Tag Archives: Meridian

Quien es Mas Macho? A Beacon Battery Brouhaha!

There’s not a lot of networky substance here, so if you’re looking for that, well- you just keep moving. But, if you’ve been following what’s going on with beacons and location services that use these little gems, you might want to keep reading.

I give you… Exhibit A.

Beacon2

At the top, we see The Aruba (Meridian) BT-100 beacon, which was given to me at Wireless Field Day 8 as I sipped a cold one and got briefed on lofty tech topics at Levi’s Stadium by Aruba’s SMEs (I run in those circles). At the bottom, we have the Gimbal beacon, by Qualcomm. This was another freebie, which I scored during a promotion. Each has it’s place in the beacon universe, with the power to help build amazing success stories in the field of location based applications and services.

This isn’t a Beacon X vs Beacon Y smackdown in the making- but it is an opportunity to point out a pretty important point about beacons.

I give you… Exhibit B.

beacon 1

Using my world-class Leatherman Skeletool CX (special Kieth Parsons Edition), I jimmied my way into the innards of each beacon with the precision maneuvers of a skilled surgeon. And what I saw made me do some thinkin’ about the powerful lonely feeling that grips a man when batteries go dead and whatever the thingy is in play stops working. Which brings me to the points of this blog:

  • Some batteries are bigger than others
  • Bigger batteries have more capacity
  • More batteries combine for more capacity
  • More batteries that are bigger combine for even more capacity

Sounds so simple, right? The implications aren’t so profound if whatever you’re doing with beacons only needs a few of them in easy-to-reach places. But I have been to Levi’s Stadium, oh yes I have, and I can testify that copious amounts of beacons are in use and not all are easy to get to. This is an example of a place where beacon battery brevity blows. 

You want loooong battery life in many beacon situations, and out of the box the BT-100 promises an impressive 1,460 days. For those not up on Common Core math yet, that equals 4 years. By contrast, the Gimbal above is rated for “many months” (I got about 6-7 months out of mine).

The Gimbal uses the CR2032 battery, whereas the BT-100 uses two of the phat-daddy CR2477 cells. This is the biggest “watch battery” I’ve ever seen, personally.

What’s the Big Deal?

To me, battery refresh on deployed beacons has the potential to significantly add to total TCO where hundreds are deployed, especially if ladders need to be climbed and maintenance windows need to be followed. This simple example shows that not all beacons will have the same battery life, based solely on the battery used (note- I’m leaving out some important operational parameters that impact battery life, but these are beyond what I’m trying to get across here).

There are many, many more beacons on the market than just these two, but if you’re going down the beacon path, make sure you consider expected battery life as you make your choices.


Just getting started with beacons? Here are a couple of blogs I wrote up as I went from knowing absolutely nothing about beacons to knowing enough to be able to not be totally clueless.

Beacon Baby Steps
A Little More on Beacons

A Little More on Beacons- Promise and Frustrations

Last week, Beacon Fever bit me, as I described here. Since then, I’ve made little progress in actually doing anything of real-world value with the three Qualcomm Gimbal beacons that I have on hand. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gained a bit of an education in the few hours I’ve noodled around with them as I’ve consorted with The Google on where to go next. Allow me to share just a little more on Beacons, then I’ll likely put the topic away for a while.

What I’ve Learned:

  • There is a good variety of beacon hardware out there. Here’s another list
  • If you don’t want to $pend, Android and iDevices can be configured to act as beacons for testing
  • There are lots of mobile beacon management and scanning apps out there- some from the beacon manufacturers and some from 3rd party developers
  • The entire proximity paradigm with beacons is built on leveraging “degrees of nearby-ness” like near, far, immediate vicinity, out of range
  • Beacons can be USB powered, or battery powered. If using battery, there will be administrative burden of battery upkeep in large deployments over time
  • Beacons don’t just magically come to life, you have to activate them and do a basic config
  • Every beacon maker seems to have their own management console
  • You can see where heavy beacon use would very much be “another thing to manage”, despite having really cool real-world use cases
  • A “UUID” gets assigned to all beacons in an organization that will be part of the same “system”
  • Each beacon can make use of a Major and Minor field to further segment/identify them
  • Without an application to use with them, beacons aren’t real exciting
  • To leverage beacons, SOMEBODY has to do some coding, and there are a number of frameworks to do that in
  • For people like me, who are definitely not endowed with coding skills, some companies are trying to make “getting started” a little easier
  • There are a lot of beacon videos on YouTube, and blogs from others’ efforts to be had online
  • It doesn’t look like all vendors beacons are welcome in each other’s development environments
  • Connected users “opt in” by enabling Bluetooth on their smartphones, tablets, etc.

That’s the short of it for me, so far, on actual knowledge gained. I also tried to do more with my Gimbal beacons, but found some frustrations- like simply setting the UUID, Major and Minor fields. It looks like other vendors make this a lot more intuitive, but perhaps my lack of experience is the problem here. On my Gimbal developer account, I understand each individual word but get foggy when you put it all together in phrases and sentences. There is a Gimbal iOS management app, but none for Android that I have found yet.

I did discover a couple of promising leads for myself in learning more, as a mental-midget when it comes to programming. Estimote makes a popular kit that comes with three beacons, and from what I can tell their app-building tools seem to have folks like me in mind. But… each kit is $99, and indoor location requires two kits (for some unspecified reason). I’m not ready to drop $200 on beacons yet, but maybe at some point.  And… Meridian (An Aruba HP company) also seems to understand that some of us need all the help we can get. They put a very friendly face on getting started, and I hope to learn more about this product set/application framework in the months to come.

