What is a Bluetooth Beacon?

A Bluetooth beacon is a small device that sends a unique identifier to any Bluetooth device that enters its signal range. This ID is generally thought of as a “location”, and can be used by various apps and programs to initiate a number of processes, depending on what that ID has been coded to in the app or program.

Originally, according to Wikipedia, a beacon means “an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location”. Combined with indicators, it is used to deliver important information, such as to alert those nearby about an enemy attack, dangerous weather, or even the birth of a new prince. With Bluetooth Smart technology, beacons have become smarter than ever.

Now you maybe wondering what is the difference between iBeacon and any other kind of beacon. iBeacon is the trademark Apple uses to label approved devices operating under a narrow range of parameters, which are in fact only a subset of the actual capabilities of BLE and beacons. Can iBeacon work with Android? Yes, they can. All BLE beacons use the same technology, iBeacon just restrict you from using some of the parameters outlined in the BLE standard.

So how exactly do Bluetooth Beacons work? Let’s take a look at the following info-graphic.

How a beacon works

STEP 1 : Suppose a customer enters a shop carrying a smartphone with Bluetooth enabled and an app set to look for beacons.

STEP 2 : When that smartphone comes within range of a beacon, it gets the beacon signal (UUID, Major, and Minor), which the app then decides how to process. If it is required, the app will query the app server to see if the server holds any instructions with a matching signal. If the signal matches, those instructions are sent back to the smartphone.

STEP 3 : The smartphone will then follow that set of instructions, possibly displaying a certain image or a push notification.

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