What Is Beacon Technology And How To Use It In Your App

By Maryna Cherednychenko

Various technologies, devices, and gadgets surround the man of today. It is no longer a surprise to launch the vacuum cleaner from the phone, get directions to an unfamiliar place, or receive a promo offer from a store we pass by. Behind all this are various technologies such as Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth. With their help, you can implement many features to add value to your app and delight users. In this article, we will talk about one such technology — a beacon BLE. We will consider what it is and how you can use it in your app.

What Is Beacon Technology?

Each beacon is assigned a unique identifier which consists of letters and numbers. The beacon ID is transmitted several times a second. Receivers with enabled Bluetooth receive this signal, and the software installed on the receiver displays the content associated with a particular ID. The receiver is usually a phone, and the software is a mobile app.

You might be wondering how the app knows what content to show. Here is how it works:

  1. the app contacts the server
  2. the app finds the broadcasting beacon’s ID
  3. next, it reads the ID-related content
  4. finally, it shows the relevant information to the user

This implies the beacon app developers must register their beacons on the server the app communicates with. In other words, they need to enter the corresponding IDs into the app database. Question: where to get beacons? Answer: either develop yourself (for this, you need to buy the appropriate chips) or buy ready-made devices.

How beacon technology works

Main Beacon Protocols

iBeacon

  • UUID — 16-byte unique identifier for the beacon group;
  • Major — 2-byte unsigned value;
  • Minor — 2-byte unsigned value;
  • Measured Power — signal level value at 1m from the transmitter.

iBeacon drawbacks:

  • lack of native support on Android
  • only one type of advertisement packet
iBeacon frame

AltBeacon

  • MFG ID — 2-byte device manufacturer ID;
  • LIGHTHOUSE CODE — 2-byte promotional package code;
  • BEACON ID — 20-byte unique device identifier;
  • MFG RSVD — 1-byte special reserved field (mainly used for assigned Bluetooth numbers).

AltBeacon drawbacks:

  • the same as of iBeacon ones, because this is essentially its open-source analog
AltBeacon frame

Eddystone

  • UID — a 16-byte device identifier that consists of a 10-byte namespaceID and a 6-byte instanceID.
  • URL — transmits URL using compressed encoding format. A URL of any length can be shortened using the Google URL Shortener to fit the 18-byte advertisement packet. Once decoded, the URL can be used by any client with Internet access. For example, if the beacon broadcasts the URL: https://goo.gl/Aq18zF, any user who received this package through the app can visit that URL (https://goo.gl/Aq18zF).
  • TLM — telemetry sends data types such as battery voltage, device temperature, and the number of packets sent.

Eddystone drawbacks:

  • limited support on iOS
  • Bluetooth LE support starting from Android v. 4.3
Eddystone frame

How To Develop Beacon App?

1.Purchase and install your own beacons

2.Use third-party beacons

Beacon Technology Use Cases

Promo offers. You can send alerts about in-store offers when users walk not far from your shop. Timely messages serve well because they left fewer chances to postpone the purchase. So, you can count on spur-of-the-moment decisions and fast sales.

Territory/building access. You can use this idea for your corporate app to alert employees or customers if they enter a restricted area. Or vice versa, you can notify the user about a free entry or place. For example, tell the driver about a free parking space.

Personal guide. When a person enters a large-scale event, such as a football match or a concert, it can be difficult for them to navigate. With the help of beacons, you can tell how to get the reserved seat, cashier desk, or drinks shop.

Contact history. Beacons have come in handy during the Covid19 pandemic and helped Google and Apple create a joint project. Their app notifies the user of contact with an infected person. When two users meet, their phones exchange anonymous identifier beacons (which change frequently). If the infected user enters Covid19 test results in an app from a public health authority, all contact persons receive a corresponding alert.

Advanced analytics. You can link beacon data with Google Ads account and see how online marketing efforts are paid off offline. This becomes possible thanks to information about who clicked the online ad and then visited the offline shop. If you own an offline store and have a Google Ads account, you probably have access to free beacons that Google was distributing when it first launched its Project Beacon.

Enhance UX With Beacon Technology

This article was originally published at Softensy.

Softensy specializes in fintech development and enterprise-level apps. Our team helps companies automate business processes by developing software solutions.