iBeacon are radio devives on in 2400 MHz range. They use the new Bluetooth 4.0 specification. BT 4.0 is split in classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy. Bluetooth Low Energy was previously called Bluetooth Ultra Low Power, and in early 2001, was WiBree. “Wi” for wireless, and “Bree” for Bree in the Lord of the Rings. Bree was the town where the two major roads, the Great East Road and Greenway, crossed. Bluetooth Low Energy is an “always off” technology. It transmits short packages of data and is not able to support audio streaming. It is perfect for devices like a heart rate belt, mouse or keypad.
As told, Bluetooth Low Energy is a part of Bluetooth 4.0. A dual mode device like a smartphone is able to support classic Bluetooth (BT) and Bluetooth Low Energy at the same time. Your smartphone could be connected to a Bluetooth 2.1 headset and stream audio, and at the same time be connected to a heart rate belt or other sensors on your bicycle or listen to an iBeacon.
Single mode devices like the heart rate belt or iBeacon will run in the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) peripheral mode and the smartphone will run in the central mode. In the classic Bluetooth this is still called master and slave.
- Windows 8 supports Bluetooth 4.0 as a dual mode device (classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy).
- Android 4.3 and higher could support BLE. Not all Android devices on 4.3 are able to support BLE, just support classic Bluetooth only.
- Apple iOS has supported BLE since the iPhone 4S exists.
- On Linux, the protocol stack BlueZ got an update to support BLE as well. The update does not mean that all Linux devices will support BLE now.
iBeacon is the brand name of Apple for a Bluetooth Low Energy beacon. The iBeacon protocol is just one out of several beacon protocols. Several BLE beacons are already supporting several beacon protocols.
Example for a Multi-mode beaconing with Bluetooth Low Energy beacon with different mounting brackets:
You have the freedom to select from three different kind of mounting brackets.
Wall-mount for the BLE beacon
Wall mounted bracket
The wall mount bracket gives you the freedom to assemble the Bluetooth Low Energy beacon to the wall, laptop, bicycle, skies or whatever you like. After de-mounting you can replace the CR2032 battery easy.
Key-fob for the BLE beacon
BLE key fob
The key-fob is based on the same principle. The plastic ring clasps around the beacon and fix it to your keys.
Wrist-band for the BLE beacon