What is a BLE Beacon?

Document created by Alberto Vargas Rodriguez Employee on Oct 19, 2015
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What is a BLE Beacon?

A BLE Beacon is a hardware including a MCU, a BLE radio, an antenna and a power source. Things like Freescale Beacon, iBeacon, AltBeacon or Eddystone are software protocols with their own characteristics.

 

How it works?

A BLE Beacon is a non-connectable device that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE or Bluetooth Smart) to broadcast packets that include identifying information and each packet receives the name of Advertising Packet.

The packet structure and the information broadcasted by a Beacon depend on the protocol, but, the basic structure is conformed by:

  • UUID. This is a unique identifier that allows identifying a beacon or a group of beacons from other ones.
  • Major number. Used to identify a group of beacons that share a UUID.
  • Minor number. Used to identify a specific beacon that share UUID and Major number.

 

Example

UUID

Major

Minor

 

AAAAAAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAAAAAAAAAA

1

1

These Beacons share the same UUID and Major number, and are differentiated by Minor number.

AAAAAAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAAAAAAAAAA

1

2

AAAAAAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAA-AAAAAAAAAAAA

2

1

This Beacon shares the same UUID as the previous ones, but has a different Major number, so it belongs to a different group.

BBBBBBBB-BBBB-BBBB-BBBB-BBBBBBBBBBBB

1

1

This Beacon is completely different from the previous ones, since it doesn’t share the same UUID.

 

These packets need to be translated or interpreted in order to provide the beacon a utility. There are applications that can interact with beacons, usually developed to be used with smartphones and/or tablets. These applications require being compliant with the protocol used by the beacon in order to be able to perform an action when a beacon is found.

 

Use Cases

 

Beacons can be used on different places to display different content or perform different actions, like:

 

  • Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Bars
    • Virtual Menu
    • Detailed information
    • Food source
    • Suggested wine pairings
  • Museums
    • Contextual information.
    • Analytics
    • Venue check-in (entry tickets)
    • Self-guided tours.
    • Educational excursions
  • Event Management and Trade Shows
    • Frictionless Registration
    • Improved Networking
    • Sponsorship
    • Navigation and Heat Mapping
    • Content Delivery
    • Auto Check-in
  • Stadiums
    • Seat finding and seat upgrading
    • Knowing the crowded locations
    • Promotions, offers and loyalty programs
    • Sell Merchandise
    • Future implementations
  • Retail and Malls
    • Shopping with digital treasure hunts
    • Gather digital up-votes and down-votes from visitors
    • Allow retailers to join forces when it comes to geo-targeted offers
    • Use time-sensitive deal to entice new shoppers to walk in
    • Help in navigation
    • Engage your customers with a unified mall experience.
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