The challenge with cheap, Chinese beacons is that beacon deployments in general are site-specific at the moment. They require configuration, enabling security, calibration, etc.
We sell currently Dev Kits that consist of 3 beacons as well as free iOS & Android SDK, responsive support, 20K+ developers community portal, cloud-based fleet management tool and more.
Each beacon is in fact tiny computer with ARM processor, flash memory and sensors. Thanks to our iOS app you can configure range of the beacon, optimize battery life and security. We update our firmware on monthly-basis so even if you bought beacons 6 months ago you can download the latest version over-the-air and enable sensors and new tech and there is more to come soon.
We all agree that beacons will be everywhere in the future and deployed at scale. The fact is that beacons cost will be still tiny part of the budget dedicated to build the context-aware app. We have partnered with many companies like Knoll to build such apps (http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/17/estimote-knoll-partner-to-b...) and believe the value is in the underlying software delivered together with high quality hardware.
You can program them to do additional processing if you want. What's your email address? Would love to have you as part of our beta.
At the moment it is possible to connect to the beacon as an admin and change its UUID, major, minor, broadcasted power/range, give a name, access temperature, motion-sensor.
Technically it is also possible to store some information within the beacon, but just haven't enabled that for developers yet - how would you use it?
In theory beacons is there to deliver a context, e.g. context of your fridge in the kitchen, so you phone in the background can respond and process/store data.
1) Customer service: every time a mote gets a ping from a customer, log it. If the customer pinged the area 2-3x, send a message asking if they would like a sales rep to help them.
2) Analytics: building on 1), collect the logged hits from the devices and learn how customers move through the store, who moved through it (i.e.: any customers registered on a loyalty program?)
3) Admin user uses an app to configure coupons to store on the devices.
4) Track stock levels. If I could store stock levels on the beacons, then I could build an app that can be used to make queries ("Where can I find Levi's 501 Jeans with a 36 waist, 36 length?" "Oh, we have one pair left, look here…")
Currently, the way you have to do these things now requires too many moving parts: a mobile app, the motes, and a web server for the mobile app to talk to. I believe the web server is unnecessary: if a user has data disabled, or if the store doesn't want to provide free wifi, then there's no way to facilitate these types of interactions.
The way beacons work is turn the problem around. Your phone looks at the beacons that are near it, and make an educated guess as to it's location based on relative signal strengths and then go to a web app to fetch the data.
Beacons don't get a "ping" from the customer. They are, just like their name suggests, beacons. They send a ping out with their id for whoever wants to listen.
You can use passive BLE devices to listen for customer's BLE device, but only if those devices are in advertising mode which you'd have to put them into by an app running in the foreground. Usually stores use WiFi requests to track customers.
So let me check my understanding: what I'm seeing is that there are only two scenarios that make iBeacons useful:
* the mobile app has to have all possible beacon id's hard coded (or configurable by the user) and mapped to desired responses. The tradeoff is that any growth in the iBeacon network necessarily requires an app update.
* the mobile app has to function like a dumb terminal, receive a ping, then query a separate server asking what's special about that ping. This avoids updating the app, but adds a whole new point of failure to the system.
Thanks again for your response. very helpful.
To comment on your understanding:
The app doesn't need them hardcoded, it can query a server and say: here are the beacons I see, where am I?
Alternatively you can include location information in the data broadcast by the beacon. So one of them can say I'm at the end of isle 1, the other says I'm at the start of isle 1, and yet another says I'm at the end of isle 2. You can figure out your approximate position by their relative signal strengths. They can even have broadcast the exact GPS coordinates of where they are located (hardcoded in them of course) which if I recall correctly Apple can use to update their location service to give you very accurate positioning.
Bear in mind though that beacon data, unless encrypted, is public but even if encrypted it can be duplicated so someone can mess with you by creating a duplicate tag and placing it nearby.
What I saw: "The software uses wireless beacon-driven technology that operates in tandem with smartphones based on a user’s micro-location to exchange data and information." "To help guide people through the r/evolution workplace showroom, Knoll employed Bounce by Knoll, a brand new mobile app that will push information to users as they encounter Bluetooth beacons positioned throughout the showroom." suggests that beacon broadcast an id, or position and the app uses that info to fetch data from the cloud relevant to the user's position, which is roughly triangulated from relative signal strength of each beacon.
They can analyze user's movement through the cloud.
For a lot of us (myself included), this is new stuff. Unlike you, we wouldn't have a clue what part to search for, nor could we be sure that whatever we do get is guaranteed to work. I've looked around, and this article is the first I found that clearly connected iBeacon to BTLE.
Even with that, I still have no idea what exactly I'd be looking for in a cheap iBeacon hotspot - would it be a BTLE chipset attached to an ARM? Do I need to install an OS? Should I look for something with an SD card?
Those aren't stupid questions - they're the questions anyone would ask if they're not sure where to start. So those $30 beacons start looking like a pretty good value now.
So you've been working on this for 8 months? Quit holding out on us and write something up! :) If the comments here are any indication, there's a need.
I am very excited to see where this development proceeds. The usefulness is somewhat like geofencing but for smaller areas and much more accurate since the range of the iBeacon is so small (vs GPS).
Entering region is super responsive (aprox. few seconds).
Exit the region might take up to a minute+.
If you are building smart alarm-clock it is much better to detect if you entered the bathroom or kitchen than detecting if you left bedroom.
There is fun stuff from quadrocopter 3d positioning till contact-less payments.
And here is an example of using it on Google Glass to trigger various experiences at Airport beacons like parking, security, and checkout that I wrote for a hackathon:
Some of the American Airlines employees at the event mentioned installing hundreds of iBeacon in a terminal, so you can expect them to actually be out in the wild.
Especially that Apple is licensing this technology, https://developer.apple.com/ibeacon/, is totally ridiculous! Moreover, they are patenting this kind of stuff: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2014/05/apple-gr.... It's a sad world. I'm glad I've already demonstrable some code online: https://github.com/mrquincle/bluenet which dates from before these patents.
less than 5 dollars each for series 10 and a security model that folks should seriously look into IMO...or u can use iBeacon configuration.
Originally by Qualcomm so u know the hardware is solid.
Tap "beacons" and hit "turn this device into an iBeacon".
Works for any BLE-enabled iDevice which is iPhone4S+