7 iBeacon Myths Deconstructed

questions

iBeacon technology has been around for a while now, but there is still a lot of confusion and misleading information about the concept in the media and public opinion. Let’s try to deconstruct a few of those and bring a little more light into the topic.

 

Myth 1 – Beacons track you

 

Beacons DO NOT TRACK you, your activity or personal details. Beacons are transmitter only devices that don’t receive or collect any information. All they do is just broadcast a preconfigured data packet several times a second containing a set of numbers. Mobile phones and apps running on them are in fact the ones that can detect beacons when in range and deliver contextually relevant experiences.

Beacons don't track people, apps track people #iBeacon Click To Tweet

 

Myth 2 – Beacons deliver content

 

Beacons don’t transmit content, they just broadcast a set of unique parameters, thus enabling apps to provide proximity-relevant content to its users. The content that shows up on your smartphone’s screen comes not directly from the beacon, but usually from a back-end service that an app on your phone uses. Beacons’ broadcasts are simply used by apps on your phone to deliver tailored content – that might be information about the museum exhibit you are standing in front, or a coupon for an item on your shopping list, when in store. That is the reason beacons and iBeacon technology in particular to be considered a great enabler of proximity-related interactions.

#iBeacon technology enables great proximity-related experiences Click To Tweet

 

Myth 3 – Beacons only work with iPhone

 

iBeacon is indeed an Apple trademark, however the underlying technology is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This simply means that any BLE enabled device – smartphone, tablet or laptop – and running at least iOS 7 or Android 4.3+ can detect beacons when in range. Furthermore, beacons are starting to show up everywhere, so expect to see them not only in Apple technology products, but also in wearables, home automation products, vehicles and more.

#iBeacon technology works on any BLE enabled device Click To Tweet

 

Myth 4 – Beacons drain phone batteries faster

 

Battery lifetime of your smartphone is not affected by beacons around you. True, in order to be able to detect iBeacon devices the Bluetooth on your smartphone must be on, so there is some energy lost. Remember however that iBeacon technology uses BLE, which is a very energy efficient version of Bluetooth so in reality there is a very minor battery loss.

Keeping Bluetooth on for #iBeacon has a very mild effect on your smartphone battery Click To Tweet

 

Myth 5 – Beacons only work indoors

 

Although tooted as the indoor GPS, thus suggesting indoor only use cases, there is no limitation to where beacons can be placed. In fact more and more businesses realize that it’s the proximity aspect of the technology that matters most, not it’s ability to determine location.

 

Myth 6 – Beacons can be used to locate people and things with arbitrary accuracy

 

Figuring out correct location indoors is usually done via triangulation by estimating distance to several known sources. In iBeacon’s case unfortunately estimating distance is not very reliable. Using a very low powered signal means great battery life, but it also has its disadvantages. Beacons’ signals are easily reflected off surfaces, attenuated in people and objects and easily affected by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. So in reality accuracy achieved by solely iBeacon powered indoor location services is usually in the range of 2-5 meters (6-15 feet) – good enough for general positioning but not nearly as impressive when better accuracy is needed.

Beacons are affected by environmental factors - don't rely on accuracy Click To Tweet

 

Myth 7 – Beacons are useful in retail only

 

While the iBeacon technology has been often called the future of retail, its uses expand way beyond retail. These days brands are testing and implementing beacon powered solutions in airports, sport venues, museums, hotels, restaurants and more. The possibilities are limitless, as more and more people come up with ideas how to use iBeacon technology to power the next generation of proximity enabled experiences.

#iBeacon technology is used to power the next generation of proximity enabled experiences Click To Tweet

 

In this new technological era is important to be aware of these main pitfalls when approaching an iBeacon project. We hope we have managed to shed some light on the subject.

