Beacons are Bluetooth smart devices which transmit signals at regular intervals. These signals can be scanned by an devices. These devices can pass on the info of beacon of interest to an app, which uses it to determine proximity. In order to be recognized, beacons must be configured with certain information. For iBeacon case, they are Proximity UUID, major and minor numbers. So, in order to provide these features, a beacon can support a number of modes. In this mode, we will be trying to see different modes supported by some major bacon providers.
All beacons have a Beacon mode for their basic operation. In order to update settings, they have a configuration mode. Actually Bluetooth reception consumes power, since beacons don’t have to be accepting any reception signals, they are more efficient with power consumption. Some beacons are powered with a number of features and sensors, they support different modes for providing those features.
There are two modes of operations for Estimote beacons. They are as follows:
- Advertisement mode: This is the default mode. In this mode, beacon advertises for UUID, Major and minor numbers. These advertisements can be used by an app to determine required proximity. This is a transmit only mode.
- Connectivity mode: In connectivity mode, Estimote’s beacon allows connection with the apps built using Estimote’s SDK. This mode can be used to collect info from beacon. The info includes sensor’s data (accelerometer and temperature), battery level, OS version, hardware revision, Tx power etc. This mode is also used for firmware update. This mode requires authentication for your app.
Estimote’s Power Modes
In the middle of 2014 (June), estimote released a number of updates to its iBeacons. One such update was introduction of power modes, which allow us to save battery upto 50%. Estimote introduced to non-mutually exclusive modes. They are Basic Battery Saving & Smart Battery Saving modes. Estimote claims that these modes can be used to save upto 30% and 50% power respectively. Here Smart Battery Savings looks at the pattern for the users around iBeacon and adjusts power consumption accordingly using adaptive algorithms. [Further Details]
I had my doubts if this would work if we don’t use Estimote API / SDK for our app. So I asked, and apparently, it does.
— Ola Puchta (@Esti_Ola) December 10, 2014
Motorola’s MPact Beacon Tags
There are three modes of operations for MPact beacons. They are as follows:
- iBeacon mode: This mode is similar as estimote’s advertisement mode. In this mode, MPact beacon just advertises for UUID, major and minor numbers at regular intervals.
- Battery Save mode: In this mode, tag’s unique identifier and mac address are transmitted. Motorola claims that battery life doubles when this mode is used. But user must launch app when entering the location in order to determine location.
- MPact mode: This is hybrid of above two modes. This provides info of battery level, which makes fleet management easier. Additionally, it doesn’t require an app to be running in the foreground in order to determine location.
These modes affects the maximum battery life for MPact beacon tags. This is from MPact spec.
There are two modes of operations. They are as follows:
- Beacon mode: This is a simple mode when beacon advertises for UUID, major and minor numbers.
- Configuration mode: This mode is an exclusive mode. As soon as a beacon enters in this mode, all advertisements are disabled. Beacon enters in this mode by swiping a magnet across its top. Now Gelo app is used to connect and configure it. After configuration is done, the beacon is restarted in Advertisement mode. [Further details on GitHub]
iBKS beacons have the following modes of operations:
- Reception mode: iBKS beacon can also work in reception mode. But we need to select this option during configuration by providing password. So this is not turned-on by default, resulting in power savings.
- Configuration mode Like other beacons, iBKS’s configuration mode allows us to configure advertisement packet’s details. Entering in configuration mode is quite similar to Gelo Beacon. It also requires a magnet to be swiped on it to enter configuration mode. The Hall sensor detects magnetic field and device enters in configuration mode.
Gimbal beacon can run in two different modes. For gimbal, it is called Beacon Type. These types are mutually exclusive. It must be remembered that all beacon configurations are created / updated using Gimbal Manager. These configuration also include ‘Beacon Type‘. We can then apply the configuration on a beacon.
These modes are as follows:
- iBeacon Mode: This mode is based on apple’s iBeacon specification. Here we can configure the beacon with UUID major and minor numbers.
- Gimbal Mode: This is not based on iBeaecon specification, so any available sniffer wouldn’t be able to determine the configuration.
The mode is specified by selecting Beacon type in Gimbal manager tool for the selected Beacon.
If you look at from standard’s perspective, the gimbal mode seems absurd as this assumes that we have all infrastructure investment in Gimbal products. What if we already have a few non-Gimbal beacons, or we might already have invested in some tools based on iBeacon advertisements. But actually, it looks quite popular based on its perceived security benefits.
It is rumored that iBeacon type is not available for all Gimbal beacons especially for series 10, but there are other opinions too. Let me set my hands on series 10 beacon and then we can talk. It is also limited based on Firmware versions.
Configuration Mode for Gimbal’s Beacons
As you insert the battery, gimbal’s beacon startsup and enters in configuration mode. It can then be applied with a configuration created using Gimbal Manager. You will need to download Gimbal’s app for updating this configuration.
Gimbal’s Beacon’s Public & Private Visibility
Gimbal’s beacons can also be set in either of public or private modes. In private mode, the beacon is available only for you account.
Visibility for Apps using Gimbal SDK
The application based on Gimbal’s SDK can also have different visibility modes. They are as follows:
For authorization, the app uses OAuth to authrorize with Gimbal Manager.