How to Pick the Best Beacons (For You)
Four Expert Insights on How to Pick the Best Beacons for Your IoT Project
There are a lot of companies out there which manufacture beacons. With an increasingly diverse set of products, software features, and prices, it’s hard to choose a beacon provider, especially if you’re new to beacons. How do you know what to focus on? What should you pay attention to?
We asked these questions to those who purchased and deployed hundreds of beacons. These experts have been using beacons for long enough to know what pays off in the long run and on enterprise level. Meet the experts from stor.es, Publicis Pixelpark, T-Systems, and Zühlke Group and learn from their experience to make your own beacon-based project a success, too! Here’s how to find the right beacon tools for your next project.
Dr. Sebastian Mika, CTO,stor.es
When selecting the best beacons for our product, we had three points to match:
- Quality: high quality is key, both in terms of the beacon’s signal and casing. Since we deploy outdoors, the choice is already very limited. Also, many beacons are difficult to mount. For us, Kontakt.io Tough Beacons were the optimal choice available: they operate great outdoors (even in European winter conditions,) and the casing provides many ways to mount the beacon.
- Supply: When we need new beacons, we need them fast and reliably. Contrary to some overseas vendors, Kontakt.io was always able to deliver within a few days.
- Management and maintenance: This is a crucial point: whilst it’s easy to manually manage (meaning to configure the parameters, monitor the status, etc.) a few dozens of beacons, we need something more powerful when deploying several hundreds of beacons per site. Having a vendor who provides a powerful API and an ecosystem to support the hardware, allows us to concentrate our resources on our product instead of building a platform from scratch.
Hence, when considering costs of beacons, it is at least equally important to consider the follow up costs as it is to consider the unit price. For stor.es, it definitely pays off to invest a little more per a beacon—the savings on other areas outweighs per device costs easily. In a long run, the quality saves both money and headaches.
André Staats, Client Service Director, Publicis Pixelpark
Before we started to research beacon manufacturers, we had thought about the mandatory aspects that needed to be fulfilled. Does the manufacturer support both iBeacon and Eddystone standards, and what kind of support is included?
- What’s the average battery lifetime and how easy is it to change the battery after beacons are deployed?
- Which properties can be configured and how secure is the beacon update process?
- Does the manufacturer seem sustainable? Do you believe they will be able to provide you with beacons for the next three years?
In my opinion, since the beacon industry is young and will change very fast, you should look for a partner that uses standardized, secure, and flexible features, but don’t make yourself depend on only one vendor.
Katrin Strobel, Project Manager, Sales Consultant Automotive, T-systems
Before selecting a beacon manufacturer, people should pay attention to a smooth ordering process as well as delivery time. Another important question: can the beacons be easily reconfigured and how secure are they? The support also plays a major role, so one should check whether an SDK is provided. There are also some custom preferences that should be paid attention to—for example for us, Deutsche Telekom AG, it is important to have a beacon supplier in Europe.
The biggest mistake that companies make while choosing a beacon provider is that they focus solely on the price! That’s definitely the wrong way to get the best one. Another mistake: not to contact the provider directly–face to face. The easiest way to avoid misunderstandings is to talk about requirements right from the beginning and to discuss how expectations can be met – by both parties!
Misunderstandings may lead to bad experiences and poor results. For example, a lack of security features so that the beacons can be manipulated by third parties. If the ordering process and time of delivery is not suitable, the customer will not be satisfied. The same applies to support: If there is no support, there’s no chance for getting help.
Masanori Fujita, Director Solution Center, Zühlke Group
There are quite a lot beacon vendors out there. Some of them attract customers with very low prices.
But people looking for beacons should not only look at the procurement price, but rather think about the total ownership cost. The long-term costs related to batteries and people required to change the batteries can quickly become critical for the whole business case. A well-written firmware can make the difference (up to a factor of 10) to get the best performance vs. battery life ratio.
Also, a good beacon provider should be able to support you with provisioning and commissioning.
Do you have other experiences that you want to share? What do you pay attention to? What’s the most challenging part of selecting a beacon provider? Share your thoughts in the comments! Let us know what you think makes a beacon the best beacon!