In general, iBeacons are powered by battery or USB. The battery powered Beacon is more popular as it is flexibility to be deployed. The common ibeacons batteries are coin battery such as CR2032/CR2450/CR2477, or AAA, AA battery. At enterprise environment, hundreds or thousands iBeacon are deployed. There might be some iBeacons’ battery running out anytime. How to collect hundreds or thousands Beacons’ battery level information and identify the ones needs replacement is a challenge work. In this article, the iBeacon battery level collection challenges, the common solutions and Sensoro solution are introduced.
Why it is challenge
iBeacon is a Bluetooth device. The common way to get the iBeacon’s battery level is to connect to the iBeacon and then retrieve its battery level. Actually, it is first challenge.
- Hard to connect: You might have such experience, when you are hearing a music with Bluetooth earphone and you move to another room, the Bluetooth connect might loss. It is because the Bluetooth’s signal is very easy to be interfere and range is limited. In general, the Bluetooth stable connection range is about 10 meter. For the iBeacon, the connection range and connection success rate is affected by 2 important configurations: Advertise interval and Tx power. Shorter advertise interval and higher Tx power will lead to longer range and higher connection succeed rate; but in turn, less battery life. For an iBeacon with 300 ~ 400 ms advertising interval, the acceptable connection range is about 2 meter; for 800 ms advertising interval, you’d better put your Smart Phone and the iBeacon back to back.
I have worked with an IT manager of one international airport. He has been involved in an iBeacon Proof Of Concept project to pilot about 40 iBeacons. The iBeacons are deployed in a small area in airport. Every time he had to spent more than half day to collect the 40 iBeacons battery level. But the final plan is to deploy 5000+ Beacons in the airport. It is disaster for him to collect the 5000+ Beacons battery level.
There is one mitigation to deploy another kind of Bluetooth/Wifi Hub. The Hub could collect Beacon battery level by connecting to iBeacon with Bluetooth connection and upload the data to Clould with Wifi. As the Hub could automatically connect to Beacons to collect data so the connect effort is not issue. Will it solve this issue? Actually, this leads to a very interesting geometric problem. The common Bluetooth connection range is less than Beacon’s signal Tx range. In order to avoid signal interfere, the commercial Beacon deployment needs to decrease the overlap of the Beacon’s signal overlap. If so, in order to be able to connect to each Beacons, Hub’s deployment density should be almost same as iBeacon density. Hub’s cost is much higher than iBeacon. Is this kind of deployment’s cost acceptable?
There is another mitigation in some iBeacon providers’ iBeacon battery management system. That’s the calculation of battery life based on the iBeacon’s advertising interval, Tx Power and battery quantity. Actually, the calculation is just a theory result. The data will vary very much in real environment. That’s the second challenge.
Hard to calculate the battery life: Battery life calculated from advertising interval, Tx Power and battery quantity is just estimation. Each beacon are different even they are shipped from factory in same batch. The different could be from follow factors.
a. Battery quantity variance: The battery quantity number from battery factory is also a theory number. It varies for each battery even they are in same batch.
b. Beacon PCB variance: There is no 2 identical PCB board. Different PCB board to lead to different power consumption rate.
c. Deployment environment temperature variance: Different temperature leads to different battery life. It is showed in battery discharge curve from battery factory. In general, higher temperature will lead to longer battery life. In the enterprise environment, that means indoor Beacon’s battery is higher than the outdoor ones in winter and the Beacon near air condition has less battery life than others.
Based on experience, such variance might lead to 25% battery life different. That means for a batch of Beacons which has 12 month battery life, there will be some of beacons be out of battery from the 10th month. With the comparison of the cost of connection, it might be better to replace all of them at end of 9th month. In some extreme condition, the variance could reach 50%, i.e at the 7th month, a few Beacons battery is running out. Should we replace all of them at end of 6th month?
How Sensoro Solve the Issue
Sensoro has an E2E solution to address the issue. The solution includes support from iBeacon firmware, SDK, inspection tool and Beacon Management Cloud/Dashboard. The solution is as below.
- iBeacon Battery Level Broadcast: In order to get Sensoro iBeacon’s battery level, it is not needed to connect to the iBeacon. It is because the battery level is broadcast as well as the UUID/MajorID/MinorID. Because of this, Smart Phone APP could get all the Beacons battery level in the range in a few seconds. This feature could be demonstrated by Sensoro iBeacon configuration tool (http://www.sensoro.com/en/developer#config). As the Picture#1, there are 4 Beacons battery level information is showed. They are collected from iBeacon’s broadcast packet.
Actually, there are more sensors data are put in the broadcast packet such as temperature, lightness and accelerometer data. This is Sensoro unique patented technique.
- Inspection tool: Based on the battery level broadcast feature, Sensoro provides free Sensoro Inspection APP (http://www.sensoro.com/en/developer#inspect). The APP is used to collect Beacons battery level and other sensor data information around it and upload to cloud. As the Picture#2, there 4 Beacons battery level, temperature and lightness information at collected. The APP could collect tens or hundreds of Beacons’ data in a few seconds and uploaded to Cloud when there is internet connection.
- Beacon Management Dashboard: Sensoro provides a dashboard (http://www.sensoro.com/en/developer#cloud) to show the Beacons’ battery level and other sensors data. As the Picture#3, there are 3 Beacons battery level information are showed. Based on the Beacons’ battery level information, the Beacons’ manager could set up a battery replacement plan deliberately. In order to use the data more effectively, customer could also integrate data into their service through Sensoro RESTful API (http://www.sensoro.com/en/developer#rest).
Actually, the sensor data in Picture#3 such as temperature, lightness and accelerometer is interesting tool. Some companies are building up their IOT network based on the technique.
Sensoro has an E2E solution to address the battery level collection issue, which is crucial for the large volume enterprise Beacon deployment. With the technique, it becomes practicable for thousands Beacons maintenance.
If you want to have a try, please order Beacons from http://www.sensoro.com/en/whyus