Indoor Positioning, Tracking and Indoor Navigation with Beacons

Indoor navigation with beacons (the most common types are the iBeacon and Eddystone) offer decisive advantages for projects that are dependent on high accuracy and want to include Apple devices. Beacons are typically transmitters in client-based methods. For example, they enable indoor navigation for airline passengers using the app - cross-platform and with an accuracy of up to 1 meter. The server-based beacon tracking of persons or goods is only possible with third-party components (e.g. infsoft Locator Node, Cisco, Aruba).

When you use beacons for indoor navigation, temporary installations, e.g. for exhibitions and in unusual locations are also possible. Mounting the Beacons is simple and extremely flexible. The housing is available in different colors so that devices can be installed discreetly. The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology enables battery operation over two to eight years without having to access an external power supply. Beacons can also be connected to the power supply or use the power supply from the lighting. Paper-thin beacons with a printed battery are ideal for very discreet and space-saving installations, for example, on ISO cards or on advertising materials. They have a battery life of three to four days. The "Beacon Alive" management platform integrated into infsoft systems make beacon management and monitoring easy.

Functionality of Indoor Navigation with Beacons

Indoor Positioning with Beacons

Bluetooth beacons are small radio transmitters that send out signals in a radius of 10-30 meters (interior spaces). The advantages of beacons are obvious: They are cost-effective (three to thirty euros), can be installed with minimal effort, determine a position accurately up to 1 meter and are supported by many operating systems and devices. The new BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) standard is also very energy efficient. Beacons can be used for both client-based as well as server-based applications. With beacons it is possible to detect the current floor.

infsoft does not manufacture the beacons itself, but can certainly put you in contact with the corresponding providers. You can use any beacons from your preferred manufacturer with our solutions. 

Parameterization and Interferences of Beacons

Infographic: IDs of Beacons (UUID, Major, Minor)
Beacons have specific indicators that can be used for allocation, differentiation and parameterization. For iBeacons, these include UUID (association to a superordinate group, e.g. "Frankfurt Airport"), Major (association to a specific group, e.g. "Terminal 1"), Minor (identification of several beacons, e.g. "Beacon #10"), TX Power (signal strength) and transmission interval.

Eddystone beacons have several "frame types" that differentiate them from the iBeacon: Eddystone UUID: (16-digit ID that indicates the group association and identity of an individual beacon), Eddystone URL (freely selectable URL) and Eddystone TLM (current status of the beacon).

Frequency Hopping - Interferences WLAN Bluetooth

Bluetooth beacons normally do not affect other radio networks (interference) and they also do not interfere with medical devices. However, if you install beacons in a space with lots of WiFi signals (for example, at a trade show), then interference can occur because BLE and WiFi share the same frequency range (2.4 GHz). The problem can be easily avoided here by not using channels 2, 3, 4, 13 and 14 when configuring the WiFi and using 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 instead. Bluetooth uses the remaining available channels to capacity in a uniform manner (frequency hopping). Advertising channels that are used for positioning are marked in yellow in the graphic. The blue-colored channels are reserved for additional functions such as a temperature sensor.

There are attenuations in the signal dispersion within buildings for BLE beacons. Corresponding characteristics are taken into account when installing and during parameterization.

Low attenuation properties:
Wood, synthetic materials, glass
Medium attenuation properties: Brick, marble
High attenuation properties: Plaster, concrete, coated glass surfaces (bulletproof versions, etc.)
Extremely high attenuation properties: Metal, water (this includes people and groups of people)

Use Cases

Client based solutions which work with beacons require an app on the user’s smartphone. This makes a feedback channel possible which can be used to send push notifications and realize indoor navigation applications. infsoft has installed a typical client based solution at Zurich main railway station. There are 1200 beacons in an area of about 370,000 square meters. The accuracy is about 2-3 meters. Travelers profit from better navigation and a lot of useful information and offerings via app. Read more about indoor navigation at Zurich main railway station. 

There are multiple application areas, for example at airports, trade fairs, in hospitals, in retail and employee apps.

Server based solutions which work with beacons (beacon tracking), for example make it possible to find people and objects in large industry buildings (personnel tracking/evacuation), the analysis of itineraries, diverse applications in the security sector (access control, theft protection, dead man’s handle) and workplace management. For those server based solutions an additional hardware component is necessary – infsoft Locator Nodes. For a feedback channel, an app is required. It can be a special service for parents to locate their children in shopping malls and leisure parks if they lose sight of them in the crowd.

  • Beacon Calculator

    Try the infsoft beacon calculator to get a rough idea of the number of beacons required for your client based indoor positioning project. Please be aware that the amount of beacons depends on various factors, such as industry, desired accuracy, parameterization and local structural conditions. We are happy to advise you!

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