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A Technical Introduction to Google's Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacon Technologies: Nearby, Physical Web and Eddystone

by Timothy J. Salo

You’ve heard that Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are coming to a retail location near you. But, what are BLE beacons and how do they work? This session will answer these questions and more. Beacons are small, wireless, electronic devices that repeatedly broadcast short Bluetooth messages. BLE-capable mobile devices, when in proximity to a beacon, may display contextual information relevant to the current location. Of course, retailers want to use BLE beacons to enhance your shopping experience, but countless other applications are possible.

This session will include a brief review of the capabilities of Bluetooth Low Energy. The wireless communications protocols used by Google (Eddystone) and Apple (iBeacon) will be described. A use case, delivering local tide times to nearby mobile devices, will be used to illustrate the components of the beacon ecosystem that discretely delivers contextual information to proximate smartphones. Google’s beacon-related products, including the Eddystone protocol and related APIs (including the Proximity Beacon API and the Nearby API) will be examined. The session will conclude with observations about the current state of beacon products and technologies. The presentation will contain an extensive bibliography for those who may wish to delve more deeply into, or even experiment with, beacon technologies.

Audience participation may be required (you may configure your phone to receive Bluetooth beacons present in the classroom).

Intermediate

Timothy J. Salo

Mr. Timothy J. Salo is the founder and president of Salo IT Solutions, Inc. (SaloITS). His current projects include developing an Android system that will use Bluetooth beacons to deliver environmental contextual data products to public users’ smartphones. Mr. Salo has over three decades experience researching, designing, developing, marketing, deploying and operating data communications and Internet technologies, products and networks. In his current role, he has served as the principal investigator for research contracts awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He has previously served in principal investigator for research contracts funded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA). Mr. Salo has earned a B.S. in computer science and an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota and an M.S. in software engineering from the University of St. Thomas. He is currently a graduate student in computer science at the University of Minnesota.


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