Up to now most low power Bluetooth beacons have been fairly limited devices that only transmit simple information that can be used for ‘presence’ based applications. Some can send extra information such as battery life to the phone and some you can remotely cause to beep or flash but most of the innovative ideas have revolved around using them to detect presence and trigger content to be shown, for example, in retail stores or museums.
TI have something interesting with their new CC2650 SensorTag that connects to Android or iOS (as an iBeacon) providing support for up to 10 low-power sensors for ambient light, digital microphone, magnetic sensor, humidity, pressure, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, object temperature and ambient temperature.
The possibilities suddenly become far more exciting and seemingly endless. For example, in sport you might attach one to your sports equipment (racquet, golf club or whatever) to analyse technique. In health, you might attach one to yourself or someone else (elderly?) to detect movement. In security, they might be attached to high-value items to protect in various (theft, dampness, extreme movement) ways or used as the basis for a home security system.
The CC2650 is available as a tag for $29 or the chip that does the work is available in large quantities, for use in your own hardware designs, for around $6.
Update: Looking closer at the one I have purchased, the $29 tag has a very restricted license that says you can’t use it in a finished product or production solution – presumably mainly because it’s not FCC approved . It’s for evaluation purposes only. That’s a shame as it’s a large step to have to integrate the chip in your own board, even if you base it on their ‘open’ hardware design.