 

Follow us on Twitter for more industry related news, and If you have something to share or need assistance with your iBeacon related projects, please don’t hesitate to Get in Touch

iBeacon use cases since inception

retail

The unprecedented rise of iBeacon technology in the last few years has allowed more and more businesses to experiment and discover use cases for micro location and proximity engagement that were never possible before. While retail is the most popular area where the technology has been implemented with terrific results, there’s so much more about beacons. Let’s go through a few possibilities:

  • Retail and Malls. Retail outlets are quickly adopting beacons to provide customers with product information, flash sales or deals, and to speed up the checkout process. Beacons are a terrific way for store staff to easily identify specific customers, their needs and preferences and quickly link them with their digital activity.
  • Hotels. Beacons could provide a virtual concierge accessible from anywhere, or offer quick and painless check-in/check-out experience, provide information on amenities, or help vacationers explore points of interest in and around resorts.
  • Airports. Airlines and airports are testing placement of beacons at security lines so the airline’s apps would know if there are people at risk of missing their flight or missing connecting flights or whose gates have changed, helping them to easier navigate through the airport and get to the new gate faster.
  • Cultural experiences. As you walk around exhibits such as museums, zoos, aquariums, exhibitions, and galleries you can get more information on exhibits by interacting with beacons placed at each item. That would allow you to see relevant information, content or help navigate around with more ease.
  • Conference rooms and meeting venues. Through their own apps, conference centers could alert users about events that take place or broadcast schedules, resources, meetings in progress etc
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, bars. Think about a virtual menu tailored to your preference with relevant details about desired specific items such as calories, source the food is coming from, suggested wine pairings etc.
  • Hospitals. Beacons could help broadcast information and guidance to patients or visitors when visiting, such as expected wait times or online registration forms in the emergency room.
  • Stadiums. Beacon technology is a great enhancer when sports venues need to better engage with fans. It drastically improves the experience for sports fans by using proximity sensors that allow sports lovers to gather exclusive offers, seat upgrades, promotions and other relevant information
  • Home automation. Beacons technology can give a boost to the smart home revolution by transforming your home, office, car or any place into regions and define what should happen when you enter or leave them. For example as you pull into the driveway, the driveway and footpath lights come on, or while entering your house, the lights and heating turn on etc.

 

DOWN TO THE NITTY GRITTY – Find below a list we compiled of the main use cases up to date in the industry

