BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) Beacons are a power-friendly emitting hardware that is commonly used for indoor location. These devices use a short-range radio frequency (in the spectrum of 2.4ghz) and MOCA SDK can use this short range frequency to infer the distance between a receiver (a mobile phone) and the emitter (an iBeacon compliant BLE Beacon).
As the BLE Beacons emit a radio frequency, they are subject to the environments surrounding them.
Environmental effect on beacon detection
MOCA's SDK opens windows periodically to listen for BLE Beacon signals. Some surfaces provide more range due to the fact such surface causes the Radio Frequency (RF) to rebound. Other materials provide a degree of RF shielding (which hinders the ranges greatly). This, coupled with the uneven antenna quality and/or sensitivity on mobile devices can cause inconsistency between the BLE Beacon configuration and the distance at which this beacon is visible. Please refer to the BLE Beacon manufacturer documentation to understand the configuration of both transmission power and blink rate, and always take into consideration the environment where the beacons are going to be placed (materials, structure and the effect caused on RF).
Some typical scenarios where environment plays an important role:
- Beacon is placed in a metallic hall way: The metallic surfaces on the walls will provide an excellent surface to amplify the BLE Beacon range. If you're looking to shorten the range, this scenario might not allow it.
- Beacon is placed near the ground and is surrounded by people: humans are effectively RF dampeners and can lower the range considerably. Consider moving the device much higher up (3 meters or more) to fully take advantage of the range.
- Beacon is placed between a multi floor venue: The BLE Beacon will most probably be visible on both floors unless it's emitting directionally or it's shielded. The reason is that RF from BLE Beacons is usually emitted spherically.
Other Factors to take into consideration
- Mobile devices have a varying Antenna quality and sensitivity, so it can differ between a top of the range device and a low end phone.
- BLE Beacons are usually battery powered, so always make sure it's within the correct capacity when troubleshooting effective distances.
- Each manufacturer provides a set of configurable ranges and blink rates. These will affect how far and how many times per second the beacon is visible.
- You can spoof beacons with ease, so it's very helpful for testing remotely but always replicate the configuration in detail on the "spoofed" beacon in order to properly troubleshoot the possible issue.