Beacon technology, as we all know, is one of the most talked about technologies in recent years. It is already used successfully at places like airports, film festivals, and Apple and Macy’s stores. The number of beacon manufacturers is increasing rapidly, too. The major beacon hardware present in the market are Estimote, Gimbal, Gelo, Glimworm, BlueSense, and Kontakt. Among these, Estimote is one of the largest and most well-known manufacturers of beacon hardware. So, we decided to test the beacons and see what all can be achieved using this technology.
We made an application for meeting room tracking in an office. Beacons were installed in all meeting rooms. On entering any room, the app would notify the server with the details of the detected beacon and the meeting room’s occupancy would be updated in the backend. So, if any employee had to set an impromptu meeting, he/she could check the application to see the available rooms. Environment details for this demo were as follows: Estimote beacons using Firmware Version: A2.1 & Hardware Version: D3.4. We built an iPhone 5 application (iOS 8.2) using the CoreLocation Framework.
While working on beacons, we observed several unusual behaviors and unexpected problems, some of which I will cover below.
Common Behavior of Estimote Beacons:
Estimote beacons are one of the most well-known and easiest-to-configure beacons that are available in the market. The various parameters that can be configured for each beacon and their common behavior are:
Because of the above mentioned reasons, it was observed several times that the closer beacon was shown to be at a greater distance as compared to another beacon.
Ways to Improve Experience:
Even after the above mentioned non-ideal behavior of beacons and inconsistency in beacon technology, we can include several logics to minimize the adverse effects.
For example, consider the case where we have to track meeting rooms’ occupancy in an office and the time period is fixed to 1 minute. Let’s say an employee is detected by Beacon1 and is considered to be in Room1. After that, the app will keep a tab on the subsequent detection for one minute before updating anything. If in that one minute, the Beacon1 wasn’t detected even once, the app will notify the server to make an exit for the user. If the beacon was detected even once, the app will consider the employee to be in the same room.
Beacon technology has its challenges, but the scope for it in the market is also very large. Most of the challenges can be solved using the techniques described above, and Bluetooth LE is bound to become one of the most useful technologies in the future.