beacons enable high level solutions based around proximity detection. Imagine your door unlocking for you!
what is indoor proximity? For some it's a bit of a vague catch all for rapidly advancing bluetooth technology. We've condensed three important facets of proximity detection for quick reading:
- Hardware (beacons)
- Middleware (API's, ERP Apps, etc.)
- Application layers (end product)
some examples of hardware - a plug, an outlet, a keychain, and a card, all enabled with bluetooth beacon protocols.
Indoor Proximity begins with hardware. It broadcasts a signal that serves as a point of reference from which device can determine how close they are to something else. For example, a student's smartphone in proximity to a Bluetooth beacon in a classroom can automatically mark attendance of that student based on the amount of time the student in the classroom (or more accurately, in proximity to the beacon in the classroom.)
Outdoor localization depends on hardware GPS satellites orbiting the earth. Indoor proximity devices include mobile phones, WiFi access points, or Bluetooth beacons.
The shorthand: Middleware (i.e., APIs) provides proximity data (from hardware) to applications and software that enterprises build for their end users.
For example, Google Maps SDK allows apps like Uber to retrieve your phone's location efficiently without hiring any rocket science engineers to service GPS satellites.
Apps that enable high level solutions with proximity data will revolution enterprise logistics.
The last layer is the application layer. These are the apps we know and love: Uber, Lyft, Shopular, RetailMeNot, etc. These apps rely on outdoor GPS tech and function quite well today, but they could be better with indoor proximity awareness. We’ve all had the i-can’t-find-you Uber experience. This is a function of poor GPS reception. (Unfortunately, however, Uber drivers bear an unreasonable portion of the blame when this occurs.)
At BeaconGrid, we're working on the hardware and middleware proximity layer to address many of these issues, which we hope will result in better apps and new applications that frankly don't exist today.
The Current State of Proximity Detection
There have been several attempts to break the indoor proximity threshold (not to be confused with indoor positioning), but none have achieved scale due in large part to timing -- before Apple adopted iBeacon, or Google introduced Eddystone, and everyone owned a mobile device.
The current attempt to solve proximity at scale involves installing expensive hardware within buildings to function as fixed proximity reference points to enhance location-based systems and applications.
For example, WiFi access points and battery-powered beacons are currently being used to improve indoor proximity and location awareness of mobile devices.
Several problems exist with this approach:
WiFi is foreign to building infrastructure. Meaning not all buildings will have reliable WiFi access points. Even if they did, one would need the entire layout of every building to make sense of WiFi fingerprinting. Moreover, the natural physical placement of WiFi APs makes them unideal for the intended purpose of micro-geofencing.
Battery-powered beacons die. Using these types of beacons for enterprise proximity is like using battery-powered GPS satellites for localization. (In case you’re wondering, GPS satellites are solar powered; but do have battery backups.) Perhaps of worthier note is that battery-powered beacons are portable. This means the physical location of the beacons can change, resulting in contaminated reference or proximity data.
Our patented BeaconOutlets are organic to building infrastructure, fixed, and AC-powered. In other words, they serve as an exemplary embodiment on which to replicate traditional GPS reference signals at a time when mobile devices are prevalent and tuned in to listen for such signals.
editor's note: this article has been updated for accuracy and clarity.