Customizable proximity beacon enables ‘microlocation’ content delivery to iOS and Android devices in commercial applications

May 22, 2015
Oslo, Norway 2015/05/22 - Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor ASA (OSE: NOD) today announces that KS Technologies (KST), a Colorado Springs, CO-based mobile hardware engineering company, is using Nordic’s multiple award-winning nRF51822 System-on-Chip (SoC) in its Ion proximity beacon. The nRF51822 SoC provides Bluetooth® Smart (previously known as Bluetooth low energy) connectivity to both iOS and Android-compatible Bluetooth Smart Ready devices.
Ion conforms with either the Apple iBeacon™ or Google UriBeacon specifications, or a combination of both, to talk to Bluetooth Smart Ready devices. It emits ‘advertisements’ which can be discovered by a user’s mobile device, enabling indoor navigation, asset tracking, and ‘microlocation’ based content delivery.
KS Technologies recently installed its Ion beacons at the Colorado Fine Arts Centre, for example, allowing the gallery to deliver contextually sensitive and relevant information to visitors as they pass by certain exhibits, ‘pinging’ their Bluetooth Smart Ready device via the partner app.
Other potential applications for Ion include car dealerships, theme parks, and even schools. For instance, when a student enters a classroom the in-situ beacon could send a push notification to their Bluetooth Smart device with the agenda for the day. It could also be used to automatically check attendance, or notify a new student if they are in the wrong location and provide a map on their device to show them where they need to go.
Ion is fully compliant with KST’s previously released Particle proximity beacon and supports its existing Application Program Interface (API). The Particle API allows a developer to create an app that can update key beacon parameters as well as interrogate the batteries to determine their current life. The Nordic nRF51822 SoC also enables over-the-air device firmware upgrades (OTA-DFU) for in-situ beacons.
The API is built on native mobile OS manufacturer software development kits (SDKs), including both Apple and Google, and as such requires no third party SDK for integration.
Ion is supplied in an IP65-rated ruggedized industrial case and is suitable for either outdoor or indoor applications. Powered by two, replaceable AA batteries, the ultra low power operating characteristics of the nRF51822 extend battery life up to one year in 24 hour, seven day a week operation, although an onboard real time clock allows calendar functions to extend battery life yet further.
“KST has engineered all the technology itself, the end result is a beacon that is highly customizable and flexible,” says Bob Kressin, KST Founder and President. “For example, companies can come to us and ask for a beacon with energy harvesting or additional sensors and we can build them a custom solution. Better yet, there’s no requirement for registration and no recurring fees, just a one time purchase.”
Nordic’s nRF51822 is a powerful and flexible multiprotocol SoC ideally suited for Bluetooth Smart and 2.4GHz ultra low-power wireless applications such as KST’s Ion beacon. The nRF51822 is built around a 32-bit ARM® Cortex™ M0 CPU with 256kB/128kB flash and 32kB/16kB RAM. The embedded 2.4GHz transceiver is fully compliant with Bluetooth v4.2, the latest Bluetooth Smart specification.
“Nordic’s SoC is the ideal fit for KST’s Ion beacons,” explains Kressin. “It’s at the best price point and it’s the best integrated solution. Nordic’s SDK and SoC firmware are easy to work with and operate incredibly well.
“We consider Nordic as more than just a semiconductor company, rather it is a thought leader in the beacon sector and Bluetooth Smart in general. We believe the company is ahead of the game.”
“Beacons have the potential to become a ‘killer application’ for Bluetooth Smart,” says Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor’s Director of Sales & Marketing. “But that potential will only be recognized if suppliers offer quality-engineered beacon products that are easy to work with and install. KST is making that happen.”

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