IndustryUse case detailsCompanyDate

Outdoor Events http://news.hamlethub.com/hartfordcc/life/990-hello-parkville-campaign-launches-demo-tonight-at-raw 
Conferences http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150109005116/en/CORRECTING-REPLACING-Total-Communicator-Solutions-Proximity-Mobile#.VLJ_-CusV_p  NRF Convention 10/01/2015
Banking http://www.nfcworld.com/2015/01/09/333437/nedbank-tests-ble-mobile-payments-app/ NedBank 09/01/2015
Banking http://blog.cubeacon.com/barclays-is-leading-with-ibeacon-to-improve-in-branch-accessibility.html  Barclays 03/12/2014
Retail / Generic http://www.macrumors.com/2014/09/15/macys-shopkick-apple-pay/  Macys 15/09/2014
Retail / fashion http://adage.com/article/datadriven-marketing/timberland-tests-store-tracking-app-swirl-offers/243811/ Timberland 26/08/2014
Retail / grocery http://www.nfcworld.com/2014/06/26/329979/carrefour-nisa-track-shoppers-via-bluetooth-beacons-trolleys-baskets/  Carrefour 27/07/2014
Retail / grocery http://www.gpsbusinessnews.com/Carrefour-Debuts-130000-sq-ft-Flagship-Store-with-Indoor-Geolocation_a4741.html Carrefour 22/04/2014
Airline – Airport http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/content/18174.html Easyjet 09/07/2014
Retail / fashion http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/strategy/18277.html Levis 22/07/2014
Cinema http://www.pfhub.com/uks-odeon-cinemas-test-movie-theater-ibeacons-expand-pre-show-experience-879/ Odeon 25/06/2014
Hotels http://venturebeat.com/2014/06/24/mahana-helps-hotels-casinos-keep-customers-loyal-with-ibeacons-not-key-fobs/ 03/06/2014
FMCG http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/228035/pernod-ricard-crunches-numbers-on-ibeacons-trial.html Pernod Ricard 13/06/2014
Retail / Mall http://shopping-centre.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/7260/Meadowhall_claims_UK_first_for_iBeacon_technology.html Meadowhall 27/05/2014
Conferences https://itunes.apple.com/es/app/TEDxBarcelonaAPP/id883233462?mt=8  Ted Talks 12/06/2014
Conferences http://urbanairship.com/news-and-events/press-releases/eventbase-uses-ibeacon-and-urban-airship-for-cannes-lions Cannes Festival 11/06/2014
Retail / fashion http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/06/05/karl-lagerfeld-armani-and-hamleys-target-consumers-ibeacons Karl Lagerfeld, Armani and Hamleys (Regent Street) 05/06/2014
Manufacturing http://9to5mac.com/2014/05/29/ge-integrates-ibeacons-in-new-led-lighting-fixtures-rolling-out-in-walmart-other-retailers/ GE 29/05/2014
Retail / Mall http://www.fosbury.co/case-study/hammerson Hammerson 23/05/2014
FMCG http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/01/17/coca-cola-mulls-ibeacon-deployment-at-world-cup-and-beyond Coke 18/06/2014
FMCG http://www.ibeaconsblog.com/nivea-ibeacons-beach/ Nivea 15/05/2014
Banking http://www.cnet.com/au/news/st-george-trials-bluetooth-ibeacons-to-speed-up-banking/ St George Bank 13/05/2014
FMCG http://www.computerwoche.de/a/mymuesli-testet-barcoo-beacons,2555378 MyMuesli 03/03/2014
Retail http://scn.sap.com/community/hana-in-memory/use-cases/blog/2014/03/04/sap-hana-and-ibeacons-shopping-will-never-be-the-same Simulation/ Mediva Mark 04/04/2014
Pharmacy http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?11480 Tarrytown Pharmacy 26/02/2014
Retail http://risnews.edgl.com/retail-news/Alex-and-Ani-Deploys-iBeacon-Technology91184 Alex & Ani 17/02/2014
Banking http://www.zdnet.com/article/westpac-new-zealand-to-test-google-glass-and-apples-ibeacon/ Westpac 04/02/2014
Automotive Automatic 28/01/2014
Restaurants http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/new-york-bars-restaurants-leverage-ibeacon-to-scale-mobile-payments The Royal (New york Bar) 24/01/2014
Museums/ Art http://www.prophets.be/#/work/ibeacon/ Rubens House/ Antwerp Museums 16/01/2014
Outdoor Events http://www.tuaw.com/2014/01/28/dutch-theme-park-taking-advantage-of-ibeacons/ Tulpenland 28/01/2014
Retail / fashion http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/16/5316354/apples-ibeacon-expands-to-100-american-eagle-stores  American eagle Stores 16/06/2014
Retail / Grocery http://pocketnow.com/2014/05/07/walmart-walgreens-motorola-ibeacons Walmart 07/05/2014
http://9to5mac.com/2014/05/06/walgreens-walmart-testing-ibeacons-motorola-solutions-launches-ibeacon-marketing-platform/
Waitrose http://www.marketingweek.com/2014/05/02/waitrose-trials-ibeacons-for-in-store-marketing-messages/ Waitrose 06/05/2014
http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1293040/waitrose-trials-ibeacons-grazing-areas-juice-bars-experimental-swindon-store
Retail / Generic http://www.macrumors.com/2013/12/06/apple-updates-apple-store-app-with-support-for-ibeacon-systems/ Apple 06/12/2013
American Airlines http://www.sita.aero/content/SITA-shows-way-iBeacon-technology-airports American Airlines 04/11/2013
http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/11/04/american-airlines-begins-pilot-beacon-use-send-realt-ime-app-messaging-within
Sport venue http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/29/mlbs-ibeacon-experiment-may-signal-a-whole-new-ball-game-for-location-tracking/ MLB 29/09/2013
http://www.sporttechie.com/2014/03/24/how-can-the-digital-marketers-of-mlb-teams-capitalize-on-the-new-ibeacon-systems-being-installed-in-ball-parks/
http://www.macrumors.com/2014/07/10/mlb-ibeacons-second-phase/

 

In retrospect not all beacon projects turned out successfully, however a great deal of them found ways to improve the customer experience, bring value to the end user and in the end to validate the technology. If there is one lesson to be learned, let it be this:

Always keep in mind what value you create for your customers’ when designing an iBeacon experience. iBeacon technology is an enabler and when used properly to enhance and improve it can become a great differentiating factor.

