Frequently asked questions about iBeacons

The radio technology of the future - iBeacon, 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. 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.

1. What are iBeacons?

iBeacon is 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). Specially designed apps receive these signals and can then trigger manifold location-based actions on the user’s smart phone or tablet PC, such as push-messages.

2. What applications can be realized with iBeacons?

With iBeacons multiple location-based services (LBS) can be offered, such as personalized push-messages directly at the point of sale. The multimedia-equipped customers come with a huge potential to make shops or other premises such as museums, restaurants etc. more attractive. The requirement for using iBeacons as a customer is an app designed for iBeacon applications which accesses an external server via the Internet, retrieves the desired information on iBeacon XY, and then triggers programmed actions on the smart phone or tablet PC.

3. How does the iBeacon technology work?

iBeacons send signals via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that can be received by compatible end devices like smart phones and tablet PCs. Bluetooth LE has the advantage that its power consumption is significantly lower compared to classic Bluetooth. A smart phone app, designed based on iBeacons, recognizes iBeacons in its proximity. Via an Internet connection it can retrieve information on the iBeacon from an external app server and then trigger an action, such as a push-message on the smart phone – even if the app has not been manually opened. This way the customer can receive offers e.g. on goods in the supermarket or information on his current location.

4. How do clients communicate with the iBeacon?

Between clients and iBeacons there is no classic bi-directional communication in the sense of “sending” and “receiving”. The iBeacons transmits signals about its existence, illustratively speaking it shouts: “I am here and have the following address!” In doing so, it transmits a UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) as well as, optionally, a Major ID and a Minor ID. The UUID is a 16-byte digit-letter combination from which the enterprise of the iBeacon operator can be exactly identified. This way, all iBeacons, e.g. of a retailer, have the same UUID irrespective of their location. The Major ID specifies all registered iBeacons into subgroups via another 2-byte combination, indicating the approximate location of the iBeacon, e.g. shop Cologne. The Minor ID gives even more detailed information via another 2 bytes on the iBeacon’s exact location, e.g. shoe department. UUID, Major ID, and Minor ID in their combination, therefore, give very detailed information on the iBeacon's location. These signals are heard by an app installed on the client’s smart phone. This app can access an external server via the Internet and then retrieve desired information on 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.

5. How far does the signal strength of an iBeacon reach?

In terms of range, the iBeacon technology as included in the LANCOM access points of the E series is comparable to the WLAN module of the access point.

6. What are the differences between positioning via GPS and iBeacons?

GPS practically does not allow positioning in indoor environments since the signals are transmitted by satellites and are thus too weak to be received well under a ceiling. iBeacons are directly integrated into individual rooms so that the signals can be optimally received.

7. Can iBeacons also be applied in outdoor environments?

The LANCOM L-322E Wireless and L-151E Wireless with iBeacon technology are not suited for applications in the outdoors. However, a well positioned access point with its integrated iBeacon transmits up to the street so that e.g. clients passing by a retail store can recognize the signal. The positioning of LANCOM 2.4 GHz outdoor antennas is also possible, as the iBeacon signal can be led through the external antenna connector of the access point. This way the access point is located in the building and the antenna in the outdoor area.

8. Which clients support iBeacons?

Every smart phone and tablet PC supporting Bluetooth LE (version 4.0) can generally detect iBeacons. Depending on the firmware, there are differences with regard to the application. iBeacons are supported by Apple end devices as of iOS 7. iPhones and iPads are equipped with a proprietary iBeacon protocol, enabling a constant scanning of the environment for iBeacons and to activate relevant apps installed on the device if a signal is received. These apps do not have to be actively started beforehand or be running in the background. End devices with an Android firmware also support iBeacons, if they are compatible to Bluetooth LE. The difference to Apple devices is that, due to the missing iBeacon protocol, an app has to be running so it can continually search for BLE signals by iBeacons.

9. What are the prerequisites of my network infrastructure if I want to apply iBeacons

The LANCOM L-322E Wireless and L-151E Wireless with iBeacon technology can be easily integrated into existing LANCOM infrastructures. There are no special requirements to be fulfilled. In order to offer location-based services, specially designed apps with iBeacon support are necessary, depending on the application.