What is an iBeacon?
iBeacon is the Apple Trademark for an indoor positioning system that Apple Inc. calls “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence. The technology enables an iOS device or other hardware to send push notifications to iOS devices in close proximity. Android operating systemdevices can receive iBeacon advertisements but cannot emit iBeacon advertisements (ie. central role only).
The iBeacon works on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), also known as Bluetooth Smart. BLE can also be found on Bluetooth 4.0 devices that support dual mode. One potential application is a location-aware, context-aware, pervasive small wireless sensor beacon that could pinpoint users’ location in a store: iBeacons could send notifications of items nearby that are on sale or items customers may be looking for, and it could enable payments at the point of sale (POS) where customers don’t need to remove their wallets or cards to make payments. It could be a possible Near Field Communication (NFC) competitor.
It uses Bluetooth low energy Proximity sensing to transmit a Universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system that can be turned into a physical location or trigger an action on the device such as a Check-in on social media or a push notification.
Various vendors have made hardware iBeacons that come in a variety of form factors. This includes small coin cell and AA powered devices, USB sticks, and software versions using Bluetooth 4.0 capable USB dongles.
Think iBeacon technology only works with Apple devices? Not anymore.
With Radius Networks’ Android Beacon Service library, you can make Android versions of your iOS apps that use iBeacon technology, or come up with new Android-only creations. Best of all, the library is available for FREE!
Proximity beacons are small hardware devices that send out Low Energy Bluetooth signals with unique identifiers. These are useful for building mobile apps that can “see” the beacons, and approximate how far they are away, up to a hundred feet or so. Apple came up with the technology as part of iOS7, which natively contains APIs to interact with them.
What Does This Library Do?
It allows Android devices to use iBeacon technology much like iOS devices do. An app can request to get notifications when one or more proximity beacons appear or disappear. An app can also request to get a ranging update from one or more beacons at a frequency of 1Hz. The iBeacon Locate App in the Google Play store demonstrates these capabilities.
How Do I Get a Beacon?
Radius Networks offers many options.
You can buy our Beacon Development Kit that includes everything you need to get started. If you have a Mac, our MacBeacon application will turn your computer into a proximity beacon with iBeacon™ technology. Radius Networks also sells active beacons suitable for deployment. For testing purposes, a beacon can be made out of an any iOS7 device that supports Low Energy Bluetooth using Radius Networks’ free iBeacon Locate app . Unfortunately, it is not possible to make an proximity beacon out of an Android device, because the Android Bluetooth LE APIs do not support the peripheral mode needed to send advertisement packets. Fortunately, Radius Radius Networks provides a free Linux virtual machine that when paired with a cheap Bluetooth LE dongle, acts as a proximity beacon.
How Do Beacon act in Android device ?
Android devices with BluetoothLE can see iBeacons but not act as iBeacons, because Android devices does not support peripheral mode. (Samsung Android devices may be an exception as they contain proprietary SDK that allows this, but it would require custom software. EDIT: Samsung devices also cannot act as iBeacons.
Normally, iBeacon technologies are not intended for phones to see other phones. But you could do what you suggest on iOS by making a custom app that makes phones act as an iBeacon and look for other iBeacons around them. This would allow anybody with the app to see others with the same app nearby. All phones would need Bluetooth turned on. Doing this on Android would currently only be possible with Samsung devices.
A mobile device, both Android or iOS, must have an app installed to take advantage of iBeacons. Neither operating system currently does anything when it sees an iBeacon unless an app is installed that is specifically programmed to do something. So customers who arrive in a store must have an app already installed or they cannot interact with iBeacons.