The radio technology of the future

Innovative beacons with Bluetooth Low Energy

iBeacon a standard for indoor positioning introduced by Apple Inc. “Beacons”, in the best sense of the word, are small hardware modules that continually transmit radio signals based on Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth version 4.0). Clients like smart phones or tablet PCs can receive these signals as soon as they are in the range of the iBeacon. iBeacons in the proximity are recognized, whereupon certain marketing actions, as for example push-messages directly at the point of sale, can be triggered via an app. For certain iOS devices this iBeacon-based app is even automatically activated and does not have to be actively opened. This technology allows many fields of application to increase their customer appeal, as for example in shops, museums, restaurants, and other institutions.

iBeacons send signals via the radio standard Bluetooth Low Energy (version 4.0). Bluetooth LE is extremely well-suited for near-field communication and has the advantage that its power consumption is significantly lower compared to classic Bluetooth and can be implemented very cost-efficiently. Apart from Apple clients as of iOS 7, many new clients with the Android operating system also support this technology. A big surplus, as the possibilities which can be implemented with iBeacons can reach the broad mass of customers.

From detection to action

Between clients and iBeacons there is no classic bi-directional communication taking place in the sense of “sending” and “receiving”. The iBeacon transmits radio signals via Bluetooth Low Energy. In doing so, it transmits a UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) as well as, optionally, a Major ID, and a Minor ID. These signals are recognized by the operating system of iOS devices, which then trigger a certain app - without active doing by the user.

On Android devices the information is recognized by an app running in the background. This app can access an external server via the Internet and then retrieve desired information from the iBeacon, based on UUID, Major ID, and Minor ID. After that, a programmed action can be triggered, for instance displaying a push-message on the smart phone or tablet PC. Thus, the iBeacons themselves only trigger the signal for the action caused by their sole identity, but cannot send push-messages or save and receive data by themselves.

iBeacon communication graphic: smartphone with app exchanges data with external app server using iBeacons

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