When it comes to indoor navigation and mobile advertising solutions, BLE beacons technology is rapidly gaining popularity. In previous posts, we discussed reasons to adopt and ways to implement beacon-based indoor navigation. In this blog post, we compare vendors offering beacons for commercial use.

There is a vast range of producers from all over the world, from enterprises to startups. BLE beacons vary in price and features. There are few chipset suppliers, so beacons manufacturers should deliver similar solutions. However, BLE beacons have a range of distinctive features that heavily impact both development time and total system price.

As a software development company, we need to be aware of what BLE beacons manufacturers can offer our clients. So, we created a detailed chart based on the data collected from vendors’ websites. Our aim: filter information important for buyers.

Because the chart below serves as a starting point for a short list of potential suppliers, our focus was on characteristics crucial for implementation of a context-based advertising solution or an indoor navigation system.

Overview:

Preliminary notes. The main challenges of the task were completeness and availability of information. We left some of the fields blank because the vendors’ websites lacked relevant information, usually because they did not consider the missing information to be their competitive edge. However, we continue to update this post as accurate information becomes available.

Beacons consist of four primary components which we detail below:

Beacons consist
The table contains the following information:

Name/beacon model. Beacons appear in alphabetical order. When vendors offer several models, we select the basic model.

Website. There is a link to either the official vendor site or to the marketplace particular beacons are sold.

Price. For our research, we took the price of a single beacon or the minimum dev kit. However, as with most products, the bigger the pack, the lower the single-unit price.

Size, mm (millimeter) / shape. For beacons, size seems the least important characteristic. What seems relevant is how inconspicuous a beacon can be on the wall and whether or not it suits a facility. Beacons are usually square; the Ø means diameter for round models.

Battery capacity, mAh (milliampere-hour). In theory, performance time of a beacon depends on its battery’s mAh. The bigger the battery capacity, the longer a beacon works; however, the lifetime of a battery depends on working conditions.

Beacons function from following types of cell batteries:
• Coin Lithium Ion cells 240 mAh (CR2032, small)
• Coin Lithium Ion cells 620 mAh (CR2450, medium)
• Coin Lithium Ion cells 1,000 mAh (CR2477, large)
• Alkaline AA
• Alkaline AAA

Transmission power, dBm (decibel-milliwatts). It determines the power ratio of the signal the BLE beacon sends.

approximate range

Transmission range This is how far the beacon can transmit a signal in theory. Practical rates are usually lower than stated maximum. Range is influenced by the transmission power.

Advertising interval. This parameter determines how often a beacon sends a signal. Usually, the default value is 100 ms (milliseconds) or 10 times per second. Respectively, 5000 ms means that one signal in five seconds is sent. The advertising interval and transmission range are crucial for battery life.

USB version. Even when BLE beacons are low-power-consuming devices, when on peak performance, they can deplete a battery relatively quickly. Manufacturers can grant one of three options for beacons:
1. USB adapter
2. USB dongle
3. USB-powered beacon [in a series]

Sensors. This is also an interesting option. Some vendors either equip their beacons with various sensors or offer them as an option. This applies to Arduino-based solutions which are used for smart houses, but they can also be used for indoor navigation (e.g., accelerometer).

SDK / Support of different protocols. Nothing is impossible but an SDK shortens development time and saves money. However, the SDK type is not always clear from the spec. By default, beacons use an iBeacon-based SDK which supports iOS and Android where services need to be registered. When a vendor offers other options, we list them in this column.

Country. The delivery time and taxes depend on a vendor’s location, so it might be profitable to buy a more expensive model but save on delivery and tax payments.

Note. Any helpful things that do not match with any category are listed here.

