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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The problem with beacons - and a solution ;-)

Beacons, whether Apple's iBeacon or Google's Eddystone, are a great solution for indoor location and navigation. They enable a wealth of contextual triggered scenarios that are an important part of today's smart retail user experience.

However, once you have a set of beacons, and particularly a meaningful fleet of them, distributed in multiple locations such as retail stores, museum floors, or say, airport terminals - you discover the practical challenges of maintaining and monitoring them. Suppose there is a new firmware available, with updated functionality or a security fix. Are you going to physically visit hundreds of beacons in your multiple locations and manually update them one by one? Discussions with our customers quickly proved the need for an enterprise grade, secure, remote management tool for beacons.

Image: manually configuring a beacon in a museum environment

We all know that the limitation of GPS  signals in indoor spaces brought the need for the BLE based beacon in the first place. Well, for not so dissimilar reasons, cellular in-building coverage is lacking, and WiFi is not always seamless, or even available. Wouldn't it be nice to use the beacons' BLE signal for phone communications as well? This will ensure that the beacon-based scenarios will always work - as the mobile channel is already available with your beacon.

Finally, the granular targeting, data-driven solutions of today bring up the need to use your beacons dynamically. Beacon parameters such as Eddystone URLs may need to change with the situation, as opposed to the common static iBeacon packet. And - don't even get me started talking about security...

The solution is Beaconix Cloud Connected beacons. With Beaconix, your beacons are part of one network, implemented using the low cost beacon hardware, with the addition of a single internet-connected controller per location. Having the beacons self-organized in a self-healing BLE mesh, you now have remote monitoring, control, and firmware upgrade capabilities. Beacon transmissions can be changed dynamically, to suite your business needs with powerful APIs. Finally, the BLE bearer is also used as a bi-directional channel between the smartphone and the beacon (that is - the internet), to enable previously unthinkable scenarios and functionality, even in the absence of WiFi or a reliable cellular signal.