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What is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)?

Here we will discuss and discover the uses and constraints of this popular technology for location-based services.

About BLE Positioning Technology

Beacons have become quite common in indoor navigation. They are small wireless devices that are typically mounted throughout an indoor venue on walls or other physical entities.

The beacon devices emit wireless signals, which Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) receivers (e.g. smartphones) can receive.

Usually, beacons are battery-powered and must be replaced approximately every 6-12 months, depending on the beacon quality and configuration parameters.

How BLE Positioning Works

The technology behind these Bluetooth beacons is BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy. Beacons are useful in indoor positioning technology because they can use distance data from two or more beacons and position the user on an indoor map.

They also can administer targeted information such as a shopping sale to the user. There are several methods in which BLE beacons can be used for positioning.

  • BLE proximity
  • BLE trilateration
  • BLE fingerprinting

BLE Positioning Methods

BLE proximity identifies a rougher user position based on which BLE is visible at the time. BLE trilateration infers the distances between the user and each visible Wi-Fi router and calculates its position based on those distances.

BLE fingerprinting does not need to know the locations of the Wi-Fi routers but instead creates a large fingerprint map of the RSS of each beacon at various locations and then in real-time compares the measured RSS to the fingerprint map to determine the users position. Constructing the Wi-Fi fingerprint map can be time-consuming and requires a site-survey.

Challenges with BLE Positioning

While beacon technology has become common indoors, they still cause many problems for users.

Challenges users face:

  • Additional hardware (BLE Beacons) is needed for indoor navigation
  • The maintenance required for battery replacement is very costly
  • 1-5 beacons are needed per 150 sq. meters to ensure full coverage of the facility and accuracy for indoor navigation
  • Beacons will only work for positioning if visitors have Bluetooth enabled on the device they are using

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  • All-in-one IPS
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    Other indoor positioning systems require the use of expensive external hardware and costly maintenance.
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