on GPS. GPS is fairly accurate:

“Positional accuracy with a single receiver, to civilian users approximately equals 5m to 10m, 95% of the time, and the height accuracy is generally 15m to 20m 95% of the time. Military users receive a more accurate coded signal from the satellites.”


Outdoors GPS signals are fairly good, where they fall down is in buildings

WiFi can give a fix:

"Wi-Fi location, wireless fingerprinting, uses profiles of given places that are based on the pattern of Wi-Fi signals found there. This technique is best for places that you or other cellphone users visit frequently. The fingerprint may be created and stored the first time you go there, or a service provider may send someone out to stand in certain spots in a building and record a fingerprint for each one. Fingerprinting can identify your location to within just a few meters”


Again we are talking +- several metres

This is where beacons shine. The strength of a beacon signal picked up by your phone is measured agains the actual signal strength transmitted. If there are several beacons the triangulation can be down to a specific item on a shop shelf.

Broadcom's Abraham said, Nokia, which is participating in a live in-store trial of Bluetooth beacons, says the system can determine location to within 10 centimeters.


Unlike GPS or WiFi, beacons can be smaller than a two pound coin, be static or carried about so that enabled devices could use beacons for checking in to a venue, finding a seat in a concert, Displaying details about interesting artifacts where signage would be intrusive.

As with most things people have to have reason to buy in to the technology, with Pokemons it is competition to find rare monsters, with beacons it could be much more space specific with organisations being able to offer incentives, added value or positive recognition:

“Policing there’s a move to what’s called evidence-based policing requiring proof of which police have visited which locations.

Trials are taking place to replace paper based reporting with beacon-based automation.

Tours. Beacons have been purchased for use on guided walks.

The Elderly. One of our customers is using beacons to keep track of elderly people.

Smart Offices. Several of our customers are using beacons to enable the whereabouts of workers and equipment in smart offices.

Asset Tracking. Two large-instrument manufacturers are experimenting with beacons for tracking assets.

Events. Our long range beacons are being used outside for tracking BMX bike trials and power efficient beacons inside large arena events.

Gaming. Ingress players use our beacons.”


Interested in beacons?

Contact us today.

(Google, Apple, Pokemons, iBeacon and Bluetooth are all registered trademarks of the relevant companies.)