General informationWhat is a beacon?
A beacon is an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location. A classical example of beacon is the lighthouse, used in navigation, that helps navigators to find their destination. In electronics, a beacon is a wireless device (usually called "radio beacon") that periodically broadcast a radio signal, that is picked up by a receiver and used to determine the position with respect to the beacon itself.
iBeacon is the trademark for an indoor positioning system developed by Apple Inc. This system enables a smartphone or other device (e.g. tablet) to receive a signal transmitted and perform actions when in close proximity to a device (beacon) that uses iBeacon technology. iBeacon uses the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard, also known as Bluetooth Smart. A beacon that supports iBeacon technology uses BLE to periodically transmit a unique identifier, composed by an universal unique identifier, UUID, 128 bits, a major number, 16 bits, and a minor number, 16 bits. iBeacon specifications defines the format of the advertising packet broadcast by the beacon, the advertising channels, the advertising interval, and the procedure for RSSI calibration.
Eddystone is an open beacon format from Google for Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons. The Eddystone specification includes a number of broadcast frame types: UID, URL, TLM.
The Eddystone-UID frame broadcasts an opaque, unique 16-byte Beacon ID composed of a 10-byte namespace ID and a 6-byte instance ID. The Beacon ID may be useful in mapping a device to a record in external storage. The namespace ID may be used to group a particular set of beacons, while the instance ID identifies individual devices in the group.
The Eddystone-URL (the backbone of the Physical Web) frame broadcasts a URL using a compressed encoding format in order to fit more within the limited advertisement packet.
The Eddystone-TLM frame broadcasts telemetry information about the beacon itself such as battery voltage, device temperature, and counts of broadcast packets.
Quuppa Intelligent Locating System is a proprietary powerful technology platform for novel location based services and applications. It enables real-time tracking of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) smart tags, beacons and devices, with accuracy even down to a few centimeters. It requires special receiver antennas, called Locators, and is based on Angle-of-Arrival (AoA) algorithm.
Yes. BlueBeacon devices are compatible with all mobile operating systems, supporting Bluetooth Low Energy: iOS (7.0 and later, for CoreLocation iBeacon support), Android (4.3 and later), Windows Phone 10.
No. iBeacon technology has been developed and launched by Apple, and is natively supported in iOS (version 7 and above), thanks to CoreLocation APIs. However, since iBeacon technology is based on Bluetooth Low Energy, it is compliant with all mobile operating systems that support Bluetooth 4.0.
BlueBeacon series devices has state-of-art radio performances, superior to most of the beacon devices in commerce. This result is guaranteed by a series of technological choices
which were adopted on BlueBeacon:
- Use of award-winning nRF51822 radio chip from Nordic, that offers superb radio and energy consumption performance;
- Meandered PIFA (Planar Inverted F Antenna) printed antenna, that offers superior performance in terms of gain compared with commonly adopted chip antennas;
- Antenna designed to be impedance-matched in the presence of the plastic enclosure, thereby reducing reflection losses;
- RF matching network based on a single chip (balun), which reduces the insertion losses with respect to conventional matching networks based on discrete elements.
Thanks to these solutions, BlueBeacon devices transmit a higher power level by a factor of 2 to 4 compared to competing devices, assuming the same RF power transmitted by the radio chip. This allows to reduce the transmitted power by the chip, with a consequent reduction in current consumption and, therefore, increase of the operating life of the batteries. Moreover, a higher power level ensures better signal stability at the receiver and an increase in the transmission range.
Ranging with beacons is based on the value of RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator), i.e., the value of the RF signal received by your smartphone. The received signal is strongly affected by several parameters, such as the relative orientation and position of your smartphone with respect to beacon, the presence of the human body, reflection and diffraction from the environment (especially metallic structures), and more. Thus RSSI cannot provide an exact measure of distance in a complex environment (it should be true in a ideal free-space scenario), but just a rough estimation of the proximity of your smartphone to the transmitting beacon. Moreover, consider that accuracy strongly depends on advertising interval. Nevertheless, beacon proper installation may guarantee a partial improvement in ranging performance: please contact us for suggestions on this aspect.