What Is Beacon Technology?

What Is Beacon Technology?

Posted at 15 Oct 2020 - 10 min read

Beacons are one of the most developed technological devices often used for proximity marketing, which is essentially based on location technology. They are simple, one direction transmitters that are adopted to mark places. They function as a tool for detecting individuals’ presence through wireless transmitters.

Beacon technology essentially provides contextual information to its users, allowing businesses to actively engage with their customers. It works in accordance with indoor and outdoor navigation systems. An identifier in the form of a unique ID is broadcasted from these small wireless transmitters, and in return is picked up by nearby devices. This technology makes interactions simple and effective.

How Do Beacons Work?

This technology functions through beacon signals. Beacon-based identifiers, that are unique ID numbers are sent through low-energy Bluetooth technology to smart devices such as mobile phones. These unique ID numbers then get recognized by the devices in the designated area set by the installed beacons. For example, a potential client passing by a local restaurant may receive messages about special offers sent to their mobile phone.

The different types of beacons create multiple opportunities. There are multiple sizes of beacons; including the standard ones suitable for indoor tracking, portable/small beacons that are the size of a credit card, or USB beacons that are suitable for asset tracking. Beacons are convenient as they can be used in a variety of locations such as stores, offices, public buildings or public transport vehicles.

History of Beacon Technology

Beacon technology was first launched in 2013 with the introduction of iBeacon by Apple alongside iOS 7. Apple used beacons for in-store notifications which were sent to the customers. Since then, beacon solutions have been integrated in many stores in the retail sector.

In 2015, several famous mobile applications such as Facebook or Shazam also started to use beacons. Google also launched its own platform, Eddystone, to produce location-based content as the new rival of iBeacon.

Later on, Eddystone EID was announced by Google in 2016 with the purpose of better safeguarding users upon connection. One of the distinctive characteristics that Eddystone brings to the industry is the type of signals it transmits. It can produce four classes of signals whereas iBeacon sends out only one. Eddystone is also in compliance with iOS and Android devices.

The requirement to download an additional mobile application as part of proximity marketing strategies have resulted in decreased popularity of beacon technology over time. Google has been working on making proximity marketing possible without the obligation of downloading another application.

Recently, Google’s Project Beacon is being developed as the next generation of this technology, which integrates multiple actions in one beacon. Apart from identification of the precise location signals and release of targeted messages, the Google Cloud Platform software has become the ultimate system manager. Now, all beacons can be monitored from a single authority through this platform. It enables resource distribution and novel experiences integrated with other applications.

Evolution of Beacon Technology

Bluetooth 4.0 was introduced to the market with a new category of Bluetooth: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This was necessary as the previous applications had impact on consuming battery. Bluetooth 4.0 returns to a lower data throughput of 1Mbps using the GFSK (reference: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/gaussian-frequency-shift-keying ) modulation scheme. Bluetooth 5.0, is an improvement upon the previous BLE standards. It is still geared towards low powered applications. It has improved the BLE data rate and range of the data transmission.  Bluetooth 5 offers four different data rates to accommodate a variety of transmission ranges: 2Mbps, 1Mbps, 500kbps, 125kbps. Because an increase in transmission range requires a reduction in data rate, the lower data rate of 125kbps was added to support applications that benefit more from improved range. It is possible to transmit information as far as 240 meters.  The flexibility in data speeds offered by Bluetooth 5 allow low powered products to send even more sophisticated data to the end user.

What Are the Benefits of Beacon Technology?

Beacon technology provides benefits for both front and back end users in any company. It helps businesses to control operations, collect data, engage in marketing solutions and provide personalized customer experiences. Retail stores often integrate beacons in shopping experiences through mobile apps. Multiple advantages of using beacon technology include low cost and easy instalments, personalized customer experience, high compatibility as well as reliability.

Beacon technology also offers a way to stimulate publicity through better visibility, increased number of reviews and refined location. Advanced customer experiences can be achieved with the use of beacons as it enables people to find and engage with your business more easily.

In addition to online benefits, the development of offline features also makes it possible to access deeper insights into users’ activities even when they are not online. Beacons can be connected to other tools such as Google Ads which helps keep track of offline attributions. Understanding users’ exact interaction points lets businesses build more effective advertising strategies. Information on customer behavior through accurate and reliable data allows for creating specially tailored campaigns. Therefore, it gives you the right mechanism to approach customers and drive their visit to your business. Collecting such data on your marketing activities can help you to determine what is working best.

Beacon solutions are also used to merely send out any significant information that you want your users to know. You can adjust the content of these messages; whether it’s about special discounts, individual offers or competitions. In-store and location-based beacon devices are often utilized for single product discounts. As mobile devices have become an essential part of our daily lives, proximity marketing will continue to provide more opportunities to businesses and end-users.

Indoor Wayfinding & Navigation using BLE BeaconsBeacons are used for indoor wayfinding and navigation similar to what Google Map uses GPS signals. This is also called indoor GPS

Indoor Positioning and Tracking using BLE Beacons – Beacons are used for indoor position, and tracking to locate important assets and monitor presence of people (facility personnel, students, staff attendance, …) using BLE asset tags and BLE wearables. In comparison to traditional RFID technology for real-time location services (RTLS) use-cases, BLE Beacons are much cost effective and many enterprises including hospitals consider the BLE Beacon technology for indoor tracking. Moreover, the Enterprise Wireless Access Points are now providing BLE Gateway capabilities, which is another benefit utilizing the same infrastructure to provide more use cases on tracking and indoor positioning services

Indoor IOT Services using BLE Beacons – BLE Beacon tags and sensors are used for indoor IOT applications and use cases. Telemetry sensors provides environmental monitoring, relative humidity, temperature, water leakage, gas leakage, etc.

What Are the Limitations of Beacon Technology?

Beaconing signals are weaker than Wi-Fi signals. Fluctuations in Bluetooth signal strength has an impact on the quality and reliability for some applications. Building structure including concrete, steel as well as human body affects the signal quality of the BLE Beacons. Therefore, the location precision depends on the deployment environment and use cases that are utilized on BLE Beacon technology