Positioning via iBeacon: Beacons are signal transmitters that send signals at short intervals and use the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio standard to transmit these signals. Their range is between 30 and 100 metres. As a rough rule of thumb, an area of about 100 square meters can be covered with three beacons. However, this rule can vary greatly due to the structural conditions. However, the Bluetooth 5.0 version released in December 2016 already promises four times the range, twice the data throughput and eight times the transmission capacity of the previous version – with the same power consumption. iBeacons are “stupid” devices, but despite their limited functionality they can be used in a wide variety of applications. They consist of a transmitter unit and – unless they are installed in carrier devices such as LED lamps with their own power supply – a more or less large battery. They only send information about their own identity. The unique fingerprint of each Beacon is made up of the values UUID, Major ID and Minor ID. The UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) is a standard identifier commonly used in software development. With the help of the UUID all beacons of a network can be identified. For example, under the UUID, all beacons are grouped under the control of a particular shopping center operator. The major ID then designates all beacons within a specific shopping center, the minor ID a specific beacon within the shopping center. So-called crypto beacons can send their signal in encrypted form. Crypto beacons encrypt their Major and Minor IDs based on rolling key technology and thus offer increased security against attacks on the infrastructure. The more sensitive the environment, for example in hospitals, encryption is all the more important. Crypto encrypts the actual major and minor IDs of a beacon so that they are no longer recognizable when the beacon is scanned. Someone who scans a beacon encrypted by cryptography only sees a random combination of Major and Minor ID that does not correspond to the actual Major and Minor ID and does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the associated installation.
Due to their robustness, easy maintenance and low price, Beacons have established themselves as the standard for location-based services. Beacon technology can also be combined with most other technologies and reinforce their specific advantages or compensate for disadvantages, for example in combination with VLC.
It is important to understand that the iBeacon itself only serves to determine the position at which the action is to be triggered – it itself does not send any content. Thus, the iBeacon stands in contrast to the Eddystone Beacon introduced by Google in 2015, which makes it possible to send a URL and is the key to the so-called Physical Web.