iBeacon Evolution

beaconzoneBeacons have improved over the last year to solve some problems related to rollout, provide more opportunities via use of extra sensors and also to support Google’s Eddystone.

After you have developed apps and have a beacon rollout, the first problem you are likely to experience is battery life. Manufacturers have responded in several ways. One of the main problems is knowing the battery needs changing. AnkhMaway beacons with the latest firmware now publish the battery level in the advertising data to allow apps to determine battery levels without connecting. Manufacturer’s such as Wellcore are relieving the battery life problem through brute force with beacons that have more batteries. Meanwhile, other manufacturers such as Sky have included time based on/off to save power during the time of day when the beacon isn’t likely to be used.

Beacons are also starting to get more sensors. The AnkhMaway iB003N includes an extra advertising channel that sends real-time accellerometer data. The Sky 201 has precision temperature, humidity and accelerometer sensors.

Form factors are also improving. There are several waterproof and water resistant beacons for use outside or in more extreme environments. The smaller beacons are getting even smaller, down to 2.6mm thick, so that they can be worn or attached less conspicuously.

More beacons now support Eddystone as well as iBeacon. The iB001M and iB003N have a custom channel that supports Eddystone or any other data you wish to advertise and this works at the same time as the iBeacon broadcast.

As I mentioned in a previous post, today’s beacon-based solutions mainly revolve around service-based solutions where you have to use a particular type of beacon with a particular backend. These solutions also tend to be tightly focussed around retail and generally obscure (marketers would say ‘simplify’) the way these solutions actually work.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many more uses for beacons and opportunities that become apparent when technical information and the beacons themselves become more readily available. My company’s new site provides information on what beacons are, how they can be used and explains the interrelationship with apps. You can also purchase OEM beacons for shipping to the UK and Europe.

We have also developed a beacon demonstrator app for iOS and Android that allows you to experiment with beacon triggering without using particular vendor’s beacons nor signing up to a backend service.