FAQ – Beacons
Beacon Frequently Asked Questions
What are Beacons?
Beacons are small battery powered Bluetooth devices that AtSite detects and then logs the presence of staff when they are near to the beacon.
Beacons send out a very low power radio Bluetooth signal. AtSite receives it then sends that data to WebEye in the cloud for logging.
AtSite is an Apple iPhone or iPod App that can also change the distance that beacons are sensed from – from ranges “2” to “7”. Range 2 is approx 10 meters, range 7 is approx 50 meters – all depending on where they are mounted. We do not recommend ranges 0 and 1 as staff may move through the area covered by a beacon too quickly to be sensed.
- Size 56mm X 56mm X 16mm
- Weight approx 40 grams
- Battery life approx 5 years (dual battery units)
- Battery type is Lithium Metal, non rechargeable
- Affix to wall/ceiling using permanent double sided tape
- These devices conform to the Bluetooth standard and will not interfere with other Bluetooth devices or systems
- Signal levels are from -30dbm (level 0) to +4dbm (level 7). Typical use is level 2 for -16dbm, and level 3 which is -12dbm
- Compliance RCM and FCC
How and Why are Beacons Used?
AtSte needs them. They are affixed to strategic locations around an area that staff patrol. As staff pass by, the beacon is sensed by AtSite then recorded in a phone or iPod and will later be uploaded to WebEye.
Since a Beacon can only be in one place, and to get that reading from a beacon requires a person to walk nearby, then your staff members must have been in proximity.
Are Beacons Waterproof – can I use them out doors?
No. They are not waterproof. That said, if you use them out doors, mount them “up and under” cover, near eaves. Keep rain and moisture off them.
Next, if you must mount them in the weather, mount them inside a cheap and simple junction box, or some other enclosure to keep direct rain/moisture off them.
How do I repace a battery?
- Remove the beacon from the wall.
- You wioll need a safety porocedure, a ladder and a tin bladed tool to lever the beacon off thwe wall. A paint scraper can work well for this.
- Be careful not to drop the beacon as it is being pulled off the wall. It may damage the case.
- Open the beacon, remove the old battery and install the new.
- You will need a thin blade screwdriver or a small craft knife to open the beacon carefully.
- Replace the beacon onto the wall.
- Careful wth any ladders.
- You may need some double sided tape to re-attach the beacon. The old tape may not work if pulled off the wall.
Here is a full article that shows all these steps in detail, and indicates the tools and supplies required.
Will Beacons Interfere with other devices?
No. They are safe. They conform to Bluetooth standards and as such co-exist with other Bluetooth and WiFi devices.
Beacons can be mounted near point of sale terminals, cash dispensers, security screening pillars, computers and computer monitors. They will not cause interference.
Beacon Bluetooth signal levels are low power, approx 1 milliwatt (0.001 watt), they are in the WiFi spectrum and won’t affect keyboard, mouse or other Bluetooth devices.
Simple observation has shown that in large shopping centers there are many many Bluetooth devices in close proximity. They all operate together. Shopping centers have huge amounts of RF signal present. There can be many keyboards and mice in an area, more than one in a shop, there is WiFi in every shop and for the center, the Elite-ID Beacons do not cause any problems, and likewise, the signals from these other devices do not jam Beacons.
Setting Up Beacons For Staff Logging
This is done with AtSite, the App installed in an Apple iPhone or iPod.
Elite-ID can install your beacons for you before shipping to site. We can assign a center and location names to beacons for you.
You must have an account with Elite-ID. We will send you a manual on installation, or we can do it for you, or arrange for a contractor to visit site. It is easy and there are plenty of options.
What Ranges Can Beacons Be Set For?
Beacons can be set for ranges from “0” to “7” – these are just number settings. The range increases with the number.
Ranges 0 and 1 – are VERY short range. We do not recommend them for normal use. Staff must be very close to log beacons with this range. The reason is that in being so short range, staff may not get registration unless they actually stop at the beacon for a few seconds. Passing quickly nearby will almost guarantee to cause missed attendances.
Level 2 and 3 – these are usually ideal for normal sized malls in shopping centers.
Level 4 we suggest for a larger mall or a larger entrance.
Level 5 is for maybe a large food court or a huge entrance.
Level 6 and 7 – these can be over 50 meters and we seldom if ever use them. One example, we used level 6 on a wall near a grassy entertainment area to track security staff when stalls were setup and many people in attendance.
Do Apple and Android work the same with beacons?
No, we have observed differences. We do not have any control over these functions.
Android is faster to log a beacon. It informs us almost instantly when in range of a beacon.
Apple does more checking and is a little slower to register a beacon.
What Interferes with the signal?
Bluetooth signals are in the RF spectrum near WiFi. As such they will be affected by;
1. People. People will absorb and block the signal. If you setup a site when there are no people present so it -just- works, then when the site is full of people it will be poor. The signal is absorbed, blocked, by human bodies.
2. Metal walls will stop the signal but also make it bounce, reflect off into other areas.
3. Plaster walls will only slightly affect the signal.
4. Concrete and brick walls will reduce the signal. It depends on how thick and if there is any reinforcig material.
5. Wood, particularly if moist, will absorb the signal and reduce it.
6. Concrete slab floors will reduce but not block the signal. The amount of reduction depends on the thickness of the slab, how much reinforcing mesh is used in the slab, and if the slab is laid in a metal deck. Metal decks will stop the signal completely.
7. Metal objects, and glass, and escalators, and even some concrete floors will reflect the signal. You may think you will be covering a nice spherical area, maybe 10 or 15 meters across. What will happen is that the signal will bounce off things.
8. Lift wells will carry the signal from one area to another. The signal bounces around inside the lift well then exits elsewhere. It really can be quite confusing.
9. Air conditioning ducts act similarly, they will transport the signal to a remote area. That said, the signal level is very low so this effect will be limited.
10. Metal door fireboxes – do not install inside these. Installing a beacon behind a metal door will be terrible. The signal will not get past the metal.
Can I Reflect the signal where I want?
Yes and no! You can do it simply but you can’t get a perfect result.
We found mounting a beacon in the middle of a flat aluminum plate 300mm square gave 10 times the signal in front of the plate compared to it’s rear. That helps. Signal still is there behind the plate, just not so much. If this is what you want, do it.
If the plate were bigger, it is probable the ratio would increase.
What Is The Best Way to Mount Beacons?
A full article is here.
Double sided tape works well. Permanent tape. Use the 25mm wide type, full width of the rear of beacon.
Mount them up off the floor at least 3 meters high, this prevents pilferage and also they are reachable with a small step ladder when battery replacement is required.
We strongly suggest mounting on white walls, fixtures or fittings. The beacons being white will not be noticeable and hence will be left alone.
If you mount on a metal surface, it will reflect the signal in front much like a mirror reflects light (but some small fraction will still be sent out the rear).
Best possible mounting is on a ceiling above where staff pass. Signals will be least less disrupted by the presence of other people. However this becomes an access problem for later maintenance.
Do not mount inside metal fire boxes, behind metal walls, close to voids between multiple levels.
Can I Use Another Companies Beacons?
No. Beacons are locked to a client because:
1. This prevents one client from changing the ranges on another client’s beacons. This is important.
2. The serial numbers are not visible from one client to another. That was a design decision made at the start of AtSite development. It is a security feature.
3. WebEye only allows a serial number, beacon or legacy wand PipTag/Button serial number to belong to one and one only client.
4. If the owner of the beacons loses the contract and removes the beacons then you won’t have any data all of a sudden.