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A beacon is a small Bluetooth radio transmitter. It's kind of like a lighthouse: it repeatedly transmits a single signal that other devices can see. What They Are, How They Work, And Why Apple's iBeacon Technology Is Ahead Of The Pack. Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop — that use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. GPS is now widely used for tracking assets (themselves) outside or inside a room. Beacons are used for tracking everything in between. The beacons act with up to a 100-meter range as a linking bridge that helps to provide total tracking rather than controlling using indoor/outdoor devices. Price varies depending on quantity typically. For a single beacon the average price is US$25. For quantities over 1000, you can expect to pay around US$15-17 per beacon. Please do make sure you buy beacons that are compatible with the multiple beacon protocols (iBeacon, AltBeacon and Eddystone).

What do they look like?

Beacons are very small, simple devices. If you crack one open, you won’t find thirty motherboards and oodles of wires. You’ll find a CPU, radio, and batteries. Beacons often use small lithium chip batteries (smaller and more powerful than AA batteries) or run via connected power like USB plugs. They come in different shapes and colors, may include accelerometers, temperature sensors, or unique add-ons but all of them have one thing in common—they transmit a signal.

What is a beacon actually transmitting?

It’s not throwing just any old message into the air. It’s transmitting a unique ID number that tells a listening device which beacon it’s next to.

How can I interact with beacons?

For example, when a shopping mall installs beacons in their shop, all of the beacons will have certain IDs, registered in their dedicated app. This means a smartphone app can immediately recognize that the incoming ID is important and that it’s from that particular mall. The ID, however, has little meaning on its own; it’s entirely up to an app or other program to recognize what it means. What happens next? That depends on what the owner has programmed it to do. One code could trigger the app to send a coupon. Another could offer navigation services. The possibilities are nearly endless. All the beacon has to do is connect your exact location to the app, and the rest is up to the program.

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