All what you need to know about Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons

Can I use any kind of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon?

No. At the present we support only the iBeacon standard.

What is iBeacon standard?

iBeacon is Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices. iBeacon arrived in iOS7, which means it works with iPhone 4s or later, iPad (third generation and onwards) iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation or later). It’s worth noting the same BLE technology is also compatible with Android 4.3. and above. iBeacons from different vendors have different characteristics and specifications, but they all follow the same protocol. You can get a general overview with further information here.

How do iBeacons work?

The BTLE beacons themselves are small, cheap Bluetooth transmitters (with no reception capabilities). They transmit with very low power, so they can be operated with a battery. Apps installed on a iBeacons enabled device listen out for the signal transmitted by these beacons and respond accordingly when the device comes into range. iBeacons transmit a universally unique identifier (UUID) to a range that can reach up to a few tens of meters (30-50 meters).

What kind of iBeacons should I use in my project?

It depends:

  • For permanent installations/events: we strongly suggest to purchase iBeacons powered by electricity (usually powered by USB adapters). They have about the same price of the battery powered iBeacons, but the advantage is that there is no need to replace the batteries after some months. There are 2 risks when using battery powered iBeacons: replacing the batteries can lead to a misplacement of the iBeacons when they are placed back in their locations (and a misplacement of the iBeacons compromises the location accuracy). Secondly, it is difficult to evaluate when the battery of some battery powered iBeacons will be depleted (and this compromises the accuracy of our technology).
  • For temporary installations/events: you can safely use battery powered iBeacons. Please remember to turn off the iBeacons or remove the battery when the event is over.
  • For outdoor usage: you can use rugged and weatherproof battery powered iBeacons. Please remember to turn off the iBeacons or remove the battery when the event is over.

Where can I buy the iBeacons?

You can purchase iBeacons from us. Inside this support page you can find a list of iBeacons tested and recommended by Accuware.

Anyway there are several BLE beacons manufacturers and you can easily find them searching on the Internet. This article (Jan. 2015) lists some of the vendors of BLE beacons manufacturers with the characteristics of each device. Please make sure that you are purchasing BLE beacons compatible with the iBeacon standard.

Do iBeacons interfere with Wi-Fi access points?

There could be some interference since the two technologies, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, share the same 2.4GHz frequency band, however the interference using the iBeacons is strongly reduced if all the Wi-Fi access points are deployed on these three non overlapped Wi-Fi channels: 1, 6, 11. As you can see in the image below, the Advertisement Channels used by the iBeacon standard fall in between the 3 channels above. The iBeacons standard has been designed this way on purpose to reduce the interference.

Wi-Fi-BT-interference