Knowledge Center

Knowledge Center


What is a Beacon?

A beacon is a device that keeps emitting signals continuously for other devices to know its location. To give it a little more perspective, think of a Beacon as a lighthouse. But instead of light, it keeps transmitting Bluetooth signals that will be picked by Bluetooth enabled devices via an application in your smartphone or computer.

What is the size of a Beacon?

Beacons are very popular especially due to their relatively small size. That being said, they come in various shapes and sizes. This gives them the versatility to be used in any industry. There are beacons that are as small as a small tile that can fit in the palm of your hand and also beacons which are as slim as a credit card. To get a better idea check out our hardware, click here.   

What does a BLE Beacon transmit?

Beacons keep transmitting Bluetooth signals. The signals are not just random zeroes and ones but are unique IDs assigned to that specific beacon in the form of Bluetooth signals which will be read by the sensors/receivers.

How does a Beacon connect to a network?

Now that we’ve covered what beacons are and what they transmit, we’ll see how a beacon actually connects to the outside world. The Bluetooth signals which contain the information along will be detected by Bluetooth sensors/receivers when the beacons come under the vicinity of the sensors. The sensors can be any Bluetooth receiver enabled device and that means even the smartphone in your hands can act as a sensor. These sensors will have access to the internet and the data received from the beacons will be pushed to the Cloud server. The range of the sensor devices can be configured to suit the level of accuracy the users want. But all in all, the entire procedure will require very little power. Hence, we categorize our technology under Bluetooth low energy. 

Bluetooth is the best and preferred way to send data over short distances with higher accuracy than its counterparts like Wi-fi.” 

Here’s a real-life example to show you the endless possibilities of BLE based beacon technology: 

You just entered the airport to catch a flight to Dubai and you have no idea what to do and where to proceed to. Luckily, you see a banner that says the airport has its own app. You download it and because there are beacons placed in strategic locations that keep sending signals continuously, the app on your phone will be able to show you your exact location in the airport, the flight schedules, is your flight delayed or prepone, etc. It so happens that your flight is delayed by a few hours and you’ve got some time to kill. As you pass through the different food and retail outlets, different offers and discounts given by the stores keep showing up on your phone instantly. Well, how did that happen? Again it’s the beacons working their magic to make our lives a whole lot easier.

This is just one scenario where BLE beacons make such profound implications in our day-to-day lives. 

Beacons have found its way to transform various industries, such as:

  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Events 
  • Corporate offices
  • Hospitality    

Beacons are already being used for:

  • Monitoring: In logistics and manufacturing industries, managers need to know exactly where goods are at any given time. With the help of beacons, they can always access that information and they can even see the information from previous days or weeks on-demand.
  • Navigation: Dubbed as the “GPS for indoor navigation”, beacons can tell you where you are and where you’re going in that area.
  • Interaction: Beacons can make reactions automated and trigger events. As you enter a room, a TV at the entrance will display a welcome message customized for you. It can send notifications about various discounts and offers.
  • Security: If it’s making sure patients don’t wander off elsewhere in the hospital or alerting factory workers about an impending hazard, beacons can automatically send alerts.
  • Analysis: Beacons help generate data on different parameters in a company or any setup.

What is IoT?

IoT, as the name suggests is the abbreviation for the term, Internet of Things. It is a term coined to explain the ways in which things are wirelessly connected by using smart sensors and devices through the internet to do certain functions. It has to come into existence due to the growing popularity and need for M2M (Machine to Machine) communication and automation in people’s day-to-day lives. 

World Economic Forum (WEC) in 2018, reported thatThere are presently over 25 billion smart connected things together in worldwide use today and are estimated to hit the mainstream by 2020.

IoT, when simply put, means that physical things like objects and devices communicate with each other to perform a variety of tasks using the Internet and gives them the “Smart” prefix when addressed. This has given rise to terms like Smart homes, Smart offices, etc. which has led to the near-complete automation our whole lives. These terms all come together to form a subset term for the Internet of Things (IoT) known as the Internet of Everything (IoE). 

