How well do beacons work? (2018)

Have you read the following thread? It covers most of the available options.

Thanks for the additional information. That definitely puts it into perspective.

One final question. Do you know of any similar apps to Beecon+ for Android? I have seen countless apps which allow android devices to detect ibeacons, but nothing that allows the user to then take that RSSI distance and use it for anything.

Android doesn’t work the same way with iBeacons because the receiving station apps won’t run in the background. But that’s exactly why google introduce their own version of beacons, called Eddystone. Many of the popular beacon manufacturers, including Radius Networks, put out devices that can do either protocol.

RadBeacon X4 is an all-weather, long-life Bluetooth Smart™ proximity multi-beacon using iBeacon™, AltBeacon™, and Eddystone™ technology, including Physical Web™ and Eddystone EID.

So check with the forums for the beacons that you purchased and see how people are using them with android.

https://developer.radiusnetworks.com/2015/07/14/introducing-eddystone.html

As I have Mentioned before, at this point most of the beacon manufacturers provide SDKs which allows you to write your own receiving station app Pretty easily, which is why You don’t see many third-party apps anymore.

What I did a while back was use Node-Red on a raspberry-pi to look for specific BLE ids, and map them to specific (virtual) presence sensors using the MQTT/Smartthings integration.

Works great!

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JD,

I am still messing around with IBeacons and having some trouble that I hope you can assist with.

I am trying to use IBeacons for presence sensing as the GPS alternatives on cell phones does not work very reliably in my area. I purchased two iBeacons to place on my girlfriends and my key chains.

I am using the Beecon+ app as the receiver, however, I am having trouble getting it to monitor two beacons simultaneously. I have created two regions (one for myself and one for my GF) and it says that both regions are being monitored in the background; however, only one beacons signal is ever shown at a time.

Am I defining my regions incorrectly or is the Beecon+ app not able to monitor more than one signal at a time?

That particular set up would confuse it, because you’re not really supposed to have overlapping regions. I think you would need to have two receiving station devices each with their own copy of beecon plus, each monitoring just one Beacon, and then it should work fine.

Remember that the design assumption for IBeacons is that the beacons are stationary and the receiving station device is a mobile phone that is moving around.

We’re using it in reverse by having the receiving station device stay in one location and the Beacon move around, but we can’t really change the underlying concept.

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JD,

Thanks for the quick reply! That was the same conclusion I just came up with as well. Using your information about the normal use of Ibeacons I decided to use her Iphone as a second receiving station and use the Ibeacon as the stationary object inside the house. It should allow the presence detection to work, the only thing I am worried about is the Beecon+ app battery drain on her phone.

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JD,

You have been a great source of information for Ibeacons thus far. I have an additional question you may be able to assist with. I had a working presence detection setup with an old Iphone as the receiving station using the beecon app and a beacon on my key chain. It worked from about the end of September until now. For some reason the beecon app will only briefly detect my ibeacon as being in range then immediately detect that it is out of range (even when the beacon is right next to the receiver). I have re configured the Beecon app to see if that would alleviate the issues but it hasn’t.

Any thoughts on what could be causing the beacon to be detected as in range for a couple seconds then immediately be detected as out of range?

The two most common reasons would be dying battery on the IBeacon Or some kind of local interference (typically from Wi-Fi, but possibly from zigbee).

Have you added any apps to the receiving station device?

The beacon itself is a Radbeacon. Using their app for settings on the beacon it indicates the battery is fine. (Could potentially be wrong).

Don’t think it is an interference issue. No new devices have been added in the home and the phone it self solely acts as a receiving station. The device is an old iphone that isn’t used for anything else. It may have potentially automatically undergone an update though.

I just tried a new battery and it appears to be staying in range. Will continue to test the beacon being received. Just out of curiosity what is the average battery life you see out of beacons? I know it will be dependent on the settings on the beacon (transmitting power and frequency). It seems mine lasted about 2 months.

Yeah, it’s all about the settings. I find RAD beacons typically last 2 to 3 months. Estimotes last much longer, but are more expensive.

Thank you again for the assistance. Now I know that I will have to anticipate a change of batteries approximately every 2 months!

Do you have the RadBeacon dot?

https://www.radiusnetworks.com/radbeacon/specs/dot/

In contrast, the estimotes have a battery life spec’d at 3 to 5 years depending on the model. ( sometimes things are cheap for a reason. :wink: )

Yes. I carry that on my key chain and have the phone set up as a stationary device to trigger my presence for Smartthings. I had reliability trouble using the native ST option, the webcore sensor and Life360.

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True, overtime it may even be cheaper to buy an estimote based on the frequency of battery changes associated with the Rad beacons.

The only thing I can see is that the Estimote is not as portable as the Rad beacon. I could try to place one in my car and use that as a proximity sensor but I do not think that is as reliable as having it on my keys.

If I need just basic functionality (to allow me to trigger IFTTT with Webhooks) can I purchase just the Beecon, not the Beecon+ ? Beecon is just 4$. As you said the developer stopped developing, so the investment is a risk

I would recommend trying Geofency instead. It’s been kept up-to-date.

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Finally pulled the trigger on this project and bought some iBeacons. So far no direct integration with SmartThings (still wish @obycode would reconsider updating BeaconThings), but using an app called PushCuts for iOS that’s an Siri Shortcuts development app that allows using Shortcuts, webhooks or other online services such as Zapier. I’ve got a beacon device added to SmartThings via existing handler code and looking for the simplest way to change status of the beacon since beacons can act as presence sensors. Any thoughts @JDRoberts?

Sorry, I’m confused by the question. The iBeacon itself is always on.

When Using beacons for presence, most people create a virtual presence sensor (abbreviated VPS) which also has the “switch” capability so you can turn it on and off in SmartThings.

So you turn the VPS on when you are in range of the beacon and off when you leave the region. This causes the VPS to register to ST as “Home” or “away.” But the beacon itself is always on.

This is covered in the presence FAQ. See post 5 for a link to the VPS code.