5 Things You Need to Know About Bluetooth Low Energy

BLE -- which Apple calls iBeacon -- can be used for a wide range of applications, if privacy and security issues are addressed.

1. It's gaining momentum. As the name suggests, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology, also known as Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth 4.0, uses less energy than standard Bluetooth wireless communications. BLE could be used for home automation, wireless medical devices, exercise sensors, retail geofencing and mobile payments. Apple calls its BLE offering iBeacon, which is available on newer models of the iPhone.

2. Retailers will be early adopters. BLE could be superior to other location-based technologies for smartphones because it's more targeted. For example, with BLE, a store can detect which department you are standing in and send you a relevant offer. Macy's is testing this idea with iBeacons and an app called Shopkick.

Heritage Auctions is planning to test iBeacons for large-scale auctions to speed up registration and alert VIP customers to big-ticket items that might interest them. Apple is using iBeacon in its retail stores to push messages about phone upgrades or the status of your computer repair.

3. It could boost mobile payments. Hands-free payments aren't popular yet, but BLE could change that. PayPal is rolling out its Beacon BLE technology this year so customers can use the PayPal app to pay, verify the transaction with voice recognition, and get an emailed receipt--all hands-free.

"Bluetooth mobile payments are still in the early stages," says Gartner analyst Mark Hung. He says mobile payments will require greater security than previous Bluetooth applications did.

 4. It can put your whole house online. Already there are mobile apps that let you lock your doors, turn off your lights and adjust your thermostat. BLE would make these actions even easier; the thermostat could be automatically adjusted as you walk out the door for work, for example.

With BLE, "Companies make their products more useful and get better information about what customers want," says Jonathan Collins, an analyst at ABI Research. "But it does change the relationship with the customer." Collins says companies will know how customers use their product and whether it needs servicing because the product is connected to the Internet or a mobile app.

5. Smartphones will be even less private. "It's up to marketers and app developers to make this not intrusive so users become more accepting," says Hung. "If they design it correctly, I think it can take off."

Customers can opt in or out of BLE apps, but companies should be very clear about when customers' devices are in BLE zones and when they will be sent notifications.

Lauren Brousell is a staff writer for CIO magazine. Follow her on Twitter @LBrousell. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn

Our Methodology

Anyone can claim they do wireless site surveys, including those that walk around using free utilities that check for basic signal strength, without any training or understanding of how wireless works. That may be fine if you only need basic Internet connectivity, but if your network supports mission-critical applications, you need a professional-grade solution.

Our methodologies are what differentiate us from our competition. We start with the belief that combining the best tools and training with years of experience leads to the best wireless solutions available. Our formula for success includes the following:

Expert Certified Personnel

We start with a commitment to having the best trained personnel possible. We only employ or contract with Certified Wireless Network Professionals (CWNP).

We are proud to be a member of the prestigious CWNE roundtable, an exclusive committee of wireless experts dedicated to developing the highest level and most respect vendor-neutral certification in the wireless industry, as well as writing technical whitepapers.


Predictive Modeling

Predictive models, also known as virtual site surveys allow us to efficiently and accurately identify the number of access points required, as well as their initial placement and configuration. Modeling is ideal for creating "what if" scenarios that show us the effects of changes in real time. Our designs always start with a model which we then validate.


RF Spectrum Analysis

Because wireless networks operate in unlicensed frequencies, potential interference from numerous devices such as microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, video cameras, etc. can have a significant negative impact. RF spectrum analyzers are the only devices that can identify physical-layer interference, and no onsite wireless site survey is complete without this service.


Onsite Site Surveys / Validation

When the highest degree of accuracy is required for your mission-critical applications, there is no substitute for a professional-grade manual site survey.

Our surveys start with temporarily mounting the same access points and antennas that will be permanently installed. We then use professional-grade software to test not only for signal strength, but Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) to test the signal's viability, interference and data rates. Our thorough approach is the most accurate solution available.


Detailed Deliverables

Our reports spell out the facts, and leave no doubt in the customer's mind as to what the wireless network does or will look like.