Bluetooth Beacon Development and Tutorials
Learn what Bluetooth iBeacon and beacon technology is and what development systems and kits are available.
The following Channel Guide will help you:
- Better understand the differences between iBeacon and Beacon protocols and specs.
- Get an overview of currently available bluetooth tags and tag management systems and cloud platform proviiders
- See different applications of beacons ranging from museums to retail store tracking
Below we take a look at some of the companies that offer package solutions including beacons and proximity-based content management systems, as well as an overview of the technology and some articles and resources to get you started:
The term iBeacon gets thrown around a lot in this area, but that refers specifically to Apple’s iOS protocols, while beacons can take many forms, come from a variety of manufacturers, and can communicate with most recent-model smartphones. Generally, a beacon can be any device that broadcasts a simple “Here I am!” signal, typically over Bluetooth Low Energy.
Most beacons don’t transmit or receive content -- that’s handled by smartphone apps and cloud services. The app knows which beacons are near, the cloud service knows where each beacon is located, and working together they can deliver content that reflects the user’s immediate surroundings (Generally up to about a 20-50 meter distance).
For retailers, this means they can target ads, coupons, and other content to customers based on which shelf they’re standing in front of, or which section they’re lingering in. They can also collect analytics about the way shoppers move throughout the store, which displays are attracting the most attention, and more.
Unlike some other retail analytics technologies, beacons generally require the user to opt-in by installing an app -- so you won’t have this stuff forced upon you. But there are lots of potential advantages beyond couponing. A location-aware app could make finding product reviews and other information a lot easier, and anyone who’s ever been lost in a large department store knows how useful it would be to have a digital map that can give you turn-by-turn walking directions back to the cash registers.
Companies & Products
Price: Starts at 4 for €99 / No montly fee (Pre-order)
"A Glimworm Beacon is a small transmitter that uses Apple’s iBeacon standard to push messages to your customers when they are nearby.
The opportunities for proximity marketing, hyper local content, narrowcasting, customer service, and contact-less payment are simply too numerous to think about let alone write down. The results are simply mind-blowing."
- Free custom branding
- Open Source software
Price: Dev kit w/ 3 for $99
"Build your own iBeacon micro-location solution in less than an hour. We provide you with a content platform that allows to build micro-location apps without programming skills in no-time. Our Dev Kit includes all you need to start."
- Beacon battery life up to three years (coin)
- Custom 3-D printed cases
- Content platform to build apps, no programming needed
- Rest API integratione
Price: N/A (Upon request)
"Footmarks brings creative experiences and digital intelligence to physical spaces.
Footmarks’ SmartConnect™ is an experience-based analytics solution that delivers meaningful and personalized value through a secure end-to-end proximity-based solution. Designed for both our partners and clients, SmartConnect™ integrates seamlessly and rapidly for best-of-breed business solutions.
Footmarks is a Techstars company, and graduate of the first class of R/GA’s selective Connected Devices Accelerator."
- Partner Enablement Solutions
- Patent-pending Security Protocol
- Dynamic Journey and Experience Engine
- Beacon Configuration and Management Apps
- Data Visualization and Reporting
- iOS & Android SDK
- Developer Kit
Price: 5 for $300
"Sonic Notify is a complete enterprise-class solution. We provide support, beacons, and a robust platform that enables analytics and precise proximity-based content delivery to smartphone applications."
- Cloud-based content management system and analytics platform
- Beacons use audio signals to communicate with older phones that lack Bluetooth - Sound waves embedded with data can push targeted content to mobile devices
- Android and iOS SDKs
Price: 3 for $99 (Pre-order)
"BlueCats makes micro location context possible on a macro scale.
enhance a mobile experience with location specific contextprovide your app users with a more relevant experiencetruly understand how app users interact with the real world"
- Beacon battery life up to three years (2xAAA)
- Enterprise platform for beacon management and real-time analytics
Price: 3 for $94
"Anyone can make a beacon. We're creating the most robust SDK and CMS. Our platform is being used far beyond retail and integrates easily into existing apps.
The patent pending GeLo System consists of Beacons, GeLo-enabled Apps & the Content Management System (CMS). Tags are deployed at any indoor or outdoor venue at Points of Interest or Wayfinding Points."
