What Are Bluetooth Beacons and Bridges?

Zebra Bluetooth Low Energy Devices

What Are Bluetooth Beacons? And How Do BLE Beacons Work?

Bluetooth Beacons are built upon Bluetooth low energy technology and operate in conjunction with commercial Android/iOS devices or custom devices to form the foundation of easily deployable proximity-based location solutions. A Bluetooth beacon is essentially a hardware radio transmitter that transmits signals using Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Bluetooth beacons tend to be small devices that use BLE to transmit signals to nearby mobile devices or other devices. These signals can be used to identify the location of the beacon, and can also contain other types of information, like advertisements or notifications.

When you have Bluetooth turned on on your mobile computer or other devices, it can detect nearby Bluetooth beacons and receive these signals. Apps on your device can use this information to provide you with location-based services or other features.

For example, imagine you're in a factory museum that has installed Bluetooth beacons throughout the exhibits. As you walk through the museum with your phone, the Bluetooth beacons can send signals to mobile devices telling them where you are. An app on the device could then use this information to provide you with information about the exhibit you're looking at or offer you a guided tour.

What Are Common Applications of Bluetooth Beacons?

Bluetooth beacon-based solutions generally include a combination of fixed and/or mobile beacons combined with some type of application receiving and acting upon beacon information (a bridge that captures and shares the information gathered). The system can be a stand-alone application that uses these beacons or used in conjunction with Zebra MotionWorks solutions. This technology allows mobile computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices to perform actions when they are close to a beacon.

Bluetooth beacons can be used in a lot of different ways, from providing location-based services in public spaces like malls or airports, and are often used in helping retailers offer personalized promotions and discounts to customers as they shop.

In healthcare, Bluetooth beacons can be used to track the location of medical equipment, supplies, and other assets in a healthcare facility. This can help healthcare providers to optimize the use of resources and reduce waste. Bluetooth beacons can be used to provide navigation assistance to patients and visitors within a healthcare facility. This can help to reduce anxiety and improve the patient experience.

In manufacturing, Bluetooth beacons can be used to track the movement of products through the manufacturing process, which can help to identify potential quality issues and improve quality control protocols. BLE beacons can also be used to track the location and movement of assets within a manufacturing facility, such as materials, parts, and tools. This can help manufacturers optimize their inventory management and reduce waste.

Can Bluetooth Beacons Access Data on Your Mobile Devices?

Bluetooth beacons do not access and collect data from your mobile devices. Beacons only transmit radio signals that devices like smartphones and mobile computers can detect via Bluetooth.

What Do Bluetooth Beacons Transmit?

Bluetooth beacons transmit a unique identifier (ID) number using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. This unique identifier allows devices to detect and see what beacon it is located close to. The identifier can have its own meaning depending on what the owner has programmed it to mean. This ID number can be detected by mobile devices and other Bluetooth-enabled devices within range of the beacon. This information can be used by businesses in a number of ways:

1. Proximity Marketing: Beacons can be used to send targeted messages and offers to customers who are in the immediate vicinity of the beacon. For example, a retail store can send a discount coupon to a customer who is standing near a particular product.

2. Customer Tracking and Analytics: By using beacons, businesses can track the movement of customers through their stores or venue. This can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, such as which areas are most popular or how long customers stay in a particular area.

3. Indoor Navigation: Beacons can be used to provide indoor navigation assistance to customers. For example, a museum can use beacons to guide visitors through its exhibits.

4. Inventory Management: Beacons can be used to track the location of inventory within a store or warehouse. This can help businesses to optimize their inventory management and improve efficiency.

The unique ID number transmitted by Bluetooth beacons provides businesses with a powerful tool for engaging with customers, tracking behavior, and optimizing operations.

How Is Bluetooth Used for Location?

There are many different location technologies in the market today. Bluetooth location-based technology uses Bluetooth low energy to determine the proximity of devices. Bluetooth as a proximity-based location technology easily integrates with mobile device-based applications or with server-based location solutions. It’s a low-cost, active RFID technology that allows for extremely fast installation, even in complex environments, like warehouses, factories, and hospitals.

When general location information is all that is needed to solve your business problem, Bluetooth is the ideal technology and is of tremendous value. The low power consumption of Bluetooth low energy technology is the catalyst for battery-powered devices that can be used to create innovative solutions for industries including manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare, and retail. Location data from the edge of the network provides valuable information about how your operation is performing. The battery-operated active beacons can run for multiple years at cost points that are compelling.

What Are Bluetooth Bridges?

Bluetooth bridges are devices that enable Bluetooth-enabled devices to connect and communicate with other devices that do not have Bluetooth capability. They act as intermediaries between the two devices, allowing them to share data and information.

For the information from the Bluetooth beacons to be collected and shared, Bluetooth bridges will be used to take in the information given. Bluetooth IoT bridges and transceivers utilize Bluetooth low-energy and Wi-Fi technologies. These bridges work in tandem with Bluetooth beacons to give near real-time location data, which helps provide companies with additional opportunities to maximize business efficiencies.

Why Are Bluetooth Beacons and Bridges Helpful?

The data that is transmitted can be used by companies to identify asset locations, improve workflows, and optimize productivity and profitability. Bluetooth bridges are also easy to manage securely, protected with the best-of-breed security protocols, using 2.5GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi with WPA/WPA2 personal and enterprise encryption. This allows configuration changes and network updates to be pushed remotely and en masse from a server without needing on-site support.

Bluetooth bridges can be used to connect a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, printers, and more. They are often used in settings such as offices, warehouses, and public spaces to facilitate wireless communication between devices.

A Bluetooth bridge typically consists of a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter receives data from the Bluetooth-enabled device and then transmits it to the receiver, which can be connected to the non-Bluetooth device. The receiver then converts the data into a format that the non-Bluetooth device can understand. In addition to bridging the gap between Bluetooth-enabled and non-Bluetooth-enabled devices, Bluetooth bridges can also be used to extend the range of Bluetooth signals. This can be particularly useful in environments where there are obstacles or interference that can weaken the Bluetooth signal.

What Are Bluetooth Beacons and Bridges Compatible With?

Zebra MotionWorks location solutions give businesses the ability to use automated data collection to attain actionable insights and vital solutions. It helps provide data on the location and state of tagged enterprise resources. By using hardware to capture data, MotionWorks deploys some of the world’s largest and most successful automated resource tracking and management solutions across industries, and for some of the world’s largest companies. Even though Zebra MotionWorks solutions have been optimized for operation with Bluetooth Beacons, these beacons will also work with third-party solutions that follow the Bluetooth low energy specification. They are also compatible with legacy MPact server-based solutions.

Learn More About Zebra's Bluetooth Solutions