What Are Beacons and How do they Work? All You Need to Know

What are beacons and how do they work? What can they be used for and who is using them? Read on to learn more and find out what you need to be mindful of if you’re interested in using beacons yourself.

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What are beacons and how do they work?

Beacons are a small device that broadcast a low-energy bluetooth (BLE) signal nearby. You can use this signal strength to tell the approximate distance between the beacon and another bluetooth enabled device. This enables the ability to trigger actions based on proximity to that device. This could be sending an alert or performing an action once the app detects the beacon is a certain distance away, or it could be used as a method to track locations of people or products in an indoor environment. Due to satellite location systems being unable to work indoors, beacons are fast emerging as one of the primary indoor location technologies.

There are two major beacon protocols in use today, one developed by Apple known as iBeacon. The other made by Google is known as Eddystone. Beacons send along some basic information periodically: A unique identifier (UUID) along with major and minor numbers are used to identify the beacon itself. The signal strength and the interval between sending those signals are set by the manufacturer but can be changed to suit your needs. An Eddystone beacon can also send a URL address.

While a beacon is broadcasting its signal, it will require something else to receive and utilise that signal in some way, commonly via a smartphone and accompanying app. With the most current research in 2018 suggesting that 40 to 50 per cent of consumers leave Bluetooth turned on making their devices easily receptive to beacon messages, there’s a real opportunity to reach users through this channel.

According to Grand-view research, the Bluetooth Beacon Market will be worth $58.7 Billion by 2025 with bluetooth beacons estimated to have a large-scale adoption and a compound annual growth rate of 95.3% by 2025.

What can they be used for and who is using them?

The Hilton Hotel chain in the UK have combined beacon technology with their loyalty scheme app, allowing users to avail of digital check-in, skipping the need to wait at the check-in desk and also allowing the app to combine with beacons to operate as a digital room key for customers. The chain have already deployed this technology in a number of hotels in the UK but are hoping to have installed it at all 140 of their properties in 2018.

Gatwick Airport has recently deployed in excess of 2000 beacons to combine with AR to provide a comprehensive indoor navigation service for users of the Gatwick Airport app. This beacon infrastructure also has the potential to be utilised by the different businesses that operate within the buildings of the airport. Retail stores can push out offers and help drive sales. Airlines can potentially track whether a passenger who is running late is near the gate and approaching, they would then be in a position to choose not to bother unloading that passengers bag from the hold.

Some other examples of how beacons have been used are:

What should I be aware of before starting to work with beacons?

If you’d like to talk to us about a project involving beacons then please feel free to send us an email at info@marinosoftware.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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