What is a beacon?

It’s a small computer. Its 32-bit ARM® Cortex CPU is accompanied by accelerometer, temperature sensor, and what is most important—2.4 GHz radio using Bluetooth 4.0 Smart, also known as BLE or Bluetooth low energy. You can think about the beacon as a small lighthouse. But instead of light, it uses radio waves, and instead of ships, it alerts smartphones of its presence. Estimote Beacons have a range of up to 200 meters. Phones or other smart devices can pick up the beacon’s signal and estimate the distance by measuring received signal strength (RSSI).

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And because Bluetooth Smart doesn’t require pairing, a phone can listen to many beacons at the same time. This unlocks more opportunities. As an example of how beacons can be used, when a customer is in a store a beacon in that location can communicate with the store’s app on the customer’s phone to display special offers or additional information for specific products or services the company is currently offering. Apple currently uses iBeacons in its stores, Facebook has started offering “Place Tips” to users that rely on beacons in various spots in New York City, and enterprises are beginning to add beacons to help improve workplace efficiency and increase productivity.