Install beacons

Using beacons with IndoorAtlas service is optional. Read more about IndoorAtlas’ hybrid solution.

At least one beacon should be heard at all times – the more beacons you hear, or smaller the beacon power, the better the initial position accuracy. For smaller locations, such as offices or small shops, it might be enough to add beacons to the walls of the building. If the location has large open spaces or the distance between walls is large, you might need to add beacons to some existing structures besides the walls, like pillars or shelves for example.

High-quality installation

Area covered by one beacon depends on the beacon model and the configuration parameters. The place where the beacon is installed plays a significant role as well. Guidelines for placing beacons are:

  • Plan your installation carefully before installing, because re-installing and re-mapping takes considerable time.
    • Prefer using more beacons, if unsure what is enough. Adding more beacons later means you need to do duplicate mapping work with MapCreator.
  • Cover the area as evenly as possible with the beacons.
    • For fast and accurate first fix on iOS, we recommend one beacon every 15 - 30m
  • Good places for beacons
    • Pillars
    • Walls
    • On top of lighting (check that beacons are heard)
  • Direction is important
    • When installed on pillars or other heavy structure, beacons can be heard only on the unobstructed side
    • Install beacons facing to the same direction, where possible – this makes it easier to evenly cover all areas
  • Height is important
    • Place beacon high enough so that no one can grab them and so that the beacon signal is transmitted over small nearby objects or structures (shelves, furniture etc.)
    • Avoid installing higher than 5m to avoid beacons being heard too far away
    • Avoid installing beacons to the ceiling of multi-floor open areas
  • When hiding beacons behind structures or on top of lamps, check before mapping that the beacon is heard sufficiently strongly in the vicinity of the beacon (RSSI >~ -75)
    • Use a tool like the BeaconScanner app or map a few test paths with MapCreator 2 and check analytics (remember to disable the test paths in app.indooratlas.com if you make changes to the beacon installation after collecting the map paths!)
  • Beacon environment quality available in “Draft map” in app.indooratlas.com is your friend!
    • Whole venue does not need to be green for good performance, but avoid large yellow/red areas – on these areas iOS users may experience longer time to first fix
    • Add beacons to yellow/red areas, re-map around the beacon and re-check the analytics

Depending on the beacon characteristics, a beacon signal may form a cone shaped beam directly out from its cover. This causes that:

  • If this kind of beacon is installed on the ceiling, its beam is directed downwards and it’s heard only in a limited area underneath and in close proximity (5-10 meter radius)
  • On the other hand, if such beacon is installed on the wall, its beam can be received rather far, 10-30 meters from the beacon but only in the limited direction, where the transmission beam is directed.

When deciding the placement, it is good to understand the characteristics of the beacon model you are installing.

Beacons near floor transitions

Installing beacons near floor transitions often makes them heard on multiple floor levels. This makes floor detection less reliable. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, installing beacons e.g. to the ceiling of open multi-floor areas is not recommended. Instead, try to install beacons near floor transitions so that they discriminate between floors as much as possible. In other words, try to ensure that the beacons are heard on one floor but not on the others. Use pillars and other physical structures to control where the beacons are heard.

Adding beacons

After planning your installation, installing the beacons, and mapping the venue with MapCreator you notice from the mapping analytics that the beacon environment is not good enough on all areas (i.e. typically first fix on iOS would require walking).

Reminder: plan your installation carefully before installing, because re-installing and re-mapping takes considerable time. Prefer using more beacons, if unsure what is enough. Adding more beacons later means you need to do duplicate mapping work with MapCreator.

If you end up in the situation that you need to add beacons, follow the steps below:

  • Go to the area with red or yellow beacon environment analytics
  • Use a beacon scanner app to check that all beacons you’ve installed area heard – no HW failure, no missing batteries etc.
  • If needed, install more beacons
  • Add mapping paths to all mapped area up to 30m around each beacon and for the best performance also on the floors above and below, if those were also already mapped.

Moving beacons

Sometimes there can be a case, where an existing beacon needs to be moved. This can happen for example if you have accidentally mapped paths while having a beacon in your backpack. Moving a beacon can cause an issue if it remains on the map, as it can give invalid information to the positioning algorithm. Avoiding the issue is easy with the following steps:

  1. Change the minor code (and major if changing floors) of the beacon you move. This way when it will be heard from its new location it will be recognized as a new beacon.
  2. Place the beacon on its new location
  3. Add mapping paths to all mapped area up to 30m around the beacon and for the best performance also on the floors above and below, if those were also mapped when the beacon was installed to its previous location.
  4. Disable paths near the old beacon location and remap those (Optional)

Note that the analytics of the old place won’t change until you remap the old location (Step 4). Therefore, analytics might seem too optimistic, as the system thinks the beacon still exists in it’s old location.