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  Date: 10/08/2015

Bluetooth powered beacons: Get ready for new range of apps

Now there is a technology for smartphone users to get the locality information without going through the internet. They are Bluetooth beacons, a Bluetooth smart based radio transceivers. If you use this technology in your phone you can spot nearby hotels, restaurants, retail shopping outlets, or any such shop or store details you are looking after.

Logistics is also another application which can be used to track assets. Beacons can also be used in building automation systems, automotive and industrial applications, and consumer electronics. Beacon technology can also be used for reading smart meters remotely.

Assume you are in a tourist location and would like to receive a broadcast to your smartphone on local information, as soon as you land in the circle of Beacon signal, you can receive the information what you asked for or what you have registered for.
Beacon technology allows retailers to communicate with customers with highly relevant communications using information such as location, activity, time and personal interests. Businesses using Beacon technology can send customized communications based on interest.

The first company to start using this technology is Apple, the name of its Beacon technologies is 'iBeacon', which uses Bluetooth low energy and geofencing to provide iPhone users with location information, products in a shop, markers in Park or mall, or any such information passed on to the phone users from the Bluetooth Beacon location.

Google has also introduced new open format, APIs for building apps with BLE beacons. The open BLE Beacon format by Google is called Eddystone. Google started rolling out a new set of features to develop apps based on this technology. Eddystone is a cross-platform environment supporting android and IOS or any platform that supports Bluetooth Beacons. Existing BLE Beacon can be made Eddystome compliant with firmware update. This open source code is available for download at GitHub.

If you look at the semiconductor and other hardware available supporting beacon technology. Swiss chipmaker EM Microelectronic is providing app called emBeacon, a iPhone application which searches for and displays a list of all "emBeacon" devices within range. Once one particular device is selected, the sensor data (temperature, light level, battery level, received signal strength and packets transmitted) is displayed on a screen dedicated to that particular "emBeacon". All of the beacons within range are visible to all the smartphones in the vicinity. The app was developed by KS Technologies.

FCC certified EM Microelectronics’ EMBC01 is a tiny coin-size beacon device which can be deployed anywhere. Bluetooth Smart v4.0 powered EMBC01 consumes less than 25µA average current in a typical application, resulting in more than 12 months operation from a single CR2032 battery, which is included in the beacon. EMBC01 embeds EM’s low power EM6819 microprocessor. EM beacons can be detected 75 meters away by an iPhone 5S; at maximum output power, that distance extends up to 120 meters. EMBC01 is immune to over-the-air attacks. Without complete physical access, the device’s settings cannot be altered.

To give you another IC from Broadcom, the BCM20737 chip support Apple's iBeacon technology which Bluetooth Low Energy and geofencing. Beacon technology also helps to find missing things which are embedded with Bluetooth smart chips supporting Beaconing.

Qualcomm is offering Beacon which are called as "Gimbal proximity beacons". Other products include Radius Networks, Estimote Signal 360, GPShopper, Bkon, Bluevision, and Aruba. RFduino officially releases support for iBeacon in version 1.8.

Beacon's can also be employed in IoT. IOT devices can act as Bluetooth Beacon to communicate the data to the mobile phone user within its geo-fence.

Beacons are available in the price range of US$5 to US$10. There are also USB powered Beacon such as RadBeacon available at a little higher price.

 
          
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