Bluetooth Low Energy and indoor connectivity

Posted on September 19, 2013


I am mentioning this because Apple has added support for Buetooth Low Energy (BLE) and called it iBeacon

If you google this you’ll see lots of good articles about what BLE and iBeacon are so I’ll just be brief.
Bluetooth low energy is what it sounds like,  a form of bluetooth that does not consume much radio energy, and as a part of the cost, it is designed to only send small amounts of data.  So no streaming video,  but an alarm message from a window sensor, a you have a message from phone to watch  … all good.
iBeacon is a system that allows BLE stations to send things to the devices that wander into it’s range. (prolly less than 50 meters).  This is a seamless transfer,  much like NFC is.
So you can guess the uses,  indoor location eg, your in a shop, a meeting room, or what ever.  We need indoor navigation,  and this could just work.
then there is the ability to transfer data in a more intimate space (turn down the radio on the BLE transmitter) and you oculd have a URL for more details on a museum exhibit, or a car on the show room etc.
Of course there is also a lot of talk about sending coupons and offers to folks wandering past.  Personally I think that is a bit of a dystopia, and folks are likely to turn it off.  Otherwise going down the hight street, of in a mall you could be inundated with offers, not good.  You’d need a filter of some kind.
If you have a lot of sensors then you could use BLE to tie them all together,  maybe also mesh them.  Could replace ZigBee or enhance it.
Of course IBM have a good protocol for this transfer of small packets of data called MQTT, so I feel I have to mention it.
However BLE is looking like it is a good solution to the issue of indoor navigation, and alerting, you’d still use the wifi / mobile networks as the main data / voice connections.
Some folks are talking about BLE replacing NFC,  and I don’t see that.  Yes you could exchange security tokens to effect a payment,  but the wide range is an issue.  I think the very fact that NFC is 4 centimeters distance is it’s big plus.
Anyway … if this takes off then we will have a neat solution regarding how to broadcast and narrowcast data to devices while they are within a defined zones, indoors or out, and as you’ve read this will open up our mobile devices to more data regarding the world around us.
Posted in: Architecture, M2M, mobile