Beacons have become quite common in indoor navigation. They are small wireless devices typically mounted throughout an indoor venue on walls or other physical entities.
These devices emit wireless signals which Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) receivers, such as smartphones, can receive.
Usually, beacons are battery-powered and must be replaced about every six to 12 months, depending on beacon quality and configuration parameters.
BLE positioning works by utilizing Bluetooth radio technology in smartphones, tablets or other devices equipped with Bluetooth capabilities. BLE positioning systems make use of beacons – small devices that transmit Bluetooth signals at regular intervals.
The technology behind Bluetooth beacons is Bluetooth Low Energy. Beacons are useful in indoor positioning technology since they can use signals from two or more beacons and position the user on an indoor map.
They can also send users targeted information such as where to find a shopping sale. There are several methods BLE beacons can be used for positioning:
There are several methods and techniques used in BLE positioning to estimate the location of a device based on Bluetooth signals from beacons.
BLE proximity identifies a rougher user position based on which BLE is visible at the time. BLE trilateration estimates the distances between the user and each visible Wi-Fi router and calculates its position based on those distances.
BLE fingerprinting does not need to know Wi-Fi router locations, but instead creates a large fingerprint map of the RSS of each beacon at various locations and then in real-time compares the measured RSS to the fingerprint map to determine the user’s position. Constructing the Wi-Fi fingerprint map can be time-consuming and requires a site-survey.
While beacon technology has become common indoors, it can still cause many problems.
Some challenges include:
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A Bluetooth indoor positioning system uses Bluetooth signals to determine the location of objects or devices within an indoor environment. It leverages Bluetooth technology, particularly Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), to enable positioning and tracking capabilities within buildings, facilities or enclosed spaces where GPS signals may not be reliable or available.
BLE positioning works by utilizing Bluetooth signals to estimate the position of a device within an indoor or outdoor environment. BLE positioning systems involve deploying BLE beacons or transmitters throughout the area of interest. Beacons transmit Bluetooth signals containing unique identifiers. These signals are received by devices in the vicinity that are equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, such as smartphones, tablets or dedicated receivers. Devices within range of the BLE beacons detect and receive the Bluetooth signals. BLE positioning systems use RSSI measurements from multiple beacons to estimate the position of the device. Two common techniques used are trilateration and fingerprinting. Once RSSI measurements are collected and processed, the positioning system calculates the position of the device. This calculation may involve employing mathematical algorithms, machine learning techniques or data fusion methods to improve accuracy.
It's important to set realistic expectations for the accuracy of BLE positioning and consider specific use cases and environments. In some scenarios, combining BLE positioning with other technologies like Wi-Fi, RFID or sensor fusion techniques can provide enhanced accuracy and reliability. The use of external infrastructure or advanced positioning methods can further improve accuracy in certain applications.
The range of BLE can vary depending on multiple factors, including the power class of the BLE device, the environment and potential obstacles. Generally, BLE has a range of up to 100 metres (about 330 feet) in an open space without any interference. However, the effective range can be significantly reduced in real-world scenarios due to signal attenuation caused by walls, furniture and other objects.
It's important to evaluate the specific requirements of your indoor positioning application, including accuracy, range, cost, infrastructure and compatibility with devices, when selecting the best alternative to a BLE-based system. In some cases, a combination of multiple technologies or hybrid positioning systems that integrate different technologies may provide the most optimal solution.
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