Beacon FAQ

What are beacons?

Beacons

Beacons, or iBeacons, are small electronic devices which emit a bluetooth signal which most mobile devices can recognise.

The beacons we use for triggering in Echoes are the simplest type - proximity beacons.

They can be used to trigger content in a walk on the Echoes app when within range. Each beacon can trigger a single zone, and can be reused for different walks, so the same beacon can trigger a different zone in a new walk.

This type of beacon is the easiest and quickest way to set up an indoor experience.

Great, how do I get started?

Purchase some beacons

Make sure you purchase beacons which are iBeacon compatible. In the UK we recommend Beacon Zone. Otherwise you can search for 'BLE Beacons' or 'iBeacons' and try to find a local supplier.

Setting the settings

Beacons usually come with their own app to program them. Often they will work out of the box, but sometimes you will need to tweak the settings or work out whey they're not working.

The principal settings on the beacon are:

  • UUID - a long string of numbers and letters. UUIDs are in the form of 8 characters, 3 sets of 4 characters, and 12 characters. e.g. eb3fd9fb-6446-4751-8a4e-28598b88ef89 - you might find it easier to set this to something more memorable. Note that all the beacons in a space can have the same UUID but unique major and minor ids.
  • Major ID - a single number e.g. 3
  • Minor ID - a single number e.g. 7

There are likely to be a number of different 'strength' settings which will affect how easy it is to detect the beacon:

  • Interval. This controls how often the beacon broadcasts a signal. This will affect how quickly devices detect the beacon, and can make a massive difference. Try setting it to somewhere between 10ms and 50ms. Bear in mind 10ms will use up the battery approximately 5 times faster than at 50ms.
  • Transmit power. Sometimes this is an arbitrary value, and it's usually best to leave at its factory setting. Just make sure it's above 0. Bear in mind this may affect the trigger distance, and the battery life.
  • Strength at 1m. Again, make sure this is above 0.

Usage

Once you've installed your beacon, try detecting it with a beacon detector on iOS and/or android.

You can then use those values (UUID, major and minor ids) to input into the Echoes Creator in the Echo details section.

The proximity distance corresponds to the distance reported in the scanner apps although the values reported are never accurate and may well differ between iOS and android (and various android devices). It should be a rule of thumb.

Tips and troubleshooting

  • Beacons emit in all directions. Placing one on the floor may result in triggering on the floor below. There are various methods for controlling direction, but you can try placing them on tin foil to 'direct' the signal.
  • Stone, museum glass, metal, affect and block the beacon signals in different ways.
  • Make sure you can detect the beacon using the scanning apps.
  • Make sure the distance shown is positive (-1 won't trigger anything).
  • If you're adjusting the values in the Creator for trigger distance, you'll need to make sure you refresh the walk completely in the app to get the new values.
  • If the beacon is triggering through floors, try placing them higher (or lower), or using tin foil.

Having an idea and unsure how to get it off the ground?

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