Beacons are typically small battery powered devices that
continually send out a Bluetooth signal which is picked up by
an app on a nearby mobile device (tablet, phone, watch). It
only transmits three numbers : the UUID, the major number
and the minor number. It does not transmit any content – it is
up to the app receiving the beacon signal to infer context and
show the relevant information or complete an appropriate
There are many different beacon devices on the market, such
as Estimote and Kontakt.io. iBeacon is a standard set by
Apple for use with beacon devices. As well as using battery
powered iBeacon devices, you can also use your iPad,
iPhone or iPod Touch to transmit an iBeacon signal, turning it
into a beacon that will transmit to mobile devices that are
HOW BEACONS WORK
1. Beacon device
transmits a Bluetooth
2. Beacon app detects
the signal and reacts
3. App shows the
Hi, beacon A.
I’ll grab the right info
from the web
….or I’ll grab it from
I’ll show the
for this time
the really, really, simple diagram of
Do you need an
app to detect the
In most cases, yes, and you will need a specific app to detect
and interpret the signal of a specific set of beacons. This
stops your device from being bombarded with messages from
all the beacons that are nearby. By downloading an
associated app you’re basically ‘opting-in’ to receive
information triggered by the connected beacons e.g. in a
museum, shop or sports venue.
You can pick up push notifications from the beacon signal
even when the associated app is closed on your mobile
device in your pocket or bag. However beacons can be also
used to trigger other things besides delivering content in a
mobile app (see Question 10).
This varies depending on two factors: the size of the aerial in
the beacon and the amount of power provided to it. The aerial
is fixed and part of the beacon design – the smallest devices
typically have the smallest aerial. The amount of power is
configured within the beacon – so even a large device can be
set to only transmit a weak signal. The maximum range for
smaller beacons are around 40m in clear line of sight and up
to 180m for large ones.
You can also manually set the trigger strength of the beacon
signal using a back-end system, which allows you to set the
measured signal strength needed to trigger an action on the
device. This means you can have content which is only
available when in immediate proximity to a beacon, or
conversely, different content shown when you’re far away from
the beacon. When you have beacons that are close together
will need to have their strength reduced so that the app can
more accurately deliver the right content.
What’s the range of
a beacon device?
How long do the
This depends on a combination of beacon transmission power
and transmission frequency. A very small battery on a beacon
at full power transmitting 10 times a second could last 1
month whereas the same beacon transmitting at mid power
could last a year. A larger beacon at mid power transmitting
once per two seconds can last around 4 years. You can also
get USB or mains power beacons and there is no difference to
the operation of the beacon, only the duration of operation
and the limiting factor of power source when placing the
beacon (as you’d imagine).
Normally, anything that moves would have a battery beacon
(e.g. a person) and anything that’s fixed a powered one. A
good plan is to test with battery powered beacons, and when
placement becomes permanent, fix to USB or mains powered
The beacon doesn’t need WiFi but the beacon app may do,
depending on where the app content is held. If the content is
pulled in real-time from the cloud, then the mobile device will
need WiFi or other mobile network connection to download
the data. However, you can cache content so that it can be
delivered when offline. This can be done through a few
Do beacons need
WiFi to work?
+ by bundling the content into an app, which is downloaded from the App Store
+ by manually caching the content when online, using the menu options in the app
+ by automatically caching the content overnight using background sync when online
Locly uses a combination of all these techniques so that if you have internet connection it will download the
most up to date version of the content and if you’re in an area with limited connectivity it will use what it’s
already pre-cached on the device. If you know that you will be using the app in a limited connectivity location,
there are options available for you to pre-cache the content, or if you’re building your own version of the Locly
app you can bundle the content into the initial download from the App Store.
Can you use the
same beacons to
content in the
Yes you can. As the beacon simply sends out a signal you can
control what is displayed using the apps back-end platform/
operating system. For example, in a museum you could have an
audio tour, a historical tour and a treasure hunt all driven by the
same physical beacon devices, which is an effective way to
engage and satisfy the needs of different visitor profiles.
Beacons require a Bluetooth 4.0 receiver in your device. This
includes; iPad 3 and above, all iPad Minis, iPhone 4s and
above and the majority of Android devices that support
Android 4.4 and above.
What sort of
content can you
deliver in the app?
This is completely up to the app provider and depends on the
capabilities of the device the app is installed on. Typically beacons
are used to deliver two things: push notifications and content. Here
are just a few examples of the type of content you can deliver using
the Locly platform:
+ Photo galleries, text, coupons, direct messages
+ Multimedia: video, audio, 3D models
+ Interactive widgets like a puzzles, games, before & after images.
+ Documents, presentations
+ Links to web pages and other apps that are on the device
+ Web forms, questionnaires, polls & payment pages
Notifications are delivered to the app when it comes into range of the beacon. The notification will be delivered
even if the device screen is off and in standby, although iOS has some built in rules to preserve battery and
prevent apps constantly delivering repeat content to users this way.
Yes, and there are a number of ways to do this which is
powered by the receiving app. For example you can set
content to be displayed at a particular time or date. You can
control different content to be displayed when someone is
approaching a beacon, is standing by a beacon (dwell time) or
walking away from a beacon, or if they’ve been near that
beacon before e.g. a regular visitor.
With Locly, users can also login to the app so that they only
see information that is relevant to them, which may be
different to the person stood next to them when nearby the
same beacon. This is particularly useful in schools,
businesses, organisations and healthcare where data can be
sensitive or group-specific. It is also an excellent feature for
delivering personalised content e.g. VIP messages in-store.
Can you control
who sees what?
devices be used
for anything else?
Yes there are many, many uses for these little devices. For
example, every beacon interaction is logged so that you can
use it for data analysis e.g. footfall in a shop or visitor heat-
map. You can also get sensor beacons which can be used to
monitor light, sound, movement, temperature. Not only can
this be used for data collection, but it can also be used to
trigger actions e.g. switch the heating on when the
temperature drops, dispense a coffee when an individual is
near, or unlock a room for a particular person.
Beacons can also be used to trigger physical displays in
shops, such as large monitors and is even being used to track
sheep in the mountains of Wales!
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