What are beacons and how can they be used for indoor positioning?
Beacons are small senders which transmit simple signals to devices nearby. They are not able to receive signals. Modern beacons are based on the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, have a maximum range of 30 meters indoors and have low energy consumption. Beacons consist of a tiny sender unit and a battery which have a durability of up to 3 years. Beacons cost between 3 and 30 Euros. If you want a device to determine its position, there must be an app installed. Positioning is possible via triangulation and trilateration and the accuracy can reach 50 centimeters. GPS is not necessary.
One area of application is retail: Beacons can determine the location of a client’s device and the app installed can offer him discounts, wayfinding and other services. The operator can profit from information about visitor flows.
Since 2003, Apple offers ist own BLE profile, known as iBeacon. It is compatible with Apple devices with iOS 7 and newer and up-to-date Android devices and has a range of up to 30 meters. Google’s competing product is called Eddystone and has been introduced in 2015. It is a cross-platform open source product which works with all devices supporting BLE. In contrast to iBeacons, Eddystone beacons can transmit a serial number and a URL. Photo: estimote.