What are iBeacons?
Apple’s iBeacon is a protocol that is meant to be used with the BLE enabled beacons. This technology assists the mobile applications in recognizing that any BLE enabled receiver is in the proximity of the BLE beacon. These beacons can communicate with any BLE enabled receiver and transmit data. The feature is included in iOS 7 and beyond. Similarly the Android 4.3+ systems also supports the iBeacons. It is a novel exciting technology that can enable the applications with better location awareness. The Beacon can be used for creating a region, known as geofence, around an entity that will allow the iOS or the Android system to identify when it either enters or exits the location. Such geo-fences help in providing proximity based services such as when a user enters the geofence of any store, he will be provided with relevant information. The format of the Beacon advertisement is standardized by Apple. The advertising packet of the Beacon consists of three different components.
- Universally Unique Identifier (UUID): 16 Byte value used to differentiate an organization’s iBeacon from others. For a certain brand X, all of its beacons would have the same UUID hence assisting the mobile application to know about which network the beacons belong to.This mandatory field has to be included in every single advertisement.
- Major value: 2 Byte value used for the specification of any iBeacon within a group. For the brand X in the example above, the beacons deployed in particular store in city Y will have the same major value. It is an optional field and is not necessarily advertised in every advertisement.
- Minor Value: 2 Byte value used for identification of particular beacons. For the brand X above, in store Y, the beacon in a particular section say shoes section will have its own unique minor value. It is also an optional field.
When the iOS or the Android system detects the signal from the beacon, Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) is used to not only determine the proximity to a specific beacon but also the accuracy of the proximity estimation . The higher the signal strength, the better will be the proximity measurement and higher will be the confidence of the iOS about the proximity to the beacon and vice verse. Once the BLE enabled device receives a signal from an iBeacon with a UUID, the application running on the device contacts either the server or cloud to find out what type of functionality is associated with the specific UUID. It can be a coupon, an event notification or any other contextual aware entity.