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Beacons: Implementation, App development and everything else!

Beacons-Implementation and app development

Neither too close nor too far. Unlike NFC which is too close or the GPS that has a large default scale for measurement, beacons fit somewhere at the middle. This is possibly one of the best features that makes beacon a great choice to pinpoint user location. It is optimal for that. This also brings a myriad of applications of the technology across a lot of industries. We can assume that you might already know about the uses, but just for the sake of continuity, let’s quickly run through them.

Beacons make use of the latest Bluetooth technology (BLE 4.0) in your devices to send and receive data. BLE 4.0 can communicate with a device which can be up to a distance of 330 feet (~100 meters). Standard device makers give the standard distance of 70 meters. anything falling within that range can make use of beacons to get things done. Let’s go through some examples to understand that better.

American Eagle Outfitter – The merchant worked with Shopkick to deploy its shopBeacon technology across the 100 American Eagle Outfitter locations.

Giant Eagle – Employed beacon technology at the store’s entrance. he app on a person’s smartphone can then. Allows the mobile app to pinpoint the exact location of a buyer to send ads.

Universal Music – Beacon for customers to receive messages like special offers, as they approach any Universal Music store. Implemented by Powa Tag.

Gilbarco Veeder Root – Gilbarco Veeder-Root, the world’s largest manufacturer of gas pumps, deployed beacon technology by Qualcomm. Sends current offers to customers.

Apple Stores – Deployed its Beacon technology across all 254 stores in the U.S.  allowing the customer to choose and receive notifications for promotional schemes and loyalty offers.

Macy Stores – Macy’s has implemented the BLE beacons Shopkeep that advises customers on product availability, promotions, and  rewards.

Rubens House Museum – Helps customers locate specific pieces/areas of the art collection. It also sends timely notifications to the customers like fun facts and beautiful graphics.

CES -Partnered with Radius Network and Texas Instruments to implement the Beacons hunt. Attendees at the 2014 CES with the CES Mobile App were encouraged to explore all the areas of the show through a scavenger hunt and collect badges for each iBeacon they encountered.
There are some other names in the list as well including Virgin and Japan Airlines. Go through this link.

As you can see beacons are adding value to operations of some renowned corporations across the world. If you own a supermarket chain or continually involved in some kind of crowd management, you might have felt the possibilities of this tech by now. Yes, you can make your customers buy quicker and make a sell in lesser time. It clearly opens up avenues of resource optimization, space management and various other opportunities related to businesses and government organizations.

Businesses can gain from contextual computing and beacons have proved themselves as stepping stones in the recent times. However, know what do you exactly want to build. A lot of ambiguities exists pertaining to usage and implementation of the tech. There is too much of confusion about the entire working, set-up, calibration and maintenance aspects of beacons which often leads to impractical price calculations by clients.

Since last year, we have had a number of development requests, most of which were poorly conceived. People actually wanted to implement it for their store or wanted to create a system for home security, but things did not work out. A majority of projects just did not take off.

We do not want you to get confused. Hence, we decided to give you a clear pictorial representation on setting up your own beacon network. Note all the steps and be clear about “who will provide you what”.

A typical beacon set-up consisting of the hardware, mobile app, CMS and cloud servers
A typical beacon set-up consisting of the hardware, Mobile App, CMS and Cloud Servers

You can go for any beacon hardware manufacturer and allow a third party company to implement the entire system. The beacon manufacturers may have their firmware and SDKs for iOS and Android devices. When you go to make the mobile app for the system (that your customers will use), your developers) can employ the SDK to build your beacon app.

Note: All manufacturers do not have their own SDKs

When you implement the beacon network, you would need to put the UUID. The UUID is synonymous to a WiFi passkey that protects your beacon network. However, it also comes with something called MAJOR and MINOR values which can be used for identifying individual beacons and also specific regions of a store respectively. These values are important for mobile developers like us who would use these values while building your mobile app. If you are not going to set up a complete network and want to make a standalone app, you can go ahead with that as well.

While building a mobile app for Beacons at OpenXcell, we employ CoreLocation framework  for iOS and Bluetooth LE Kitkat framework to build beacon apps (remains similar in Lollipop too). Our developers have extensive experience working with BLE 4.0 frameworks which they gained by working on other apps that had extensive BLE functions.

Beacons are finding applications across a lot of industries. Being equally attractive to enterprise computing industry and mobile app developers, these things are going to see a lot of investment and creative ways of implementation. From the examples, it is clear that a lot of money is being poured into the tech and a lot is yet to come. While beacon devices are inexpensive and can be easily brought, without the mobile app the equation remains incomplete. In fact, the app is the most important component within your entire beacon stack. You have to find a good developer and spend months building it properly.

If you planning to make your own beacon network then it is the right time to go ahead with it. OpenXcell can build the app for you and provide you the required consultation as well.

Tell us about your idea and see if things  can work it out between us!

Arup Dey

I am passionate about Games, Content Marketing, NLE apps and Videos. In my free time I Read, Eat and Code. I see life around me as interconnected subsets of small events. Helps me learn a lot!