As you consider where to deploy beacons, you should carefully consider what your objectives are to take advantage of what they can offer.

Beacons provide location-based messaging to alert users to something in their vicinity.

For example, if you’re trying to draw attention to something specific then you would restrict the notification to a small area around that location. This also allows you to deploy multiple beacons, each covering unique locations and messages.

When you deploy beacons, you must also keep in mind the impact that their placement can have on their effective range. Beacons are low-power radio transmitters. Without getting into the details of radio wave propagation, we’ll simplify by stating that radio waves are reflected and absorbed by the objects around them. This creates shadows and hot spots, altering the beacon’s effective range around the beacon – suffice it to say that any installation of a beacon will not likely provide a perfectly circular effective range for the beacon’s notification messaging.

Beacons have two settings that can be used to overcome these effects – transmit power and broadcast rate.

Both of these settings affect battery life; the higher the power and broadcast rate, the shorter the battery life and vice versa. Generally, the higher the power the farther away a beacon can be detected, while broadcast rates, which can vary to several times per second to one every couple of seconds, changes the likelihood of detection by the customer’s device as it moves within range.

To illustrate, let’s draw two circles around a beacon, one for higher power and a smaller one for lower power.

 

Beacon Power

 

A higher broadcast rate increases the likelihood a customer will detect the beacon signal and receive the notification when they are in-range of the beacon.

Imagine a customer moving through this circle as they walk down an aisle, for instance. How quickly do they move across the circle? The faster they move, or the smaller the circle, the less time they spend in range of the beacon, and the more frequently the beacon needs to transmit to ensure notification. Good beacon deployments require a good balance of these settings vs. battery life.

Returning to the placement of the beacons – be sure not to place it within packed cabinets or under metal shelves containing liquids like shampoo or bath oils; try to place them with an unobstructed view of where your customers will be walking, generally, the higher the better.

If you can’t cover the area with a single beacon, consider deploying an additional beacon to ensure coverage.

However, beacons have an effective range of meters to tens of meters, so that shouldn’t be an issue with most locations.

Now, many people will tell you that you can download applications to measure the beacons signal, and, yes, you can even calibrate the beacon’s transmit power if you so desire.  However, the size and shape of the circle will depend up the many objects around be beacon, including people and their phones as they move about. So, don’t get carried away with the tech; ultimately, the best and cheapest way to ensure a beacon’s effective range is to test it after installation by walking the aisles with your phone. This is where you decide whether your objective is really being met, and that is ultimately what matters.