- Beacon battery life up to two years (2xAAA)
- Cloud-based content management system and analytics platform
"PayPal Beacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy device to connect to a customer’s PayPal app when they enter a store. With one vibration or sound on your phone, you’ll know you’re checked in. And when you’re ready to make a purchase, all you have to do is say you’re paying with PayPal and the transaction is automatically completed: no cash, cards, taps, or signatures required—all hands free."
Price: 3 pack for $100
"Whether your customers are down the street or have just stepped inside, we’ll help you reach them with relevant and timely information they’ll appreciate — and begin to count on for guidance. The ROXIMITY Platform provides everything needed to create, manage and optimize mobile-marketing campaigns that both respect customers’ privacy and give sellers full control of the indoor, mobile experience."
- Compatible with Android and IBeacon
- Mobile SDK
"Radius Networks proximity service platforms utilize a combination of mobile wireless technologies to detect the presence of visitors and the mobile devices they carry.
RadBeacon USB is a fully standalone proximity iBeacon implemented in a tiny USB package that can be powered by any available USB power source."
- USB powered beacons
- Cloud-based content management system and analytics platform
- SDK, beacon hardware development kit, open-source API
Price: 3 Beacon starter kit for €89.00
Apps: Apple (Code)
"Getting started is very easy. Register your iBeacon UUIDs in our Management System. Copy our code (SDK) into your app. Configure your own proximity notifications connected to your iBeacons. Websites, Offers, Pictures, Coupons, Social Profiles, all is possible."
- Beacon battery life up to 10 months (coin)
- Cloud-based content management system
"Swirl's platform is robust enough to handle the needs of even the largest retailers but simple enough to deploy in a matter of days. Swirl's mobile client SDK can be added to existing mobile apps in less than a day and in-store indoor positioning beacons can be set up in any store location in a matter of minutes."
- Marketing Console for managing and analyzing in-store campaigns.
- iBeacon support
Many other companies offer stand-alone beacons that can be integrated with existing apps or used to build customized proximity systems. Some of the currently available options include:
"The BlueBar Beacon is currently available to order in two variations – as an integration kit and as an end-user device. Key features of the BlueBar Beacon include being fully iBeacon compatible. Works with Android 4.3+ devices. Runs on a single CR2450 3V Lithium battery for up to two years and is CE, FCC, IC, Japan, and South Korea certified."
- Beacon battery life up to two years (coin)
- Fully customizable broadcast parameters
- Mobile SDK in development
Price: 1 - 4,999$20 plus s/h
"The Gimbal™ context aware and proximity platform utilizes geofencing, micro-location, interest sensing, beacons enabled with Bluetooth® Smart technology and consumer privacy controls. It allows developers to design mobile apps that drive consumer engagement, sales, and loyalty by providing real-time context and location awareness in apps for brands, retailers, and venues.."
- Gimbal SDK Manager portal and APIs
- Two models - 1 coincell 1 4 AA's
- Mobile to Mortar™ iBeacon Platform
"Datzing was built to empower users to leverage their existing wireless signals as proximity beacons - linking real world experiences to the web"
"Beacify gives you the platform and SDK to manage your complete beacon inventory."
"Using a combination of branded mobile loyalty apps and iBeacons, we provide retailers with instant and ongoing customer insights, the ability to engage customers with timely and relevant offers, to greet them personally when they come in store and offer a tailored in store experience."
"LocalSocial provides a Full Stack Proximity Solution. Developer or White-Label ready (or both!). Your brand. Our platform. Proximity- and iBeacon-power your apps and services. In days, not months."
"CONNECTING THE PHYSICAL WORLD WITH DIGITAL EXPERIENCES. Lighthouse uses beacons to help deliver content and experiences based on proximity to things in the physical world."
- MacBeacon for OSX
"With the MacBeacon app you can turn any Macintosh computer that is running OS X® 10.9 or higher and is equipped with built-in or third party Bluetooth 4.0 into your own, fully-configurable iBeacon."