Why is IoT important?

Experts say, “IoT (the Internet of Things) is by far the most important development of the 21st century, and it will continue to lead to great things in the future. 

With the demand for speed, efficiency, and automation on the rise, IoT has the potential to exponentially increase and deliver the demands of today’s work and life scenarios. Here are a few ways which show the importance of IoT in our daily lives:

  • Minimizes human intervention - With IoT, the need for people to do certain tasks and functions can be automated which enables people to multitasks and accomplish more in a day than they ever imagined.
  • Helps save time and money - As most operations of the machines are done automatically with the help of IoT, the need for manually checking on those functions or investing time for monitoring them physically is greatly reduced.
  • Provides a better User experience - As IoT seamlessly integrates between things and they start communicating to work simultaneously with any intervention, it often seems like magic for the common layman.
  • Delivers accurate and real-time analytics - The results and data generated by machines through the use of IoT are far more accurate as there is no room for human error; moreover, these insights can be obtained in real-time on-demand.
  • Guarantees secure communication between things - As machines keep communicating with each other and get things done using IoT, to prevent any prying eyes and malfunctioning, encryptions and other protocols have been developed.

How is IoT relevant for Pinmicro?

At Pinmicro, we build our solutions and products which are based on the concept of IoT RTLS (Real-time Location Systems) which is an integration of two very efficient technologies. In order to provide our customers with the best location monitoring data along with locations intelligent alerts, powerful movement & behavioural analysis insights, our hardware and software by default are manufactured and optimised to leverage the capabilities of IoT to function smoothly and efficiently. To take a look at our hardware, click here.

A general overview

When you hear the word iBeacon, the first thing that comes to mind would be beacons. To give you a piece of brief information about beacons, they are devices that keep transmitting Bluetooth signals continuously for sensors to know its location. Now, you might be wondering if iBeacon, Eddystone and Line beacon might just be another type of beacons with fancy names. The truth is they are not ‘physical’ hardware beacons; they are three different types of protocols that the physical beacons have to follow to work or function in a solution and guess what, Pinmicro’s beacons support them all. 

Though iBeacon, Eddystone and Line beacon are beacon protocols, they are not similar to each other and vary vastly; from their manufacturers to the way these protocols work. We’ll see all three of them in detail.

What is iBeacon?

First introduced by Apple Inc. in their annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2013, it didn’t garner much attention from folks as everybody was interested in the latest iOS 7, Macbooks and iPhones. To make people understand that iBeacon is still a big deal, Apple activated iBeacon protocols across their 254 stores in the US. 

The iBeacon standard is the first most commonly discussed communication protocol in the industry. It is natively supported in iOS and though iBeacon standard works on other mobile operating systems like Android, it works best in the devices they were designed for, namely, iPhones and iPads. 

How does iBeacon work?

iBeacon standards consist of a code, which is a combination of letters and numbers that are split up into specific groups. Every beacon will be assigned a unique code and is recognized by a mobile application only with that code. Whenever a beacon is detected by the mobile application, a specific type of action is initiated: a push notification, an alert to do something with the app and more. 

The physical beacons transmit an ID number that is picked up by its respective mobile application and is programmed to perform certain functions like alerts/notifications. It’s up to developers to make use of the simple beacon data.

iBeacon’s signal has three main blocks of information, which are:

  • Unique Universal Identifier (UUID): This is essentially the specific information about the beacon, like, this beacon is assigned to this person or item.
  • Major: This is the beacon’s general spatial information, like, this beacon is in this store.
  • Minor: This is a more detailed information about the Beacon, like, this beacon is located in this section of the store.

To know more about iBeacon, check out what Apple themselves have written about iBeacons here

What is Eddystone?

Launched in July of 2015, Eddystone is the beacon standard developed by Google. It is an open communication protocol made to cater to the specific beacon needs of Android users.