 

When used to enhance experiences #iBeacon technology is a great differentiating factor Click To Tweet

 

Follow us on Twitter for more industry related news, and If you have something to share or need assistance with your iBeacon related projects, please don’t hesitate to Get in Touch

What is a Beacon – a quick guide to iBeacon technology

lighthouse

iBeacon technology currently registers an unprecedented rise, being an undeniable step forward for indoor positioning, micro-location marketing and proximity-based contextual information. The term iBeacon and beacon in general are often used interchangeably these days, due to the wide adoption of the iBeacon specification and the support by an industry giant such as Apple. Let’s explore what a beacon is and what have been the most important case studies to date.

 

What are beacons and how do they work?

 

A beacon is a device that broadcasts specific information at certain intervals, exactly like a lighthouse at sea. The underlying technologies can vary by manufacturer and use case, there are different wireless technologies used such as ZigBee and Bluetooth, and there are even beacons out there that use inaudible sonic waves to transmit information. What has lately become popular are beacons using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and implementing the Apple iBeacon specification.

Current generation of beacons are devices small enough to be attached to walls, counter-tops or even people, usually about the size of a hockey puck. By using BLE they are extremely power efficient with lifetimes ranging from months to years of constant uninterrupted operation. They can be powered by an internal battery, USB or mains powered when longer lifetime is required.

 

BLE beacons are extremely power efficient with lifetimes from months to years #iBeacon Click To Tweet

 

The beacon as a broadcaster on its own has pretty limited uses. In order to take full benefit one needs a specifically built receiver. Luckily we constantly carry such receivers in out pockets – the latest generations of smartphones are quite capable of picking up beacon broadcasts. On top of that current iPhones and Android powered smartphones can run apps that implement complex algorithms to make sense of beacon broadcasts and provide relevant information, indoor location guidance, on-demand intelligent assistance and access to relevant deals and coupons, to name a few uses.

So what makes a beacon an iBeacon?

 

iBeacon Spec

According to the iBeacon specification guidance, in order for a device to be considered iBeacon compatible it needs to conform to several specific requirements:

iBeacon compliant devices are not connectable

A fundamental difference from all other similar technologies. An iBeacon device is an ambient information source and as such users need not connect to gain access to the data it exposes.

 

An #iBeacon device is an ambient information source - no connection is necessary Click To Tweet

 

iBeacon compliant devices must broadcast their data in a very specific format

The advertisement packet being broadcasted contains several fields, namely UUID, Major, Minor and a signal power calibration value. All those fields are freely configurable by the beacon owner and can be used to encode different information based on use case. The first one (the UUID) is a globally unique identifier that can be thought of as application identifier. Usually all beacons deployed for the same use case share the UUID, thus making them easy to detect. Major and Minor fields can be used to differentiate between different beacons, or to provide more information to the detecting app, (for example Major can represent aisle or exhibit number). The signal power calibration value is a number used to estimate distance between receiver and beacon – something very useful for indoor positioning applications.

iBeacon compliant devices must be sufficiently responsive

The recommended broadcast rate is 10 times a second – a responsive beacon is a beacon that is reliable. The biggest problem with this requirement is of course battery life, for battery powered beacons, as a higher broadcast rate means more energy used which in turn results in a much lower battery expectancy. Manufacturers usually let this characteristics be configurable as it allows their customers to choose how to balance battery lifetime and responsiveness according to use case.

From a user point of view there are some considerations as well. The biggest one is that in order to be able to do anything interesting when beacons are around, a smartphone user needs to have an app installed on their phone that makes sense of the beacon broadcast. To further complicate things, Bluetooth must be enabled at all times and on iOS specifically a consent for the use of Location Services is needed from the user as iBeacon is part of Location Services. Although this may complicate the life of the average mobile app developer, all those measures are in place in order to ensure that the smartphone user has full control over the interaction and that their privacy is guaranteed. So the next time you receive a push notification, triggered by your presence in range of an iBeacon device, remember, you have full control! You can just disable Location Services for the offending app, or simply turn off Bluetooth and you can be certain that you won’t be pestered again.

