FAQ: IBeacon Short FAQ (2024) (US AND UK)

There’s a Long FAQ written two years ago about using iBeacons for presence, but some of the information is getting out of date and there’s a lot of conversation about specific projects, and I think it’s getting confusing. So I’m just putting this here to be a quick FAQ for those interested.

1. what I beacons are

An I beacon is a small Bluetooth device, usually battery powered, which does only one thing: broadcast its own ID so that nearby devices can hear it. That’s it.

There are a number of different brands available. As of the beginning of 2024, blue charm is pretty easy to find (you can buy it on Amazon) and reasonably priced at about $19 each. But you can use any kind which broadcasts the Apple Ibeacon standard. Don’t get one which only broadcasts the Eddystone standard: Google dropped support for that a couple of years ago and you won’t be able to use them for much.

at amazon


Blue charm does sell some of its models on Amazon UK:

(If you get a different brand, make sure it has its own app (or SDK, if you prefer to work from a laptop) for managing the iBeacon configuration. Some very inexpensive Chinese models are basically just hardware: they expect you to write your own programs to do anything with the device.)

2. Why use an IBeacon?

The most common reason is that you can create a much smaller detection zone than most other presence devices. Most iBeacons can be detected at three distances: immediate (just a few centimeters), near (about 3 meters), and far (about 40 m, although it varies by model)

I myself use them because I want the detection zone to be just the length of the wheelchair ramp in front of my house. I don’t want my door unlocking while I’m still on the bus half a block away.

Some people use them for a very small detection zone so, for example, they can tell if their keys are on the table in the entryway.

IBeacons are also useful for people who don’t have smart phones, like if you want to put one on a keychain for guests or on a child’s backpack, or on a dog’s leash for use by the dog walker.


There are two main ways to use them.

A) the IBeacon stays put, and your iPhone comes and goes. You want to trigger events when your iphone gets close to the ibeacon. This is the most common kind of use case and the easiest to set up. You will put the “receiving station“ app on your phone (more about that later), and then just trigger events when your phone comes within reach of the IBeacon.

If you don’t want to worry about changing batteries, this is a good use case for one of the USB powered IBeacons.

B) the IBeacon comes and goes, and you want to trigger events when it gets within range of a second device which stays at home and is plugged in. We’ll call this second device the receiving station device.


Typically the receiving station device is an old iPhone or iPad, but you can also build your own using a raspberry pi with a Bluetooth dongle or add it to home assistant running on a raspberry pi. The raspberry pi options are much more technically complicated to set up, so much so that I’m not going to go into the details in this short FAQ, but if you don’t already have an old iOS device to use, the raspberry pi option will be much less expensive than buying an additional iOS device.

4. receiving station apps

If your use case falls into group A, the IBeacon stays put and your phone comes and goes, you’ll just put the receiving station app on your phone. I recommend Geofency.

If your use case falls into Group B, the receiving station stays put, and the IBeacon comes and goes, your phone is irrelevant to the process. Instead, put Geofency on the receiving station device.

Geofency will recognize when the I Beacon and receiving station device are close to each other and can then send a Webhook.


you need to send the webhook to something that can then communicate with smartthings. As of December 2023, there are three popular options for this:

5a) SharpTools (pro tier). This offers the best smartthings integration. Easy to set up and use.

5b) IFTTT. You can see the discussion of this in the Long ibeacon FAQ. Some people seem to find it confusing to use. And my personal concern is I don’t know how much longer Ifttt will be in business as they seem to be losing their corporate customers. But it’s definitely an option.

iBeacons+iOS+SmartThings (UK) presence [updated in 2023]

5c) Tasker. If you’re using android, then Tasker is another option. See discussions else were in the forum about integrating Tasker with smartthings. It’s doable, but not particularly easy.


6) what should you do when the web hook is received?

That’s up to you. Many people turn on a virtual presence sensor or just a Virtual switch and then use that to trigger other events in smartthings. Some people keep it simpler and just use one ibeacon to trigger one SmartThings routine. So this part is really up to you.


Smartthings does not offer a direct integration for IBeacons. So if you do want to use one with smartthings, you will need two additional apps: a receiving station app to recognize when the IBeacon goes in and out of range (I recommend Geofency for this). And then another app/service to receive the webhook from the receiving station app and then tell smartthings to do something. SharpTools, IFTTT, and Tasker are all possible candidates for this.