Though Eddystone is slightly similar to iBeacon, it has its differences which make it very distinctive. The core strength of Eddystone lies in its interoperability and long-term strength. Eddystone gives more emphasis on its relation to the Physical Web. This makes it easy for IoT to leverage devices to work together with the internet through beacons.

How does Eddystone work?

Most of the functionalities of Eddystone are similar to iBeacon. But Eddystone offers little more. Eddystone has 4 types of data packets which are:

  • Unique ID (UID) is a unique static ID (similar to the UUID, Majors, and Minors) with two parts: Namespace and Instance.
  • URL: It has a compressed URL (Uniform Resource Locator) which can be directly accessed by the end-user.

The next two features are the added functionalities of Eddystone:

  • TLM: This contains telemetry data that are very helpful in use-cases like fleet management.
  • EID: This is an extra layer of security. 

To get a more detailed view of Eddystone works, read this write-up by Google here.

What is Line Beacon?

Much like the other protocols, Line beacon is a beacon protocol that was developed by the popular Korean company, Line Corporation.  This protocol is predominantly used in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. They are OS-agnostic and can work seamlessly with both iOS and Android. 

This protocol concentrates more on the effective marketing use-case of BLE RTLS and that is, Proximity marketing. Major companies in Japan like SoftBank, Triumph International Japan and Uniqlo have already started implementing Line beacon and seen a bump in customer reach and sales. 

How does Line Beacon work?

Just like iBeacon and Eddystone, BLE beacons & Tags that use Line beacon protocols are mandatory along with the Line App, a custom mobile application built exclusively for this use-case. The Beacons will be attached to the items in a store and when a smartphone which has the Line App installed comes under the proximity of the beacon, alerts/notifications will be generated by the app for the user, which can be offers or discounts on the items in the respective stores. 

To know more about Line Beacon, click here.

What is RTLS?

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) does the same task as the GPS systems do. The most noticeable difference is that RTLS is used primarily indoors for the purpose of locating and monitoring the activity of people and things. RTLS lets you do all this in real-time. Due to this, RTLS has a vast number of business applications and use-cases in any sector.

A bunch of technologies like 

  • Bluetooth
  • UWB
  • LTE

And a few more are worthy contenders to be integrated with RTLS though their methods of operations are very different from each other. The most popular RTLS technology that is adopted worldwide is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) RTLS. This is because more than 8 billion devices exist which are enabled with Bluetooth and the recent Bluetooth standards like Bluetooth 5.1 offer completely new capabilities that are significantly cheaper than the other existing technologies.

How does Bluetooth Low Energy RTLS work?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons & tags that are used in Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) increases the visibility of their assets, employees and resources. This has in a small sense started competing with the presently dominant RFID and barcodes. The low cost also plays an important role as more sophisticated technologies would take more time and money for implementation.

For Bluetooth Low Energy RTLS to work, there are three main essential components needed; A beacon or tag, a receiver sensor and an application to process the data received from the  

Beacons and tags are small wireless devices that are powered by Bluetooth Low Energy. They constantly keep transmitting Bluetooth signals till their batteries. A point to note is that BLE devices have a very long battery life that can even run upto 4 years in a single go. The Bluetooth signals are a combination of letters and numbers transmitted on short and regular intervals. These beacons can be idle at a certain place, stuck on a wall, attached to a moving object or even worn by  a person. Even smartphones with a built-in custom application can act as a beacon. The transmitted Bluetooth signals contain location data and other relevant information. A receiver is a Bluetooth-enabled sensor device that picks up the beacon signals in its range and pushes these information to the cloud. 

Once the information is pushed to the cloud, the application then converts them into powerful analytics which are presented as Location Intelligent alerts, notifications and data representations like dashboards, graphs which show location, movement and behavioural insights to users like us.

A few industries and their use-cases of BLE RTLS

  • Healthcare
    • Patient Monitoring
    • Facility Management
  • Logistics
    • Inventory Management
    • Climate Control
  • Retail 
    • Proximity Marketing
    • Customer Management

 

To know more about our industries and the use-cases check out the industries tab.