 

Next time you receive a notification, when in range of #iBeacon remember: You have full control! Click To Tweet

 

In summary iBeacon technology has the power to change the way we interact with everything in our surroundings – from store displays to retail counters, ticket stands to museums and from vending machines that make your favourite coffee flavour to tailored experiences designed with your specific preference in mind. But most importantly, it’s a technology that puts all the control of the experience at your fingertips, in the device most of us keep very personal – our smartphones.

 

#iBeacon technology puts the control of the experience at your fingertips Click To Tweet

 

Follow us on Twitter for more industry related news, and If you have something to share or need assistance with your iBeacon related projects, please don’t hesitate to Get in Touch

Announcing BlueBar Beacon Long Range – a BLE beacon with industry leading 200+ meters of range

BlueBar BLE iBeacon Long Range

We are very excited to announce our latest development in our BlueBar beacon product lineup – the BlueBar Beacon Long Range, a beacon with industry leading 200+ meters of typical broadcast range.

Key Features

  • Industry leading range of up to 450 meters in clear line of sight conditions, typical in excess of 200 meters;
  • Uses licensed Apple iBeacon technology
  • Supports configuration of all iBeacon parameters over the air – UUID, Major and Minor values
  • Supports configurable broadcast power (signal strength) in 10 levels – thus controlling signal penetration and range
  • Supports configurable advertisement interval from 50ms to 2000ms
  • Runs on a single CR2450 3V Lithium battery for up to one year
  • Transmit power: +8 dBm
  • Receiver sensitivity: -98 dBm
  • Full certification availability across multiple regions – CE, FCC, IC, South Korea and Japan
  • Fully RoHS compliant

The BlueBar Beacon Long Range is available to preorder, shipping worldwide in early November 2014.

Preorder Here

Join us at RE.WORK Berlin

Re-Work

We are extremely proud to be sponsoring the RE.WORK Technology Summit, taking place in Berlin, Germany on 19-20 June. RE.WORK is all about emerging technologies and their positive impact on business and society and this year the inaugural Berlin Summit is taking place, with 50 speakers, 150 leading technologists and innovators, and a startup stage at the iconic Umweltforum in the heart of the startup community in Berlin. The event schedule is packed with great talks on topics such as Environmental monitoring, Energy, Robotics, Big Data and most importantly – the Internet of Things.

We will be showcasing iBeacon and mobile proximity technology and also making the event iBeacon enabled through Kontext – our very own mobile app, powered by our realtime beacon decision platform ProximitySense. We have taken great care developing the next generation event app that works seamlessly with iBeacon and helps bring the power of micro location and contextual awareness to event attendees. Kontext provides up to date event information, automatic check-ins to areas to increase networking potential and allows users to discover trending topics of conversations happening on Twitter with people around them.

Last but not least, we will be running a scavenger hunt game, using Kontext and powered by iBeacon devices, scattered at the event venue. Explore the venue and detect all beacons to win iBeacon development kits from us.

Kontext will be available shortly before the event both for iOS and Android. Reserve your place for RE.WORK today, as tickets are in very high demand.

 

Security Update regarding the OpenSSL Heartbleed bug

heartbleed 200

A major vulnerability in the technology that powers encryption across much of the internet was discovered this week. Like many other teams, we took immediate action to investigate and patch the vulnerability in our infrastructure.

You are SAFE – BlueSenseNetworks.com is no longer vulnerable, whereas ProximitySense.com has never been affected!

We don’t store payment or credit card information on our servers so your payment details are SAFE.

Though we have no evidence of malicious behaviour, we encourage you to change your account password not only on BlueSenseNetworks.com or ProximitySense.com, but everywhere, as many of the services you love were affected. This includes email providers, online bank services and online retailers. Please check with your existing services if they have been patched BEFORE changing your password, as doing it on an insecure server will expose you to the vulnerability

You can use this tool to verify vulnerability of existing services: Heartbleed Server Test

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Lower Shipping Rates

Shipping

Shipping worldwide has been our goal from the start and shipping costs have always been a factor which we have tried to really focus our attention on. We know that shipping charges can be a big expense and a big turn-off when trying to get your hands on a flashy new BlueBar beacon and we have tried our best to drive them as low as possible.

