Best practices for deploying beacons and gateways

14 September 2018

Deploying beacons and gateways for bluetooth solutions can be a challenge. Five years of experience and thousands of beacons later has shown us that a successful deployment starts from the ground up.
A ground up approach to deploying beacons and gateways (or access points) for location-based solutions begins with the basics of beacon technology. Enter one of the prerequisites for a successful deployment: a clear understanding of how beacons and access points work. Without it, the likelihood that the use case is incompatible with the solution and the deployment will fail, is high.
Thus we will begin our crash-course with beacons and access points. Then we will walk through the different steps of a successful deployment: from defining the business case to deploying and maintaining your solution.
After reading this simple and brief guide on how beacons work and how to deploy them, you will be empowered to bring location-based IoT solutions to your organization and provide valuable input on the deployment process.

Beacon and Access Point Basics

Beacons

In case you don’t already know, beacons are small Bluetooth radio transmitters. They emit an encrypted signal called an advertising packet that can be “seen” or read by Bluetooth-equipped devices such as a smartphone or gateway. Included in this packet are things like the beacon’s unique ID, the strength of the signal (transmission power), the rate at which the signal is being broadcasted (advertising interval) and data from any sensors.
We use the term “beacon” when the device is stationary. We use the term “tag” when a beacon is in motion--equipped to an asset or worn by a person. There are different beacon models for different use cases too.
Now you might be wondering: “well, what’s a beacon good for then?” The answer lies in its friend, the access point.
Download our Beacon Buyer's Guide to learn more > 

Access Points

An access point (AP) in the Bluetooth world is a device that is equipped with a Bluetooth module enabling it to detect nearby Bluetooth signals. Access points for our sake are either smartphones or gateways. A beacon is useless without it’s pal, access point, to gather and relay it’s message to our cloud.
Together, beacons and access points enable location-based services.

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Step-by-step to successful deployment

The basic steps for a successful beacon deployment are listed below. Use this as a basic guide for the initial testing phases of a beacon project. A full-scale rollout will of course differ, so use this as a basic guide for getting up and running!

Step 1. Defining the business case

Now a well-defined business case for your solution needs to be established. This should be done with both business and technical teams within an organization, otherwise your project has a good chance of failing.
Reach out to our team of experts for support in this stage as they work with customers daily to map out use cases, define requirements and deploy solutions.

Step 2. Ordering and Activating Beacons

After working with our team to define your business case and understand the beacons that best fit your needs, we’ll ship your order with the settings preconfigured. All you need to do is activate.
Activating beacons is simple and we’ve made it simpler by providing comprehensive user guides for performing basic functions and more.
For developers, documentation on our API and SDK can be found here.

Step 3. Installing Beacons and Gateways

This is where hundreds of deployments worth of experience comes in handy. Here are a few of the most common questions we receive with regards to deployments.
Where should I install a beacon?

  • Mapping a deployment in advance is essential--we can use building blueprints to calculate where every beacon should be placed before deployment day
  • Our best practices for mounting beacons are 3-5 meters above the ground and spaced 8-10 meters apart
  • While our hardware can withstand harsh conditions, we nevertheless recommended protecting beacons from direct exposure to the elements where possible

How should I attach a beacon?

  • For stationary beacons or asset tracking deployments, adhesives like glue or velcro, straps like zip ties, or screws can be used to mount beacons
  • Different form factors can enable different means of attaching or wearing beacons--let us know if a form factor you need isn’t listed

What is the typical range of a beacon signal?

  • Up to 70 meters
  • Different environments propagate radio signals differently; the best way to observe this is by testing onsite

What kind of access points can I use?

  • One that can scan for Bluetooth devices 😉
  • WiFi access points are increasingly supporting Bluetooth devices
  • To learn more about how WiFi and BLE work together in deployments, you have to read this

How many gateways do I need to cover my facility?

  • Rule of thumb for gateways = 1 GW per 100

How can I increase accuracy?

  • Increased accuracy can be achieved through multiple methods including a higher density of gateways, additional sensors and other calibration tactics
  • “Triangulation” (trilateration) requires 3 or more gateways

For more details on beacon deployments, check out our recent partner post on installations.

Step 4. Maintaining Beacons

Our cloud-based beacon management tool gives customer the ability to monitor their beacon’s vitals from anywhere, anytime. To ensure the uptime of your deployment, you need proactive insights, alerts, and ways of pushing updates to the beacons remotely. This is what a beacon management tools allows you to do using our APIs and SDKs.
Other useful tips:

  • The process for replacing batteries is simple and outlined in detail here.

Why Kontakt.io

We have over 1.5 million Kontakt.io beacons deployed around the world. If you are in the process of defining a business case for location-based solutions or have already started testing, get in touch. We have a growing ecosystem of technology partners and solution providers with whom we are deploying solutions every day and championing the world of Bluetooth.

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Anthony Richardson

Content writer interested in how technology is changing the way we work, live and relate to the world. Anthony will be living around the world for the next year and writing about it.

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]