Beacons are battery-powered transmitters of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) radio signals. Beacon is a piece of hardware — Size can be varied based on range & battery size but usually like small cheese cube. It has a range of sending signals up to 100 meters.
Beacons are like a lighthouse which repeatedly transmits a signal. Smartphone with an app can receive this signals and then initiate proximity-based notifications accordingly. Ex. if you are having an app developed with a beacon and you tick Beacon device with any of your important belongings (Bag), You can get a notification when your bag goes out of the range specified in the app, also you can get a notification when it comes within range of your app.
What is a beacon actually transmitting?
It’s not throwing just any old message into the air. It’s transmitting a unique ID number that tells a listening device which beacon it’s next to.
This ID consists of three components:
- UUID (organisation or company)
- major (arbitrarily, e.g. specific chain store)
- minor (e.g. location in store)
What can we actually do with beacons?
This is where beacons get really interesting as we can do so many things with them, and the list keeps getting longer as people imagine new uses. Currently, some of the working uses include:
- Indoor positioning and navigation
- Tracking of people or possessions
- Location based advertisements or messages
- Security and automatic locking/unlocking of a computer
What are all the most popular beacon standards?
The following three standards are most popularly used by developers.
1. iBeacon :
iBeacon is the name for Apple’s technology standard, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices). It specifies a 30-byte packet which must be broadcast on 100 ms intervals.
2. AltBeacon :
Radius Networks defined the AltBeacon specification in an attempt to create an OS-agnostic, open-source standard which wouldn’t favour any particular vendor. It is free to use without royalties or licensing fees. Like other beacons, it uses non-connectable, undirected advertising packets.
3. Eddystone :
Eddystone is an open-source, cross-platform beacon format from Google. It supports both Android and iOS devices. Unlike other beacon standards, it defines several different frame types which can be used individually or in combination:
- Eddystone-UID which broadcasts a unique beacon ID;
- Eddystone-URL which broadcasts Uniform Resource Locators (URLs);
- Eddystone-TLM which can be used to broadcast telemetry (health and status) data about the beacon itself, and
- Eddystone-EID which uses ephemeral (short-lived) identifiers for beacon applications requiring more security.
You can use this Beacon service easily in your android application. It deserves a separate blog post. I’m planning to write one soon. Keep watching this space for updates.