What are beacons?

You probably would have heard of beacons. These are small wireless Bluetooth enabled devices which are used to communicate with other devices, primarily, smartphones and tablets. Operating on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, beacons continuously transmit a unique ID or web address without having to establish a connection with the intended devices. We can consider them to be small computers packaged in small plastic boxes, and powered by one or more coin batteries. Though primarily meant to identify the location of a smartphone or such similar devices, some beacons come fitted with sensors and provide extra information like temperature, humidity, light level, etc.

How exactly do beacons work?

Each beacon comes fitted with a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter. It repeatedly transmits tiny radio signals intended to be picked up in their vicinity by smartphones and other such devices.

Modern smartphones have inbuilt features and apps which continuously scan for the signals being emanated by the beacons. It is important to remember though the signals being transmitted by the beacons can only be picked up by the smartphones if they are within a short distance from the beacons. This distance can vary from few feet to few meters depending upon the built and model of the beacon. Beacons with a range of close to 300 meters are also available in the market.

If the smartphone has relevant app installed, and it picks up the signal, the app establishes communication with the server and asks whether it has anything important to share. For example, it can fetch content about a person’s location enabling retailers to engage with their present and potential customers more efficiently. Marketers can send personalized or contextually relevant messages to their customers which are displayed as a notification or directly in the app.

Communication protocol of beacon

We may have heard about different protocols like HTML, FTP, 4G, etc. These protocols are a set of rules and procedures which enables a device to establish communication with the outside world. Likewise, Apple’s iBeacon and Google’s Eddystone are two main application protocols for Bluetooth beacon communication. Based on Bluetooth 4.0, both these protocols fully support beacon deployment and functionality with minor changes here and there. More importantly, they are both backed by tech giants who are committed to bridging the gap between the physical and the digital world.

HeatMapper

It is a novel tool which helps you map out the signal strength of your wireless network. This tool can be used in conjunction with beacons by retailers to offer a pleasant shopping experience to their customers.