See comparison table

Name of beaconPrice for min. packForm factor/ size, lw ×hBattery / Capacity, mAhTrans-mission power, dBmTrans-mission range, mAdver-tising interval, msUSB versionSensorsSDK / SupportNote
ChinaAprilBeacon 202Upon request40 ×40 ×18Coin L-30/+4to 30600Available in another modelnoiOS/Android SDKVarious form factors available. Designed to work with Arduino
USABKON A1$ 30.00 / 160 ×36.5 ×8.75AAA × 2-30/+4100+100-1285nonoiOS/Android SDKWater proof
ItalyBlue-beacon Mini3 / € 59.0070 ×50 ×29Coin M-40/+4 with 4 dmb step30-150100 to 5000 with 100 ms stepUSB dongle, € 63.00noiBeaconEddystone supportSDK
AustraliaBluecats3 / € 59.99Round with cat’s ears Ø76 ×27.80AA × 230/60 (high/low RF)USB dongle (20/40 m trans. range)noOpen source Android/iOS SDK web platform for subscriptionBuyer’s logo is available as an option
UKBlueBar beacons1 / £ 20.99100 ×35 ×18Coin M-24/030-100Both power adapter and USB donglenoiBeacons/iOS SDKAccount with limitations
USADragonfly v. 2.01 / $ 29.9939 ×19 ×5.8Coin Sto 100Direct power via micro-USBnoiBeacons compatible Android/iOS SDK
SpainEasiBeacon3 / € 59.99Round2.7 ×2.7 ×0.7Coin S-40/4USB adapternoiOS / Android SDKCloud platform
Czech RepublicEMBC01Upon request starting from $ 18.25round30 ×10Coin S15100n/aEMBC02 comes with accelerometerAlt Beacom
30500
751000
PolandEstimote3 / $ 99Irregular formCoin L-20/+45-50100-2000Accelerometer and temperature available as optionsiBeacons/iOS SDKBattery not replaceable
USAGimbal series 101 / $ 5.0040 ×28 ×5.5Coin S-23/0to50Proximity Beacon U-Series 5temperatureiOS/Android SDKPlatform and Gimbal beacon manager app available
USAGimbal series 2186 ×77 ×25AA × 4
USAGelo1 / $ 35.00AAA × 2nonoiOS/Android SDKSuited for use Outdoors; easy integration to PhoneGap/Cordova
The NetherlandsGlimworm4 / € 99.00Coin M2 – 20 – 50100-7000 in 15 stepsCan be powered via a USB cableCan be extendedOpen source iOS/Android SDKWaterproofConfigura-tion app availableCan be branded
SpainiBKS 105Round Ø30.1 ×314 ×75iBKS USB for3 / $ 1-8
Chinai4 Pilot Beacon3 / $ 1-8Round 36 ×16Coin L200nonoConfig app available
USAKontakt3 / $ 81.00Coin L-30/+41-10.240nonoiOS/Android SDK
USAParticle1 / $ 20.0065 ×35 ×11Coin SnonoiOS / Android SDK
USARadBeacon Dot by Radius Network1 / $ 14.00Coin S-20/+45-50USB power supplynoiBeaconAltBeaconEddystone
Config app available
South KoreaRECO3 / $ 57.00Ø45 ×20Coin M-20/+4nonoiOS / Android SDK
Hong KongRedbear Beacon B12 / $ 22.00 eachPanel format25 ×70 ×18.3AAA × 3-23/+4 in five stepsto 50100-1000nonoSDK in beta as open source codeSuited for integration into other solutions (arduino)
USARoximity Model OUpon request26 ×10AAA × 360nonoiOS / Android SDKManager app available
GermanySensorberg iBKS 1023 / € 69.00Coin Snonoopen source iOS / Android SDKManage-ment platform available
USAsensortag1 / $ 29.00Coin S50notemperature, humidity, pressure sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer can be integratediOS / Android SDKEddystoneApp and Wiki available
USATwocanoes3 / $ 149.9965 ×80 ×26USB power adapternoAdministra-tion tools

Got an idea how you can use BLE beacons to boost your business? Ask for a quote!

Worthy of note: the end price might include additional costs like taxes, delivery, paid subscription, etc. Before clicking the “Buy” button, check out whether paying more for beacons ends up saving you money.
SDKs and cloud platforms are standard. But vendors provide them on different terms: an open source code or a ready-for-use platform. Which is preferable depends on needs of a specific service.In conclusion Obviously, there is never a final version for tables such as the one above. Changes occur daily (e.g., only minutes we completed, Kontakt changed the price from $84 to $81). Besides, vendors continually strive to improve the quality of their BLE beacons, add support of Eddystone, introduce new features, offer upgraded models, e.g., waterproof or equipped with various sensors, etc.