The Beginner’s Guide to Beacons
New to proximity technologies? This guide provides a comprehensive overview of beacon technology along with information to help you understand how they can deliver benefits to your cleaning or security business and customers.
Beacon technology provides real-time tracking of officers and provides proof of service to cleaning contractors’ customers. In this eBook, we walk through the different ways service contractors can supercharge their workforce with proximity technology.
Cleaning and security contractors need complete visibility of their distributed workforces. Beacons are one of the available solutions that can give security contractors real-time tracking of officers, and provide cleaning contractors with proof of service to customers. In this eBook, we walk through the different ways service contractors can supercharge their workforce with beacons.
What are Beacons?
Beacons are small wireless devices that broadcast signals using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Mobile apps on compatible devices listen for signals from beacons placed in the physical world and then trigger an experience via the app. Experiences include sending a notification, coupon, video, form, URL or other form of media relevant to a person’s exact location.
Beacon-enabled apps are notified when the device enters or exits the range of a beacon and also monitor the distance from the beacon as it changes, often referred to as ranging. This contrasts with GPS, which uses latitude and longitude to define a device’s location.
You don’t always have to trigger an experience when a device enters or exits the range of a beacon. In some instances, you may just want to collect data to generate real-world analytics and insights. A beacon’s range varies depending on the manufacturer, hardware settings and physical surroundings, but can typically be configured anywhere from two inches to 160 feet, creating a wide range of use cases for your cleaning or security business. Each beacon broadcasts a set of unique IDs which means a mobile app can tell them apart from each other.
Beacons come in many different forms and cost anywhere from $1-50 depending on signal range, battery life and other factors. They’re usually powered by a coin cell or AA battery. Some beacon manufacturers claim their beacons can last up to three years on a single lithium battery, however this depends on the power source, power settings and advertising interval of the beacon. Typically, a beacon is comprised of a surrounding case, battery, processor chip and Bluetooth radio. Some beacons contain additional sensors such as an accelerometer and heat sensor.
What is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)?
BLE is an intelligent and power-friendly version of Bluetooth wireless technology and exchanges data over short distances using radio transmissions. The power of BLE is its ability to work with an app on a smartphone, tablet or any other compatible mobile device. The technology itself is simple, secure and featured in billions of devices ranging from mobile phones and computers to medical devices and home entertainment products. It’s intended to replace the cables that connect devices, while maintaining high levels of security. BLE is one of the key technologies behind the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT)—a network of physical objects that can exchange data via the existing internet infrastructure.
What are the benefits?
- High degree of accuracy Beacon technology allows a mobile device to understand its exact position, even indoors where smartphones are typically not able to pick up GPS signals from satellites. This means beacon technology offers a high level of accuracy when compared to other geo-location technologies.
- Low impact on battery life Bluetooth technology is designed to have very low power consumption, which means beacon-powered apps have minimal impact on the device’s battery life. GPS on the other hand, demands a significant amount of power to run and significantly impacts a device’s battery life when in use.
- App engagement / wake up Mobile devices automatically wake up when they come within range of a beacon, even if the mobile app that’s listening is fully closed. This unique feature of beacons offers a powerful way to drive engagement with your mobile app at exactly the right time and place. It’s also a great way to drive repeat usage of your app.
- No internet connection required Mobile apps can pick up beacon signals without an internet connection and store data locally on the device.
Beacons are a great proximity trigger in areas where a stable internet connection isn’t available. One thing to note, typically an internet connection is required to trigger content like push notifications. However, there are ways around this such as developing local notifications and caching content within the app. It’s technically possible to run an entire beacon experience without an internet connection.
- Low cost of entry. Setting up and taking advantage of a beacon network is relatively low cost when compared to other technologies like Wi-Fi. Unless you’re deploying a large network of beacons, most of the costs are likely to be associated with the development of a beacon-enabled mobile app. If you already have an app, then the barriers to entry are even lower.
What do you need?
- Beacon-enabled mobile app
To use beacon technology for your cleaning or security business, you need a beacon-enabled mobile app, like Lighthouse. Lighthouse combines cloud, mobile and location technologies like beacons to drive better productivity, compliance and service quality from your distributed workforce.
- Network of deployed beacons
You need to purchase and deploy beacons to one or multiple physical locations. Once deployed, make sure your mobile app is listening for the universally unique identifiers (UUIDs) of the beacons in your network.
- Bluetooth switched on and enabled with relevant permissions
In addition to having Bluetooth enabled at the device level, there are two app-level permissions required to use beacon technology. These are:
• Push notifications
• Location services
- Management platform
Once you’ve deployed beacons and have an app listening for them, you need an easy way to manage content and assess performance of your beacon program. Using a solution like Lighthouse allows you to set up locations and zones, manage content, automate processes and view detailed analytics.