Bluetooth LE beacon button for indoor location tracking is rising in popularity. Sectors such as retail are the most benefiting sectors from this technology. However, many other sectors also depend hugely on this new technology. Various smartphone apps use this technology for indoor locations. Smartphone apps spot beacon signals and evaluate beacon proximity. Then, it activates a specific action automatically. Some examples include the presentation of location-specific data, tracking assets, and handling payments.
In this article, you will learn different aspects of beacon technology. We will talk about proximity detection precision as well as beacon infrastructure maintenance.
Beacon Button Technology and the Market
Many smartphones in the market can detect beacons, but this thing is yet to be a part of the mainstream. However, a beacon button is inexpensive, easy to operate, and easy to install. Certain limitations and a low percentage of user acceptances is its biggest hindrance today. However, many top brands are using this technology in various products. Some of them include smart home appliances, smartphones, and other smart gadgets, such as smart locks.
End users are using their smartphones to find maps and different locations. They move from one location to another unfamiliar location using location-finding apps on their smartphones. GPS technology is there to detect locations. However, many end-users are not yet expecting to have location-specific data or wayfinding indoors.
Fortunately, this thing is changing now. Consider the user acceptance as another discussion, so we’ll pay more attention to the maintainability and precision of using BLE beacons.
It is easy to operate and set up Bluetooth low-energy beacons. They are also inexpensive than other similar technologies. However, the accuracy of distance calculation needs improvement for all scenarios. Setting up a beacon button also depends largely on various environmental factors. These factors can be the signal reflection and signal blocking.
Smartphones evaluate the distance between beacons and the device through RSSI (signals strength) from beacons. Utilizing signals strength for the purpose of distance evaluation is a critical downside for getting accurate distance. The strength of signals drops immediately for the initial one to two meters away. It makes it comparatively precise for at such distances.
However, the accuracy will decrease when you move further away from the BLE beacon. Environmental factors like physical blocking and reflections also impact signal strength. Therefore, it also impacts the calculation of the distance in the wrong way. For the purpose of generalization, there are 3 distance categories. These categories are:
Immediate category means up to 0.6-meter proximity distance. Near means around 1 to 8 meters, and far category is over ten meters, up to forty meters. It applies unless there is no signal blockage.
It is essential to measure distance according to these categories if you are at a six meters distance. Outside that, the measurements of the distance will not be precise. By performing location triangulation utilizing BLE beacons, you will get approximately +-2 meters of location accuracy. It will be true if your smartphone is within six meters range. It means that you will require many beacons that may not be a possibility in certain environments. Therefore, the accuracy may not be highly precise.
The best thing about the beacon button technology is that it requires little power for activation. You can mount beacons using batteries without any extra power source. The power consumption of beacons depends on their configuration. How often they will broadcast the data and higher signal strength also impacts the battery consumption. Higher signal strength and more frequent broadcasting result in more precision. However, they will consume more power also.
Different configurations will provide different battery backups. Usually, their battery would last months or even years. It is important to know that some modern-day beacons may consume a lot of battery than previous models. Beacons like i11 Road Stud Beacon provide exceptional battery life; up to 3 years. It is also equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and offers up to 80 meters of advertising distance.
The earlier iOS and Android versions had to perform beacon scanning every second. It results in quick battery drainage. After the launch of Android 5, devices scan beacons just once in 3 seconds. A three-second scan might not identify beacons. Therefore, you may require a couple of scans. It means that there will be a substantial latency, approximately six seconds to trigger new locations.
It is essential to consider this latency when creating the beacon-enabled product like a beacon button with the experience of users in mind. Otherwise, the product might not be able to achieve the desired objectives.
Future of Beacons
BLE beacons are still an ideal solution for accurate detection of indoor location. However, we can also see other technologies arising in the market. Some of these technologies claim that they provide greater precision. But, BLE beacons are still more affordable, easy to operate and set up, and consume less power. However, it is still important for beacon designers to highlight and fix all possible flaws in the beacons technology. This is the only way beacons will survive and maintain their authority in the market.
BLE beacons are amazing. You can mount them easily, they are affordable, and almost every smartphone supports them. Therefore, this technology has become the industry standard. This technology is suitable for certain scenarios where proximity finding utilizing far, near, and immediate categories are adequate. However, they are not ideal when accurate location detection matters the most. You can use multiple beacons to achieve accuracy. But that way, you will have to compromise battery life.
Environmental factors like signal reflection and signal blocking are key players in determining how many and where you should position BLE beacons. It is also hard to anticipate how many Bluetooth low-energy beacons are ideal for perfection. Therefore, you will only know the results after the installation of beacons.