Beacon installation for indoor mapping

This page describes how to install beacons for use with the Umajin Editor’s Offline Map component. We recommend beacons.

Overall Process

We have found a phased approach helps with beacon system installs.

Test Area: First, make sure you understand beacon placement and configuration using a test area.

  • This can be in your own offices, with pretend locations if necessary.
  • Get the hang of finding latitudes and longitudes and how the map will respond to beacons.
  • These beacons can just sit on desks or other surfaces.

Proof-of-concept route: Secondly, select a moderate sized path through the real location.

Your goal here is to understand the challenges of the environment and where beacons can be placed for both good coverage and good separation. This stage will also allow you to demonstrate the concept to customers, and give you a better idea of how many beacons you will need in total.

  • Use temporary methods of attachment such as Blu-Tak, since you will need to move beacons around a lot.
  • You will need around 10-20 beacons to cover 50-200 metres of floor area.
  • Pick an area that has representative examples of the type of areas you will encounter, such as elevators, foyers, corridors and corners.
  • Experiment with our placement guidelines below

Order beacons: After proof of concept you will understand your beacon requirements better.

  • Numbers of beacons:
    • At least one beacon per corner to be routed through
    • At least one for each corridor between corners to detect “wrong way”
    • Probably additional beacons in long corridors to provide an indication of progress
    • Open areas will typically need more beacons
    • Some reserve (at least 20%) to allow for faulty beacons, extra corners or problem areas, etc.
  • Ensure you order the configuration of beacons you need. You can do this yourself later using the beacon’s own admin app, but it’s quicker to order it the way you want.
    • See Configuration below
    • Note: currently we require that the beacon name be left at Kontakt default of ‘Kontakt’.

Full install: Finally you can systematically install the full set of beacons at all the corners and other locations you’ve determined are important.

  • Permanently install them using a suitable method
  • Use the beacon administration app to check the beacon’s signal strength is roughly as expected before installing.
  • This can take a substantial amount of time – an hour for ten beacons is conservative.

People and Tools

It is a good idea to have at least two people, so one can keep equipment securely while the other installs or tests.

Find a means to attach beacons suitable for the situation. For temporary placement (while demonstrating or testing) we found that 3M Blu-Tak works well. For permanent fixture, attachment depends on the beacon type you have.

  • The Beacon Pro has a plastic detachable sleeve with screw hole.
  • Current standard beacons have a screw keyhole on the back.
  • Older standard beacon will likely need to be affixed with tape or glue.

Remember that beacons carried around in your suitcase or backpack will interfere with your testing!

Beacon Configuration and Testing

Use the Administration app  to test and configure beacons (other apps are available for other brands of beacon). This app allows:

  • Checking that the beacon is working at all and it’s signal strength where you stand.
  • Increasing the “advertising interval” for faster detection, or slowing it for longer battery life. (We suggest 350ms)
  • Upgrading the software in the beacon if there is a particular feature you need
  • Adjusting transmission strength to adjust for the environment. However we have found it easier to do this by placement to avoid having too many variables to consider.
  • Note: currently we require that the beacon name be left as ‘Kontakt’ (the default)

Beacon Placement

The location of beacons matters. You may evolve your own guidelines after phase 2, testing in the real environment. These are the things we have found effective.

  1. Place above head height
    • Peoples bodies will dampen the signal so place the beacon above head height wherever possible (~2m above floor level is ideal).
    • This may also help to limit theft and/or vandalism.
    • Be cautious about placing on the ceiling. This can cause the beacon to be picked up more strongly on a floor above, than the beacon actually on the floor.
  2. Place beacons directly over each other on adjacent floors.
    • Unfortunately, most floors will let enough signal through that you can easily pick up the beacon from a floor above or below.
    • Therefore, you need to place beacons on the floors above and below in the same horizontal place.
    • This typically will extend upwards and downwards through other floors.
  3. Selecting a position
    • Don’t point beacons directly down hallways as they reflect well down the hall and the beacon will often seem to trigger too early.
    • Use corners and alcoves to help direct the beacon to be visible in the area you want. This is not always reliable depending on building materials and shapes, so see multiple beacons below.
  4. Distance between beacons
    • Don’t place beacons closer than 5m to each other. Natural variation of signal strength will not allow reliably resolving smaller distances.
    • You may need more separation distance in wide open areas.
  5. Add extra beacons to refine location.
    • It’s not possible to reliably control the region that an individual beacon is picked up within, considering variation between devices, and the blocking effect of people moving around
    • But you can always add more beacons to “pull” location towards a particular point you need to detect.
  6. Consider multiple beacons tied to one location to ensure predictable location:
    • If you have larger open spaces, provide multiple beacons so that the location is resolved even when someone’s body (such as the user’s own body) is blocking one of the beacons.
    • One beacon will cover one moderate room. If you have a room 10m or longer, add more beacons, tied to the same location – it will not resolve where in the room you are reliably, but will make it reliable that you are in that room
  7. Surface materials:
    • Don’t place directly on metal. This seems to greatly reduce the strength (10dBm). This means that the phone/device will not pick up the beacon until it is closer to it than others around that are on other surfaces.
  8. Beacon orientation:
    • Beacon signals spread out roughly equally in all directions.
    • Reflections and absorption from the building and people have a much bigger effect than the exact orientation of the beacon.
    • Place them so that you can see the beacon code printed on outside for diagnostics.
  9. There will always be exceptions.
    • Even when you’ve followed all the rules, sometimes there will be black spots where a beacon isn’t picked up like you’d expect.
    • Sometimes experimentation is needed.