Friday, September 25, 2015

Ibeacon with thin form factor and that really works!

My ibeacon orders just arrived recently after a few months of bumps and so happy to check whether it really work just as the manufacturer had claimed. So here's the result of my testing and review.

Form Factor and Design.
The ibeacons have rectangular shape with thin form factor. It comes with just one neutral color and that is white. The ibeacons that I ordered are boxed in bundles of ten. My impression is that this ibeacon really means business because the packaging alone is absolutely looks expensive.

The ibeacons with my itag:

 The form factor is well suited for applications such as when it is used to be given away to employees to easily track their movements within certain locations because they can be easily inserted in the wallet or be attached at the back of identification cards. The white color is very neutral and can be easily redecorated with stickers or through silkscreen printing.

It can still be modified further by using a higher capacity battery like the CR2032(240mAH) which stores energy 2.5 times more than the CR2016(90mAH) and this ibeacon casing can be an excellent substitute for the newly modified and upgraded ibeacon:

If the pcb is taken out from the 3.3mm thick casing, its thickness is about 0.8mm including the soldered compoments which means, it can be easily inserted inside any device that one needs to modify. Thinner(0.5mm thick) rechargeable batteries at 0.1mAh capacities can used to power the ibeacon. The 0.1mAh is enough to power the ibeacon for about a few days or more. The thin battery is absolutely fine when you want to hide the ibeacon inside the device that is being modified.

source: Thinergy

Even without the thin battery, the whole ibeacon can be inserted inside a cellphone with plastic casing like Samsung J7. Here's how I did to turn my cellphone into a an ibeacon:

Removing the pcb from the casing is not easy. I almost destroyed the casing when I attempted to open it the first time.

The Hardware.
The ibeacons are powered by Nordic nRF51822. Nordic is a Europen electronics company. They have impressive wireless product lines and of course, nRF51822 chip is one of those. The nRF51822 has an arm-based microcontroller as its core. This should make the ibeacons more responsive. It is also equiped with an excellent power management circuitry that should make it consume less power enabling batteries to last longer.
The internal construction is well thought of design which means it gives the impression that it was not created in a small garage by a bunch of college dropouts.

The Software
Configuration software is easily downloadable from the IOS AppStore and Android Playstore. My main focus in rating whether the software is really working are as follows:
1. Password can be easily changed.
2. The name of the Ibeacon can be changed
3. UUID, Major  Minor can can be changed
4. Transmission Power can be adjusted
5. Advertising Frequency is fully adjustable
6. Should have transmit only mode when already deployed.

All of the above is supported by the software and to add a few more good impressions, the software is very easy to use and provides tips to help newbies to get started quickly.

The configuration software also allows the changing of the measured power. I used to think that this parameter is not that important but when I tried to experiment with it using the Estimote software, I realized that this cool feature should not be ignored. Based on the results of my experiment, as I decreased the value, the Estimote software is able to tell more accurately the distance between the phone and the ibeacon. This feature calibrates the ibeacon.

The Power Consumption
Actual power consumption of the ibeacon is accurately adjusted based on the configured transmission power and the rated I think based on the measured power, the battery(CR2016) will last at least 6 months. Here is the comparison of the 3 ibeacons that I have:

The HM10(IBEACON) and Axaet Ibeacons(ziruzbeacons) and the minew ibeacons(1313_48278) have the following configurations:
1. Configured Transmission Power:

  1. HM10 = -23dBm
  2. Axaet Ibeacons = -23dBm
  3. minew ibeacons = -16dBm

2. Measured Transmission Power:

  1. HM10 = -59dBm
  2. Axaet Ibeacons = -86dBm
  3. minew ibeacons = -59dBm

3. RSSI:

  1. HM10 = -54dBm
  2. Axaet Ibeacons = -85dBm
  3. minew ibeacons = -72dBm

In ths case, the Minew Ibeacon with thin profile is the clear winner in terms of power consumption efficiency.

Overall impressions, the ibeacons are not just gorgeously designed but are really fully functioning devices that does its jobs very efficiently just as it is expected.