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 UWB/Bluetooth signals that will be picked by UWB/Bluetooth enabled devices via an application in your smartphone or computer.
Beacons keep transmitting UWB/Bluetooth signals. The signals are not just random zeroes and ones but are unique IDs assigned to that specific beacon in the form of UWB/Bluetooth signals which will be read by the sensors/receivers.
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 UWB/Bluetooth signals which contain the information along will be detected by UWB/Bluetooth sensors/receivers when the beacons come under the vicinity of the sensors. The sensors can be any UWB/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 UWB/Bluetooth low energy.
“UWB/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:
Beacons are already being used for:
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 UWB/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.
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.
Most of the functionalities of Eddystone are similar to iBeacon. But Eddystone offers little more. Eddystone has 4 types of data packets which are:
The next two features are the added functionalities of Eddystone:
To get a more detailed view of Eddystone works, read this write-up by Google here.
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.
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.
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
Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) does the same task as 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
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 UWB/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) RTLS. This is because more than 8 billion devices exist which are enabled with UWB/Bluetooth and the recent UWB/Bluetooth standards like UWB/Bluetooth 5.1 offer completely new capabilities that are significantly cheaper than the other existing technologies.
-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.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a form of wireless communication designed especially for short-range communication. BLE is very similar to Wi-Fi in the sense that it allows devices to communicate with each other. However, BLE is meant for situations where battery life is preferred over high data transfer speeds
Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a new and novel technology that is being introduced to the RTLS’ (real-time location systems) suite of technologies. Owing to its accurate centimeter level precision, transmission speed, and reliability, UWB is set to take the reins as the most preferred and comprehensive technology of choice for indoor location monitoring of moving assets in complex and space-sensitive environments.
UWB is considered the gold standard of RTLS technologies due to its numerous advantages over comparable technologies such as RFID, BLE or WiFi. All of this makes for a compelling case to select the most ideal solution for location-based automation use cases.
UWB technology has been used widely in indoor positioning. Compared to other technologies, it provides 10-30 cm level accuracy in positioning resources.
The reason UWB can so precisely detect location is due to its distance-based measurement via time-of-flight (ToF), that calculates location based on how long it takes for pulses of radio to travel from one device to another.
Yes. There has to be beacons which are assigned to resources and UWB enabled gateways to receive the signals.
UWB primarily has two components:
There are two ways through which UWB technology can do location tracking and monitoring of assets:
When it comes to wireless connectivity technology, the most common technologies that come to mind would be Bluetooth and Wi-Fi just because they’ve been a part of day-to-day lives for a long time. But here’s the caveat; these technologies lack the accuracy, positioning capabilities and radio frequency security that UWB has to offer. Although most wireless connectivity technologies above mentioned can technically provide location tracking and monitoring, UWB’s performance just knocks them out of the park.
UWB also operates in a separate section of the radio spectrum, away from congested bands clustered around 2.4GHz and the best part is that UWB can coexist with other popular wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC).
The most significant advantage that UWB has is enhanced security through an added portion of the physical layer (PHY) which is used to send and receive data packets. With this layer that is currently being specified in IEEE 802.15.4z, a critical security extension not available in other technologies can be leveraged to enforce strong security techniques such as cryptography and random number generation that block attackers from accessing the UWB deployment.
UWB/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons & tags that are used in Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) increase 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 UWB/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 UWB/BLE technology. They constantly keep transmitting signals till their batteries. A point to note is that BLE devices have a very long battery life that can even run up to 4 years in a single go. The signals are a combination of letters and numbers transmitted at 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 UWB/Bluetooth signals contain location data and other relevant information. A receiver is a UWB/Bluetooth-enabled sensor device that picks up the beacon signals in its range and pushes this information to the cloud.
Once the information is pushed to the cloud, the application then converts it into powerful analytics which is presented as Location Intelligent alerts, notifications and data representations like dashboards, graphs that show location, movement and behavioral insights to users like us.
Yes, as UWB determines the location of the UWB Tags and everything they are attached to, the signals are automatically monitored and predict the location of resources.
RFID is a passive tag which can be attached to resources. While UWB is an active tag which simultaneously transmits data via extremely short pulses across a wide band of frequencies.
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