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Obviously, proximity-aware
applications rely upon knowing which beacons are nearby. But a
beacon’s RF range can vary from under a meter, to just a few
meters, to over 500 meters depending on its transmit power2. This
makes it impractical to determine proximity based solely on receiving
a beacon identifier packet.

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For this reason, beacon
proximity relies on a comparison of a Received Signal Strength
Indicator (RSSI) to a beacon’s transmit (Tx) power to approximate
the distance to the beacon. Beacons provide a calibrated transmit
(Tx) power figure in their advertising packets. Coupling this
information with the RSSI enables a receiving device to approximate
how far away the beacon is. Unfortunately, this calculation cannot be
very accurate since RF signals fade unpredictably according to
real-world environmental factors like walls, weather, and people.
Luckily, approximate distance is generally good enough for proximity
applications since the typical intent is just to determine whether
the beacon is close by or far away (e.g., 1 meter, 10 meters, or 100
meters).

Future versions of the
Bluetooth specification will likely incorporate Angle-of-Arrival
(AoA) and Angle-of-Departure (AoD) features which allow a
multi-antenna Bluetooth device to accurately determine the spatial
location of another Bluetooth device3. These features will enhance
Bluetooth’s usefulness in applications requiring highaccuracy
location detection, potentially giving position accuracy to within
tens of centimeters. This level of precision would enhance the
effectiveness of beacons when used in asset management applications.

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