Developing Beacons with Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) Technology

Bluetooth beacons are taking off. They enable “proximity-aware applications” for customers, businesses, and industrial environments.

  • End customers benefit through instant coupons and tailored offerings based on where they are.
  • Businesses benefit through improved visibility to customer buying habits and increased loyalty.
  • Industrial companies benefit through improved asset monitoring and utilization. 

The possibilities are endless, and beacons are set to transform our world. But before they do…you should know that implementing them can be challenging. Putting beacons on a product, pushing their data into the cloud and then using it create value all represent new development frontiers for many of us.It’s not straightforward. Did you know that Bluetooth beacons are not, in fact, a Bluetooth standard? Bluetooth beacons are pseudo-standards running on Bluetooth’s low energy technology (previously known as Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE, or Bluetooth Smart), but they use proprietary beacon code beyond that. 

In this paper:

  • We examine beacon applications to help you brainstorm some of your own.
  • We provide a short history of Bluetooth and its derivatives, including Bluetooth low energy and beacons.
  • We cover the leading beacon pseudo-standards at a high level, and in detail in the Appendix.
  • We provide references to field-hardened example code and tools to develop and deploy it.
  • And we provide information on end-to-end solutions to get you started. 

To begin, once a beacon developer is ready to start, they need to focus on several key items.

  1. Select a widely-adopted, proven Bluetooth stack. Because beacons are new, there is room for FUD from new entrants. Buyer beware. Use a company that understands low-energy Bluetooth and has the market adoption to prove it.
  2. Select a company with proven software development tools. Software development is more than just an editor and debugger. It also needs to include mature example code for common use cases, scripting engines for common commands, and thoughtful APIs for ultimate migration from one standard revision to another. These tools will all work together to speed development.
  3. Select a company with good customer support. This goes hand-in-hand with a market-proven stack and software tools; if the selected company is market-proven, then they have support forums with hundreds of questions and answers on hardware and software, an adequate user base and support staff to answer new ones, a broad portfolio of product variants for different applications, and so on.
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