Aruba Beacons: Answers to the Basics

By Trent Fierro, Blog Contributor
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Even though they're small, beacons can help you find your next burger (even if it is vegetarian), or the doctor in that super big hospital with all of the corridors and hallways. It's a great time to be in the mobile space! As the popularity of the Aruba Beacons takes off, more of you are asking for help with the learning curve.  So here's a basic primer. #putabeacononit

When used with the Meridian mobile app platform, Aruba Beacons easily enable the use of location services and proximity based notifications. In essence, they are small, low power wireless transmitters that broadcast signals at 2.4G-hz, at regular intervals. We support iOS and Android devices running Meridian-powered apps.

The Aruba Beacon family

Beacons come in four flavors that can be mixed and matched. There's the traditional 4 yr battery-powered standalone beacon, the USB version that can be plugged into TV's and other USB-enabled devices like our older APs, the beacon in the Aruba Sensor, and beacons that are embedded in over 10+ of today's Aruba Access Point series.

Battery power - Only the standalone beacon requires a battery. Expected battery life is in the vicinity of 4 years, but we're seeing them last a little longer. Batteries can be replaced or you can opt to replace the entire beacon. Your choice based on labor cost, time, etc. The rest of the beacons receive power from the device that they sit in.

Management – The beacons in the Access Points and Aruba Sensor can also be used to pull data from the others to see power levels, battery life, etc. Our deployment app and the Meridian platform also provide the ability abilty to place and later easily find where the beacons were installed within a location.

Location versus proximity use

When deploying beacons for proximity notifications or wayfinding, you need separate beacons for each use case. Two main reasons - battery life optimization and power levels. Wayfinding beacons are designed such that the power level needs to be the same. Power level for proximity beacons is configurable per beacon. FYI - the proximity beacon is set to communicate an offer or data via a message. Think in-store offers or information about a specific art exhibit in a museum.

Location needs three – In order to provide an accurate experience BLE-enabled mobile devices can receive signals from more than one Aruba Beacon at the same time. If multiple signals are within range, devices can calculate the distance to each Aruba Beacon through trilateration and use this data to identify the device location. Proximity only needs a single Beacon as the goal is trigger a notification once someone gets within range.

Placement and power

Proximity - Beacons are placed near what you're trying to promote. You can use more than one if needed. In fact, an iOS enabled mobile device can process close to 20 separate signals.

Location – There are some "rules-of-thumb" for how far the beacons should be placed apart from each other. In a lot of scenarios, 30 feet apart works. but it really depends on the venue as no two venues look the same. Consult with Aruba or your installation partner for proper guidance.