So… that’s all on beacons from me for now. If anyone reading gets further with these fascinating little transmitters, please share what you learn.

Aruba Networks Knows The Value Of Purchasing Well- Wireless Field Day 6

Image

As the real-estate types like to say, it’s all about location, location, location.  I’ve long been interested in highly-accurate location capabilities, regardless of what form they take. I have also been following the fledgling field of indoor, WLAN-based location services for a couple of years now. Under the heading of “truth is stranger than fiction”, I got to see Aruba Networks present the same location magic (Meridian) that Cisco did at an earlier Field Day.

Last year, Cisco was partnering with Meridian.this year, Aruba owns Meridian. Things can change quick around here.

If you’re not familiar with Meridian, take a minute to get oriented here. I’ll wait.

Our Wireless Field Day 6 visit started with the downloading of Aruba’s Campus App and Chief Airhead Sean Rynearson getting us started on a self-guided map-routing session to rooms full of goodies for us. It was a nice way to start the visit, and a good real-world way of showing off the capabilities of Meridian. There are a few other providers out there trying to do the same thing (Wifarer, Google Maps, etc), but in my research to date, Meridian was the best fit for my own Cisco Mobility Services Engines. As the magic that took MSE feeds and turned it into almost real-time interactive mapping, I was fairly deep into discussions with Meridian and Cisco about licensing costs (which were confusing as hell from the Cisco side at the time) when news broke that Aruba had bought Meridian.

Deju vu moment: I also remember years ago, when Aruba purchased AirWave even as I was hoping that Cisco would, that I thought “good for you, Aruba”. And it looks like the Meridian purchase is very good indeed for Aruba.

During the WFD6 visit, Aruba also over-viewed their ALE (Analytics and Location Engine) in a great discussion facilitated by Ozer Dondurmacioglu, Kiyo Kubo, Manju Mahishi , and Dhawal Tyagi. We talked about all sorts of details that go into location services- what it feels like to different client devices, how network design impacts it, what sort of platform horsepower makes it tick, concerns over licensing, etc. It was also agreed that the industry is just starting to scratch the surface of indoor location services.

For me, the elephant in the room at Aruba was one that followed us from session to session; that is the fact that “wireless” has gone well beyond doing a site survey and hanging APs for people to connect to. Wireless Networking is now about services, and monitization and monitization via services. It’s about using the WLAN as base for doing all kinds of new and productivity or profit-enhancing things that require more boxes (real or virtual), skillsets that far exceed those of yesterday’s wireless pro, and a greater “world view” of the environment you’re trying to make all this great, crazy stuff work in. Even if you reduce your burden by keeping more of the environment in the cloud, that doesn’t lessen the need to truly understand operational landscapes that are getting ever more complex. None of this is bad, it’s just a natural evolution that’s worth calling out into the light of day.

We also got a peek at some slick new wireless gear coming out in the near future, and that’s always nice.

I can tell you this- if you get a chance to spend some time at Aruba HQ, don’t hesitate to visit. It’s a beautiful facility, sure- but it also doesn’t take long in the company of Aruba’s techies to understand why they are doing so well in the WLAN market. 

Location Services Are Heating Up

It seems like you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting an announcement about some new location service or analytics application. This is a growth space, that is obvious. Whether locating wireless client devices on a WLAN with greater accuracy as an end to the means, or taking it up a notch and building a full-blown suite of location-based services, a lot of names are in the game. Let’s take a sniff at a handful of examples in a space I have been watching for years.

Nearbuy Systems promises “A Practical Way to Deliver on the Omnichannel Shopping Experience Today”. Headed up by CEO Bryan Wargo (a long-time professional acquaintance of mine, and sweetheart of a guy), Nearbuy has made it into my Network Computing Blog a few times since their formation. Nearbuy leverages your wireless network to work it’s magic.

Aerohive Networks recently formed a partnership with Euclid Analytics to leverage both companies’ retail customer bases. Again, the partnership was announced in my Network Computing Magazine blog column.

Canadian startup Wifarer  looks to make it big as a provider of indoor positioning services. Using a customer’s own WLAN, Wifarer maps customer venues and provides a range of services (handicap routes through a venue, for example), and content-enabled benefits via their app. Pass a coffee shop, get offered a coupon- that sort of thing. Their demos are worth watching to get a flavor for their offerings, and here’s Wifarer’s mention in Network Computing.

Aruba Networks doesn’t really tout their location tools, but Aruba’s AirWave management tool has always competed well with Cisco’s graphical client tracking services, and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear more from the #2 WLAN company in the market on location services in the near future.

Even Google is in on it, with their no-cost-to-you Indoor Mapping Service.

I’ll finish this one with Cisco Network’s recent announcement regarding their Mobility Services Engine (MSE) new 7.4 code. Cisco announced details here, and at the recent Wireless Field Day 4 event. As an MSE owner (I have three in use on a very large WLAN) I have a lot to digest on this. From what I heard first-hand at Wireless Field Day, it seems that MSE 7.4 comes pretty close to doing what Wifarer promises- and Cisco claims better analytics than Euclid with MSE 7.4.Update- though I have yet to get to 7.4, I have learned that the new magic in CIsco MSE 7.4 comes from a partnership with Meridian.

There’s obviously a lot to follow here- stay tuned for more, and let me know what you are digging in the WLAN location services space.