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.
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:
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.
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.
|Name of beacon||Price for min. pack||Form factor/ size, lw ×h||Battery / Capacity, mAh||Trans-mission power, dBm||Trans-mission range, m||Adver-tising interval, ms||USB version||Sensors||SDK / Support||Note|
|AprilBeacon 202||Upon request||40 ×40 ×18||Coin L||-30/+4||to 30||600||Available in another model||no||iOS/Android SDK||Various form factors available. Designed to work with Arduino|
|BKON A1||$ 30.00 / 1||60 ×36.5 ×8.75||AAA × 2||-30/+4||100+||100-1285||no||no||iOS/Android SDK||Water proof|
|Blue-beacon Mini||3 / € 59.00||70 ×50 ×29||Coin M||-40/+4 with 4 dmb step||30-150||100 to 5000 with 100 ms step||USB dongle, € 63.00||no||iBeaconEddystone supportSDK|
|Bluecats||3 / € 59.99||Round with cat’s ears Ø76 ×27.80||AA × 2||30/60 (high/low RF)||USB dongle (20/40 m trans. range)||no||Open source Android/iOS SDK web platform for subscription||Buyer’s logo is available as an option|
|BlueBar beacons||1 / £ 20.99||100 ×35 ×18||Coin M||-24/0||30-100||Both power adapter and USB dongle||no||iBeacons/iOS SDK||Account with limitations|
|Dragonfly v. 2.0||1 / $ 29.99||39 ×19 ×5.8||Coin S||to 100||Direct power via micro-USB||no||iBeacons compatible Android/iOS SDK|
|EasiBeacon||3 / € 59.99||Round2.7 ×2.7 ×0.7||Coin S||-40/4||USB adapter||no||iOS / Android SDK||Cloud platform|
|EMBC01||Upon request starting from $ 18.25||round30 ×10||Coin S||15||100||n/a||EMBC02 comes with accelerometer||Alt Beacom|
|Estimote||3 / $ 99||Irregular form||Coin L||-20/+4||5-50||100-2000||Accelerometer and temperature available as options||iBeacons/iOS SDK||Battery not replaceable|
|Gimbal series 10||1 / $ 5.00||40 ×28 ×5.5||Coin S||-23/0||to50||Proximity Beacon U-Series 5||temperature||iOS/Android SDK||Platform and Gimbal beacon manager app available|
|Gimbal series 21||86 ×77 ×25||AA × 4|
|Gelo||1 / $ 35.00||AAA × 2||no||no||iOS/Android SDK||Suited for use Outdoors; easy integration to PhoneGap/Cordova|
|Glimworm||4 / € 99.00||Coin M||2 – 20 – 50||100-7000 in 15 steps||Can be powered via a USB cable||Can be extended||Open source iOS/Android SDK||WaterproofConfigura-tion app availableCan be branded|
|iBKS 105||Round Ø30.1 ×314 ×75||iBKS USB for||3 / $ 1-8|
|i4 Pilot Beacon||3 / $ 1-8||Round 36 ×16||Coin L||200||no||no||Config app available|
|Kontakt||3 / $ 81.00||Coin L||-30/+4||1-10.240||no||no||iOS/Android SDK|
|Particle||1 / $ 20.00||65 ×35 ×11||Coin S||no||no||iOS / Android SDK|
|RadBeacon Dot by Radius Network||1 / $ 14.00||Coin S||-20/+4||5-50||USB power supply||no||iBeaconAltBeaconEddystone|
Config app available
|RECO||3 / $ 57.00||Ø45 ×20||Coin M||-20/+4||no||no||iOS / Android SDK|
|Redbear Beacon B1||2 / $ 22.00 each||Panel format25 ×70 ×18.3||AAA × 3||-23/+4 in five steps||to 50||100-1000||no||no||SDK in beta as open source code||Suited for integration into other solutions (arduino)|
|Roximity Model O||Upon request||26 ×10||AAA × 3||60||no||no||iOS / Android SDK||Manager app available|
|Sensorberg iBKS 102||3 / € 69.00||Coin S||no||no||open source iOS / Android SDK||Manage-ment platform available|
|sensortag||1 / $ 29.00||Coin S||50||no||temperature, humidity, pressure sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer can be integrated||iOS / Android SDKEddystone||App and Wiki available|
|Twocanoes||3 / $ 149.99||65 ×80 ×26||USB power adapter||no||Administra-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.