Why we rewrote Beacon handling on Android

Feb 12

Why we rewrote Beacon handling on Android

Last week we gave a presentation on this subject for Android developers.

Warning: this is for geeks!

iOS iBeacons vs Android Beacons

Its a little amusing as an outsider but iBeacon is an Apple Trademark and can’t be referenced in Android, Windows or anything else context. So we use the term “Beacons”.

On iOS8 iBeacons are generally easy to use via the operating system’s Location Services. It has its drawbacks and limitations – for example there are limits of 20 regions that this API will support. The challenge for developers is:

  • 20 regions is not much for any business with multiple locations. e.g a country-wide retailer will have hundreds or thousands or regions.
  • if you are using beacons in a retail context, then you are likely using geofences. But geofences compete for the 20 “slots” available. In iOS terms geofences are 1 region and you can have (say) 45 iBeacons in 1 region. Thats a total of two regions used.
  • Having 45 iBeacons is interesting for some applications (lots of beacons in big shopping aisles) but we think the majority of use cases over the next 2 years are largely “foot-fall” (“someone came in the door”, “someone stood near a billboard”) and transactions (“someone at the cash register”)
  • so (at large scale) you need to swap-in/swap-out the beacons relevant to a geographic region.

At StreetHawk we are trying to make that a no-brainer for marketers to market and developers can get back to simply working on their Apps functionality.

Back to Android Beacons

We wanted to deploy a library for Android that supports multiple beacon vendors and maps to the same standard capabilities on iOS8. We recognized that a customer might have a mix of different beacon brands and we should be agnostic to that.

There are many iBeacon/Beacon hardware companies out there and each provide their own SDK on Android – many of them implement proprietary extensions that add value (i.e more info for cost-of-ownership, or methods to be un-sniffable – I’ve talked about hijacking beacons before here).

So this presentation covers the geeky reasons we rewrote beacon handling on our Android library. The main reason is so that is makes it easier for you (both developers and marketers).

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