Now that we understand how beacons work and best practices for keeping them secure, here are some tips for getting the most out of your beacons.
You should consider support costs beyond initial beacon deployment. While battery powered devices may be attractive for easy initial deployment, battery replacement can drive up support costs. A large number of devices means that IT must monitor and replace batteries on an ongoing basis. Battery life is largely dependent on broadcast range and how often broadcasts happen. The better option is a powered beacon, as it does not have batteries which eliminates battery replacement costs. If battery power is required for a beacon deployment, do not depend on best-case estimates from vendors when evaluating battery life. Instead, be sure to test the battery life with the production units and select a beacon with an appropriate battery capacity. Make sure that you test when the beacon is a mode that is within the iBeacon spec. Many vendors will specify battery life with the beacon transmitting at a much lower rate, which can cause issues with iOS.
Since user experience with iBeacon is highly dependent on when the beacon is discovered when entering an area, adjust the power level of the beacon to match the environment and periodically test the user experience in the field.
Apple provides simple and powerful hooks that developers can integrate into their apps to iBeacon-enable them. Beacons should be usable without a specific vendor’s SDK for iBeacon-enabling a customer’s app.
So what’s next for beacons?
In just a short time, we have seen a huge amount of interest in iBeacon. It’s a fast-paced, exciting space with so much potential. iBeacons provide a great way to enhance user interaction based on micro-location. As both Bluetooth LE and iBeacon gain a market foothold, iBeacon solutions will become more common. I expect iBeacon to evolve over time, and see more native support on other platforms such as Android and Windows Phone. Most platforms support Bluetooth LE, but having the hooks for iBeacon in the core operating system is crucial for widespread adoption. Personally, I would like to see the ability to cryptographically sign the advertisement packets so the receiver could verify the identity of the sender. This would increase the advertising information length, so may not be technically feasible with the current standard. Providing a mechanism to verify the authenticity of the advertisement would open up new areas of use.
What do you expect to see from beacons in the future?
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