Beacons have boomed since 2013 - when Apple introduced its iBeacon standard. 2015 Google came up with Eddystone. Apple exclusively relies on beacons for indoor positioning and indoor navigation. Apple devices cannot use Wi-Fi to determine their position.
Beacons are placed at several positions in the building. Via Bluetooth they send signals to mobile devices. Like that, it is possible to determine their position continuously and transmit it to the indoor navigation system. An app installed on the smartphone interprets the signals. Beacons cost between 3 and 30 Euros, their battery lasts from some days to several years and they can span up to 30 meters inside buildings.
The number of beacons needed in a building depends on the size of the area and the required accuracy. Zurich’s central train station for example uses ca. 1,200 beacons in an area of ca. 370.000 square meters. The accuracy is about 2-3 meters. Retailers need a higher accuracy of about 50 cm.
Beacons can be operated with batteries, that’s why they are very easy to install. A beacon management system facilitates maintenance. Beacons can also be connected to the power network, which makes installation more complicated. It is also possible to integrate them into lamps, so they can use the lamps’ power network.