BeaconFence and Beacons – Tips from our Development Team
I recently presented a Developer Skill Sprint “Taking Beacons to the Next Level” where the presentation and demonstration covered proximity based application development using Beacons and our recently announced BeaconFence (Beacon Fencing Proximity Solution for Developers) product. Thank you to everyone who attended, asked great questions and were enthusiastic about the opportunity to build new applications for their customers. Along with the skill sprint presentation I also provided a blog post with additional information and links. In this blog post you can see some of the great questions that were asked and read the expanded answers I received from Diego Navarro and his wonderful R&D team in our Spain develop,ent center.
The replay for the “Taking Beacons to the Next Level” is available on the Embarcadero YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRrZubGke8k
My skill sprint blog post with some technical details and links to additional sources of information is available on the Embarcadero Community at http://community.embarcadero.com/index.php/write-blog-post/entry/developer-skill-sprint-taking-beacons-to-the-next-level
Deeper Dive with the Questions and Answers
Q) Do we state any accuracy in our location calculation? I know I can load a map, measure my surroundings and set the scale (inches, centimeters, and meters) and then zoom in to set beacon locations, zones, etc. I know you can also set the distance between any two beacons – does this help in the location calculation?
A) About the accuracy, the most important thing is to calibrate the beacons, for sure. This is a manual process that you need to do, but if we want to achieve best results, developers need to do it. To best calibrate the beacons be at 1 meter from the beacon and read the RSSI. Do this several times and setup the beacon using this value as the transmission (Tx) power (this is done using manufacturer software. There is a beacon configuration parameter for each one, not the same value for all beacons if they are the same model and/or brand).
Q) I know that the beacons RSSI (Relative Signal Strength Indicator) can be affected by the environmental surroundings and location. Jim McKeeth also mentioned that he has read reports about beacon signal impacts and recommendations to put the beacons on the ceilings for hallways and offices. Do you have any additional device for developers?
A) Putting beacons on the ceiling is very helpful because even a person can affect the beacon signal.
Q) Do you have any other additional information and advice to give to developers for beacon placement, zones and other best practices?
A) Use defined paths (created in the BeaconMap Editor) to determine which map zones are included or not. Beacons should be at minimum distance of 4 meters between them (is not useful to place one each meter). You can change some parameters on the TBeaconMapFencing component. For instance, the refresh time, should be set to 500 milliseconds, not less (the default value 200 milliseconds). Change the property value to 500 milliseconds because the algorithm will change the position several times each second). Furthermore, you can change the number of beacons to read the signal. If you have an aisle, no matter, 2 or 3, but if you have a big square (or circular or polygonal) region, be sure to increase this number up to 10, depending how big is the region.
Q) For a circular zone – I am guessing that one beacon at the center point would be okay – or do you need to place at least 3 beacons?
A) For a circular zone, with one beacon placed in the middle is ok (unless the region is > 3meters radius, then is ok to place more beacons on the edges).
Q) For rectangular zone – should you place beacons at each of the 4 corners – or are 3 enough?
A) For a rectangular zone, it is OK to place a beacon on each corner.
Q) For a polygonal zone – say a T – is it better to put 6 or more beacons or are 3 the minimum?
A) As a rule, it is not required to put beacons on the corners of each region. If you have a big square room, you can place beacons each 4 meters, then you can split the room into regions (no mater square, circular, polygonal, ...), the algorithm will calculate the position and if you are inside or not a region, but it’s not required to place beacons on each region (of course this will improve the accuracy).
Q) Should you place beacons at an intersection point of two contiguous zones?
A) Regarding region intersection, this is a good question. In general, it is better not to place a beacon at an intersection point, unless you have other beacons nearby to get the signal. If we are at the same distance of the two regions (same distance then of the beacon), we can’t determine in which region we are located. If there is another beacon, using the signal from others we can calculate the correct location.
Q) When would you use TBeaconZonesFencing versus TBeaconMapFencing components to set up your application? Even if you use a map to create your zones, you don’t have to show the map. So, why wouldn’t you always use a TBeaconMapFencing component?
A) TBeaconZonesFencing just fires events when entering a zone (aka beacon), there is no algorithm calculating current position, just register beacons, define zones with one or more beacons and only the proximity event is used. It requires less memory and CPU and of course, no map.
Q) Should a developer/application/solution use one type of beacon for a store/location or is it okay to mix beacon types? I would think it would be better to use one beacon manufacturer and calibrate all of the beacons instead of mixing and matching.
A) It is OK to mix beacons, no problem, but in this case, please, it’s even more important to calibrate all beacons. Please, spend 3 minutes calibrating each beacon, the result will be much better. If a beacon is not calibrated, it can be faking the signal and causing to miscalculate the current position.
Q) Is there a guide for how much beacon overlap to have when you are setting up zones and placing beacons? What happens if there is a “beacon dead zone” inside of a zone? Is there a percentage of overlap guidance that we advise developers to use or do we tell developers that there should be some beacon transmission field overlap?
A) There is no problem to overlap beacon signals. It is recommended to place a beacon every 4-5 meters, no less. There is no advantage (or better accuracy) to place beacons any closer together. If you have a dead zone (which can happen if beacons are more than 10–15 meters apart) then we can’t calculate your position. We will provide additional information and demo videos explaining basic beacon placement rules with some sample scenarios. Stay tuned!
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