Beacons 101

August 19, 2014 Timothy Mobile Apps

One word: Beacons. That would be the word that Mr McGuire would whisper to Benjamin if The Graduate were released in 2014 instead of 1967. Beacons.

What’s a Beacon?

A beacon is a small, key chain sized object that contains a button battery and a BLE (Bluetooth┬« low energy) chip. They can be almost any shape from flat to mounded. Usually one side is flat to enable affixing to walls and other flat surfaces. You probably wouldn’t recognize one on first sight and might even mistake one for a broken piece of a child’s toy. That’s one of their strengths. They’re small and unseen by the intended end users. Also because they use BLE, the batteries last up to two years.

What do Beacons do?

Beacons transmit information for reception by mobile devices, such as a cell phone or tablet. Imagine walking into an exposition teeming with people and displays. As you wander, your cell phone suddenly signals an incoming message. The message tells you that you are just steps away from a product you came looking to see. The message might also include a special expo only price.

That’s just one example of beacons. As more and more people begin using beacons, more and more novel uses appear. Kaiser uses beacons to authorize doctors access to patient information. Others are used to announce public WiFi access and passwords. Ski lifts might use beacons at lift stations to advise on available routes.

How Much do Beacons Cost?

Beacons are relatively inexpensive. A typical beacon starter kit with three beacons of various shapes and sizes costs about $99. You’ll also need a computer to connect to the beacon so it can be uoloaded with your information. Currently about nine major companies offer beacons for sale.

You’ll also need to develop a beacon enabled app, unless your end users already have installed an generic beacon app on their devices.

Source: 7 Surprising Ways to Use Beacons

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About Timothy Lee

Tim, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center's webmaster and technical training specialist, has been with ASBTDC since 1995. He retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of master sergeant. He's a bit gung-ho, turns cat food cans into cook stoves, and keeps packing ASBTDC equipment for rapid worldwide deployment, but he's your "go to" guy for technical solutions and full-scale disasters.

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