- Arduino-BLE Developer Kit - Coin
- Turn your Arduino YUN into an iBeacon transmitter - Fiore Basile
- piBeacon - DIY iBeacon with a Raspberry Pi - Adafruit
- How to Make an iBeacon Out of a Raspberry Pi - James Nebeker and David G. Young
- Self-Made iBeacons with Raspberry Pi - Hybris Software
- Build your OWN Apple iBeacon with a Raspberry Pi - Tony Smith
- BlueZ "Official Linux Bluetooth protocol stack"
- Examples of using Bluez as an iBeacon
Resources & Articles
- Website: BEEKn.net
- Video: Experimentation With Apple’s iBeacon Technology - Nerdery
- In-Store Analytics Handbook
- Businesses Are Turning to Beacons, and It’s Going to Be O.K. - NYTimes
- Getting Started with Bluetooth Low Energy - By Kevin Townsend, Robert Davidson, Akiba, Carles Cufi
- iBeacons Tutorial for iOS 7 with CLBeaconRegion and CLBeacon - DevFright
- iOS 7 Tutorial Series: Core Location Beacons - CapTech
- Video: Introduction to iBeacon and Bluetooth Low Energy - Vektor Digital
- 10/23/2013 Estimote - $3.1M Seed (Innovation Endeavors, Betaworks, Bessemer Venture Partners, Birchmere Ventures, Valiant Capital Partners and others) - Press Release
- 1/23/2014 Sensorberg - $1m Seed (Berlin Technologie Holding and angels) - Press Release
- Whitepaper - Learn How Retailers can Use iBeacon -Bestfit
- High street shops are studying shopper behaviour by tracking their smartphones or movement - The Guardian
- Bluetooth-enabled mobile services threaten NFC with take-off - Mobile Marketer
- Georgetown basketball fans to get a taste of iBeacons’ potential at Verizon Center - Washpost
- Sonic Notify Uses Phones to Bug Fans Who Buy Cheap Seats - BusinessWeek
- Major League Baseball Rolling Out Thousands of iBeacons for Opening Day - MacRumors
- Another Super Bowl Ad Fest, This Time on the Cellphone - NYTimes
- BeHere - An App developed in order to "help organizing attendance and help requests within 2.0 learning environments. Using proximity, teachers can automatically identify which students are accessing the classroom, and easily manage help requests using an ordered line, always up-to-date."
A look at some of the underlying software and protocols behind beacons.
Google's Eddystone: Open-Source Beacon Framework
When it comes to popularizing Bluetooth beacons, Apple may have been first out of the gate with its iBeacon protocol — but Google is firing back with its own beacon protocol, Eddystone. And just as Android’s open-source model has held its own against iOS, Eddystone opens up the world of beacons to the many devices that live outside of Apple’s “walled garden” (while still remaining compatible with iOS).
Bluetooth beacons have a lot of different uses, from helping users navigate the interiors of buildings to creating interactive advertising and retail displays. A beacon is simply a Bluetooth transmitter that sends out a one-way signal like the ping of a submarine’s sonar. When a user’s mobile device receives the signal, it can take action depending on what message the signal contains.
As with Google’s Physical Web project, one possibility is to broadcast a URL that links to a specific web page associated with the object the beacon is attached to — like a bus stop that could link to route maps, fare tables and schedules — and In fact, the Physical Web will soon be changing over to the Eddystone protocol. Other messages could point toward content in an app the user already has installed or broadcast information about the beacon itself, like its current battery charge or its latitude and longitude (for placing users more precisely on a map).
Those different kinds of ping are called “frames”. Eddystone currently includes several of the most basic ones, including the device’s unique ID, a URL, telemetry (diagnostic data), and “ephemeral ID” — a kind of secret identifier that only authorized users can decrypt, which would be useful for creating private beacon networks or tagging luggage so you can find it at baggage claim. The platform is designed to be expandable, so new frame types can be expected down the road.
Accompanying Eddystone are several APIs. The Proximity Beacon API allows for managing fleets of beacons and associating new content with existing beacons, while the Nearby API lets developers integrate beacon signals into mobile apps to create location-aware experiences. Beacons can also be used to improve location sensing via tools like Android’s Place Picker, and beacons will soon be included in the contextual information presented by Google Now.
As it did with Android, Google is releasing Eddystone into the wild as an open-source beacon framework. The APIs, however, are proprietary — but technically, they’re not required for setting up and using Eddystone beacons (they just make it a lot easier). Meanwhile, hardware development is left to others. A number of companies are already on board to produce Eddystone-compatible beacons, including Blesh and Estimote.
Learn more at developers.google.com/beacons.