We are based in the UK so shipping inland and to most of the EU is cheapest. Here is a comparison table with what the different zones and prices look like:

Zone Countries included Price
UK United Kingdom Mainland (slim form factor items) £1.99
UK United Kingdom Mainland £3.99
Europe – Zone 0 Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland £15.00
Europe – Zone 1 Germany, Switzerland £17.00
Europe – Zone 2 Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden £20.00
Europe – Zone 3 Andorra, Belarus, Czech Republic, Finland, Gibraltar, Monaco, Poland, San Marino £23.00
Europe – Zone 4 Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Romania, Turkey £28.00
USA and Canada Canada, United States £28.00
Rest of the World Rest of the world £35.00

Shipping is done via different courier services and we select the best and cheapest based on order destination. Orders are always trackable and covered by insurance for a complete peace of mind.

Announcing BlueBar Beacon

BlueBar Beacons Cover

BlueBar Beacon Integration KitWe are extremely proud to announce BlueBar Beacon – a standalone Bluetooth LE beacon device powered by a single coin-cell battery.

Development of the BlueBar Beacon took us a few months and several design iterations. Our goal was to quickly bring a device to market and still not compromise on power efficiency, certification availability and security.

Guided by those principles we developed our design around BlueGiga’s BLE113 Bluetooth Smart module – a fully integrated solution with CE, FCC, IC, Japan, and South Korea certifications. Its low power profile allows our device to run continuously on a single coin-cell battery for up to two years. The module supports adjustment of its transmit power in 16 steps and exposes several hardware interfaces. This let us concentrate our efforts on building a Bluetooth LE beacon firmware with all features necessary to develop applications that use the technology.

Key features of the BlueBar Beacon are as follows:
– Fully iBeacon technology compatible – tested and works with the iPhone (4S and later) as well as the iPad;
– Works with Android 4.3+ devices, that support Bluetooth Low Energy – using a 3rd party library;
– Denial of service and tamper proof firmware – uses an encrypted connection to setup and control the device;
– Allows all iBeacon parameters to be set and updated – UUID, Major and Minor;
– Allows signal power and advertisement frequency to be adjusted;
– Runs on a single CR2450 3V Lithium battery for up to two years;
– It is CE, FCC, IC, Japan, and South Korea certified;
– Fully RoHS compliant;

The BlueBar Beacon is currently available to order in two variations – as an integration kit and as an end-user device. The integration kits are starting to ship in January 2014, and the end-user variation is expected to ship in March 2014.

 

Welcome to the Future

InternetofThingsCover

InternetofThingsThe Future is bright, it is interconnected, smart and energy friendly and most importantly – it is closer than you think!

We envision a world, where we are surrounded by smart devices, accessible at a whim to help, empower and guide us. We believe in a living Internet of Things – a network of connected devices and services that allow us to reach further than our grasp. This symbiotic relationship is currently being born, more and more the devices we carry are equipped with sensors that react to touch, voice, gestures or even eye movement. Our environment is also being enriched with smart devices, such as automatic doors, parking sensors, smart road lights and more. We believe those devices will only get smarter and more powerful and will start to react not only to our presence and physical characteristics but to our intents and the context of our actions.

There is however a missing piece in the interconnected world puzzle. As our phones get smarter and more powerful, we are still lacking the ability to interact freely with the physical world around us. The everyday objects are very slow to adopt the power of context, they still lack a technology to give meaning to their function.  Our belief is that by creating a simple device that carries the missing context component and can be freely attached to anything we can empower people to do things beyond our imagination.

We assembled a team to address that need and Blue Sense Networks was born. We also built a device – a Bluetooth Low Energy beacon device. We have completed prototyping stage and we are in the process of commercializing it with the goal to make it available by the end of 2013.

Stay tuned – the future is already here!