Configuring iBeacons

iBeacons are a great way to locate you within your apartment without draining the battery too much. An iBeacon is basically a Bluetooth-Low-Energy device that just broadcasts an identifier in periodic intervals. iOS and Android devices that receive these broadcasts can identify the iBeacon and even calculate the distance to it.

For in-door navigation, the cheapest iBeacons works best as their range is limited. This makes it easier to locate you without using complex triangulation algorithms. When you move, you will just leave a cell when you are too far away for the iBeacon.

As most existing iBeacons use a Texas instruments chipset they are not extremely cheap. Even when ordering directly from China, it is hard to find them for less than $10. One iBeacon that is relatively cheap is the Ghostyu. It consists of a small PCB and a relatively large battery on the back.

ghostyu

Using a single piece of these is simple. You can just use them as they come. If there are neighbours or people on your way to work that use the same beacon, you might run into trouble as the basic configuration is the same for all of these devices. The basic configuration is:

UUID: E2C56DB5-DFFB-48D2-B060-D0F5A71096E0
Major: 0
Minor: 0

All 3 IDs can be used, but the UUID is always being used (you can ignore major and minor).

Therefore I recommend not only to set major and minor to different values than the default, but also UUID. The UUID is an 128-bit ID, you can just randomly select one without having to fear that somebody else in the world will use this. The easiest way is using an online UUID generator.

But how do you change the UUID? For the Ghostyu, there is an iOS app called LightBeacon. Unfortunately it is completely in Chinese. However, clicking around a bit should bring you to the following configuration dialog:

lightbeacon

Here, you can not only define UUID, major and minor ID, but also the advertising interval. This can have a major impact on the battery life. If you want to use iBeacons to turn the light on when you enter a room, 0.5s might still be ok. If you just want to track you and turn the light off when you left the room for some time, even the longest interval of 4 seconds is more than enough. In many use cases, 4 seconds will work fine and result in a longer battery life.  Now just store the value to the iBeacon. It will reboot and advertise the new UUID, major and minor.