Beacons and Proximity Marketing
On this page, we’ll present some general information about Beacons, and provide some useful links for more information, including information from several beacon vendors.   Finally, in the last section we will report recent news affecting the community of beacon users.

General Information 

What are Beacons?  What is a Nearby Notification?

Bluetooth Beacons are an innovative way for companies to expose their products to nearby customers, broadcasting messages to cause them to make or change buying decisions.  With low-power “BLE” (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacons recently becoming very inexpensive, it’s now practical to locate beacons near each point of purchase.  For example, in a department store, this might mean beacons in each department, broadcasting information about items that may be of interest.   In an airport, a beacon could be located at each departure gate, and provide opportunities to purchase upgrades or access to better seats just before departure.

BLE Beacons are compact, battery powered, transmitters that broadcast a small nugget of information to nearby mobile devices like phones.  This information may simply contain a URL link, or it might contain a packet of information about a product or service.  Beacons have a limited range, typically up to about 30 meters or so, although most are set to broadcast at a less-than-maximum power level so the batteries will last longer.

Leaving aside for the moment the built-in capabilities of the Chrome browser, a mobile phone has two main methods of detecting and presenting information picked up from a nearby beacon:

(1) If the mobile device already has a background application running from the vendor, that application can be programmed to watch for beacons nearby and react accordingly.  An airline application would be a good example of this method
(2) If it’s unlikely that a customer would be running the vendor’s app, for example for beacons in a department store, it formerly was possible to send an unsolicited message to a customer's phone.  (Google calls these “Nearby” notifications)  As of December 2018, Google has disabled this feature - see News below, and contact Sequoia for more information

Getting Started - Useful Links
Here are some links to provide general information and allow one to get started.  The Apple links apply primarily to iBeacons, and the Google links mostly to the Android implementation, however Google’s Chrome can run on either platform and provide beacon functionality.  Most physical Beacons can signal both Apple and Android devices, which are usually set up separately in the beacon.

Apple General Information
Google – Intro to the Physical Web
A few beacon manufacturers (there are more than a dozen):
From Radius, how to configure:
From, iBeacon vs Eddystone:
From Radius: About Nearby Notifications:

News and Updates

31 Jan 2019 Bluetooth Core Specification v5.1 brings direction finding and centimeter-accurate positioning
6 Dec 2018 Citing a significant increase in unsolicited, spam-like notifications, Google has discontinued serving Nearby Notifications.  Applications can however continue to use beacon information to deliver content to subscribers.