Mobile Technology

Turning Estimote iBeacons Off and On

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Sometimes with testing you have to go back to basics. Recently we have been having a bit of an experiment in simulating turning an iBeacon on and off. We had quite a bit of fun doing this so we thought we would share our discoveries with you.

 

Part of the app we’re currently building uses iBeacons to display a personalised notification when they walk into particular shops. We therefore needed to simulate being out of range of the beacon, and then back in range. However, the Estimote iBeacons we were using don’t actually have on/off switches. So to avoid destroying their pretty plastic shells we had to get creative. These are some of the methods we used… with varying results!

1. Tins

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 15.10.44

By far the most visually pleasing of our attempts. These appeared to work, however the beacon would momentarily appear in our iBeacon detection app. Part of the iBeacon spec in iOS specifies that it takes 30 seconds from when the device last saw a beacon, to the phone thinking that it’s exited the region. If we got just one message in that time, it would reset the counter. So these weren’t going to work reliably enough for us – despite how eye-catching they were.

2. Lead

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 15.11.29

Next, we tried lead. Like the tin boxes previously, it appeared to work but not reliably enough (as well as being mildly dangerous) so we decided to move onto the next experiment pretty quickly!

3. Tin Foil

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 15.13.29

Finally, we tried simple tin foil. We found that if we folded a sheet about 4 or 5 times around the beacon this provided enough insulation to work reliably. However, it’s worth noting that the sheets needed to be replaced the more they were used. The iBeacons were pretty good at taking advantage of even the smallest holes in the foil. Therefore we recommend new, fresh tinfoil… not the foil you wrapped your sandwiches in for lunch that day.

Next time we would like to try a “variable distance transportation system” from this commenter on StackOverflow. (http://superuser.com/questions/258399/how-to-block-bluetooth-signals)

Have you been experimenting with simulating turning your  iBeacons off and on? We would love to hear your results! Tweet us at @Calvium or comment below.