What are beacons?

Beacons are transmitters that broadcast signals at set intervals so that smart devices within its proximity are able to listen for these signals and react accordingly. They run off of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology.

What is BLE technology?

BLE is a type of Bluetooth technology that is low energy. Hence the name - Bluetooth Low energy. BLE communication comprises of advertisements of small packets of data which are broadcast at regular intervals through radio waves. BLE broadcasting is a one-way communication method; it simply advertises its packets of data. These packets of data can then be picked up by smart devices nearby and then be used to trigger things like push messages, app actions, and prompts on the smart device.

How do bluetooth beacons work?

A bluetooth beacon works by creating a Geo-fence. This fence can be set up to 150 feet by the owner. When another device using one of the Bluetooth versions mentioned above it will automatically recognize that and will be able to interact with that device. However, unlike previous Bluetooth products this new technology will be able to interact with an unlimited number of devices.

Where can a bluetooth beacon be used?

Depending on what type of beacon you’re using (battery powered or USB powered), you can place them pretty much anywhere.

Do other frequencies interrupt the signal of the bluetooth beacon?

No, Bluetooth beacon frequencies will not be interrupted by other frequencies in the area. However, broadcasts may sometimes appear weaker or stronger depending on what is physically around (i.e. a wall, people, etc.).

Can beacons work without Bluetooth turned on?

No. There is no way for beacons to work without bluetooth. Beacon technology is based on Bluetooth Low Energy technology, and data exchange between devices (e.g. a GemTot Beacon and smartphone) happens wirelessly using radio transmissions.

Should an app be always running for beacons to work?

iOS devices can constantly scan for BLE and turn on relevant apps when they come within range of a beacon, even if these are closed. Android devices do not have a beacon system of this type, the only way to turn on in response to a beacon is to run a service in the background that is continuously listening.

How close to a Beacon do I need to be for my smartphone to receive the broadcast? / What is the range of a beacon’s signal?

Typically a beacon broadcast is "seen" (by a smartphone) around 30m away. Some people claim it can be 70m away, but in our experience factors like smartphone case, walls, doors etc. do make a difference so we recommend clients don't plan for more than a 30m distance from the beacon to the smartphone user.

What is iBeacon? Is iBeacon Apple’s own hardware beacon?

iBeacon is Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices. No, Apple does not manufacture beacon hardware. iBeacon is the name for Apple's technology that allows smart devices to listen for signals broadcasted from beacons.