Five Tips for Testing iBeacons

Lately, we?ve been playing a lot with iBeacons in our office. And by ?playing with? of course we mean testing.

?Wait, what?s an iBeacon??

iBeacon is the Apple trademark for low-powered transmitters that can dispense signals to nearby devices. ?Their purpose is to enable an iOS device or hardware to illicit actions in other nearby devices. Types of actions can include push notifications, coupons, alerts, or even general messages that can be customized per a consumer?s interests and activities. In order to properly identify positioning, numerous beacons are used at one time.

To understand what we mean by ?positioning,? think of yourself in a retail store. If there is a beacon located beneath a table that has a display of jeans on one side and men?s sweaters on the other, it?s hard to determine which product a consumer is viewing. Using multiple signals via strategically designated beacons provides a concise focus, allowing businesses to serve customers in a personalized manner.

However, learning how to incorporate the use of multiple signals requires extensive testing. Here at Nitro, we not only love exploring new technologies, but we also love sharing our findings. Below are five tips for testing iBeacons:

Tip #1: Make sure your beacon isn?t an eager beaver

When coding, keep in mind how frequently you want your beacons to cause a device to react. It?s a good idea to make your device briefly ignore a beacon after communicating with it the first time. If not, you could create a slew of aggravated customers.

Imagine strolling into a store only to feel your phone buzzing every time you pass by a different display. Annoying, right? Right. Avoid that by including qualifiers in your code for beacon interaction.

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Tip #2: Don’t put iBeacons in the freezer

While working with several beacons at once, as we are at Nitro, things can get messy. An abundance of signals floating around the office can severely hinder the process of refining code for a specific beacon. Keep in mind that many beacons do not have an ?on/off? switch. In order to nix the signals of other beacons that are broadcasting simultaneously, you may need to get creative.

That being said, avoid the freezer. Although the signals will indeed cease temporarily, cold temperatures kill a beacon?s battery life. On Friday, we put two brand new beacons in the freezer for a few hours. By Monday, both beacons were dead.

While we?re at it, ignore appliances altogether. Just because beacons use the same radio frequency as microwaves, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to microwave them.

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?Tip #3: Don’t work with more iBeacons than you need at one time

Take it from our experience so far: there isn?t much of a reason to work with more than three beacons at one time. If you do, you may end up spending more time figuring out which beacon you?re communicating with than getting any real work done. What are you really going to do with more than three beacons at once, anyways? (And no, performing a beacon shadow-puppet show doesn?t count.)

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Tip #4: Stay tuned in?

Because beacons are so new, there is much to be learned. In this experimental stage, the size of lessons learned range from miniscule to catastrophic. Let?s touch back on beacons? battery life. Expectancy varies from beacon to beacon, but the majority currently has an average shelf life of one to two years. That timeframe will vary dependent upon how often and how strong of a signal each beacon sends on a regular basis.

That being said, we received a shipment of beacons in late October-early November, and today, most of them are dead. It?s important to note that while our beacons were running continuously, they did not have an overly active broadcasting rate. Plus, beacons are designed with continuous use in mind, so in this case, a battery life expectancy of even one year was enormously inaccurate.

What if these ?one year? beacons were utilized in retail stores sans proper testing? Without the realization that expected and authentic shelf life could be drastically different, some beacons may fail to serve their purpose for an undistinguishable amount of time. This possible scenario translates to potentially costing business owners extensive time and money?never a good thing.

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Tip #5: Keep your cool

At the end of the day, when your beacon patience is wearing thin, remember why you?re testing in the first place: because you?re thorough and well researched. Because you?re an innovator. Because you?re passionate about the future of technology. Because your boss is making you.

Whatever your reason for working with iBeacons, test them first, test them extensively, and try not to get overwhelmed in the process.

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