7. Another alternative: make your own IBeacon and receiving station

If you have strong maker skills you can build your own devices. I don’t want to go into those details here, but here’s an example. I’m not recommending this because I don’t think it’s practical for most people, but if you do enjoy this type of DIY project, this should be enough to get you started.

DIY iBeacon and Beacon Scanner with Raspberry Pi and HM13 - Hackster.io

8. Another alternative: use ibeacons with Home Assistant

I don’t recommend starting with home assistant if you aren’t already using it: it requires a lot of time and technical skill. But if you are already using it, then it’s pretty easy to add IBeacons to it. In most cases the device you use as your home assistant server will also be your receiving station. Or you can set up a proxy device. Again, I don’t want to go into the details on this in this short FAQ, I just want to note that this option exists.


So that’s it. I’d like to keep this “how to” short and uncomplicated. Please feel free to post if you have additional devices or receiving station apps, or Webhook processing apps to recommend. But if you just have questions about how to set this up for yourself, then please start a new thread under projects so we can help you there and keep this thread from getting confusing for others. :sunglasses:


Other Kinds of Beacons/Tags

Ibeacons work well for the two kinds of use cases above particularly for those who have iOS devices, because tracking of ibeacons is included in iOS. Yeah, you need apps to do anything with the information, but the IBeacon is broadcasting its ID and you don’t have to do anything special with the IBeacon itself.

But it is based only on Bluetooth, and there are newer technologies and other kinds of beacons if you want to look in to those.

  1. UWB (ultra Wideband). These can give you much more precise tracking and can work with both android and iOS. Very cool, but right now you pretty much have to be a programmer to work with them. One of the original IBeacon companies, estimote, has pivoted to UWB beacons in order to handle more applications and more kinds of phones. You can get their developer kit which includes three beacons for about $100. Fun stuff to play with if you’re a maker type, but not really suitable yet for simple plug and play location triggers.


  1. phone-specific tags, including apple AirTags and Samsung Galaxy smarttags.

I know: you want to be able to trigger automations from these. Me, too. :wink: but at the time of this posting, for some complicated technical reasons which are too long to go into here, that functionality just isn’t available from either major brand unless you just use them as NFC tags and tap your phone to them. Or maybe push a button on them depending on the model. Disappointing, but it is what it is. These are “find a lost item when I am looking for it“ devices, not “activate an automation when I pass a Geoboundary“ devices. :man_shrugging:t2:

  1. NFC tags.

Speaking of NFC tags: these are super inexpensive (typically under one dollar) waferthin devices which have an ID code that your phone, or other NFC reader can recognize. (or maybe a webhook.) So if you’re willing to physically touch your phone on the NFC tag, you can definitely use these to trigger automations. Just make sure you get one that is “rewritable” so you can put a Webhook on it if you want. That will greatly simplify the integration to smartThings.

For example, you could have an NFC tag attached to your bicycle or motorcycle, then tap your phone to it when you get home and have Automations start running.

Is that easier than opening up your phone and using an app yourself? Maybe. It’s a matter of personal taste. Some people love NFC tags for triggering automations and have them all over their house. Other people just don’t see the point since you’ve got your phone in your hand anyway.

I personally don’t use them because I’m always looking for a hands-free option, but I have a roommate who loves them. Choice is good.

Apple Home can use NFC tags as a trigger through the shortcut option. I believe most people with android phones use Tasker, but there are other third-party NFC reader android apps as well. Basically, you want one that can transmit a Webhook, and then you’re back in the same process as with the IBeacons.

Here’s a great thread from the home assistant community on different ways that people there use NFC tags. Just remember that you have to physically touch your phone to the tag each time to trigger the events. (If you were using IBeacons instead, you would just have to get within range and then everything would happen automatically.)


  1. Zigbee arrival sensors. There were smartthings-branded versions of these up until 2020, but they weren’t picked up as part of the new hardware agreement with Aeotec, and they are really hard to find now. They tend to be one of those device classes that worked really well for some people, and not at all for others, often depending on local factors that were really hard to troubleshoot remotely. I suspect they just proved to be too much of a customer service headache for a mass-market product. I personally used to have some of these back in 2014 and 2015, but they were not reliable at my house, so that’s when I started exploring IBeacons as an alternative.