Deploying Bluetooth® Low Energy and NFC for secure connections and easy pairing : Page 3 of 5

September 19, 2016 //By Heiner Tendyck
By supporting wireless applications that can operate with ultra-low power consumption, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) opens up a number of new application opportunities for designers - particularly when it is combined with the benefits of NFC technology.

New application variations emerge: Beacons

With the ability to detect proximity using NFC and then transmit information securely via BLE, new application variations can be realised. One of these is a new implementation for beacons, which are extremely low power, low-sophistication devices that have the ability to present simple data to devices (and, therefore, users) in proximity. Beacons can be used for many indoor applications including promotion, navigation, building management and asset control. Once a beacon is positioned then app-users close by can benefit from micro location-based notifications while the application is open.

Figure 2: Beacons enable locality-based marketing and a number of other valuable business uses.

In general, beacons are extremely low power devices – typically powered by a small coin cell battery that needs to last weeks, months or even years. In retail, customers can be directed to particular items in the store by selecting them from an app. Alternatively, specific bargains could be highlighted to the customer. In a grocery store, beacons may direct people around the store in the most efficient way to get all of the items on a list. And in business environments, beacon-equipped assets could be tracked or located easily adding to security and efficient operation and maintenance

The applications for beacons are almost limitless. Marketing teams are dreaming up new ways to use this technology every day. In a stadium or large theatre, for example, beacons could guide you to your seat or any place within the facility. Potential applications can also support sales by offering relevant merchandising products and sales promotions as well as aiding the rebate process for goods purchased.

BLE and NFC offer the possibility of new use cases here. Beacons are usually uni-directional devices that simply broadcast information such as a URL or a location. However, another usage scenario could be to update the beacon software and content over-the-air via BLE, triggered and secured by an NFC pairing mechanism. Connecting to a beacon by NFC tagging is a much simpler procedure than pairing by Bluetooth; it is also potentially more secure due to the avoidance of security information interception, as described above.

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