For a company that is definitely not interested in the embedded market or almost anything that it cannot get a price premium on , Apple Inc. is certainly getting a lot of milage out of its trademarked iBeacon proximity system, a low-powered, low-cost transmitter on remote devices enabled with it that notifies nearby iOS 7 iDevices of their presence.
Since then may embedded MCU and software companies have come up with products that make use of this capability in order to tap in on one market segment that Apple has not locked up with single source marketing arrangements.
The newest company to enter the iBeacon space is EM Microelectronic which has just introduced its COiN Bluetooth beacon, designed to be deployed anywhere iBeacon technology is used, but which also supports wireless sensor networking and many other applications over Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth with a Low Energy Core Configuration) wireless communications.
According to Michel Willemin, EM President, it consumes less than 20µA average in a typical application, resulting in more than 18 months’ operation from a single CR2032 battery, which is included in the beacon. COiN also contains a built-in pushbutton switch that allows the devices incorporating it to have a full charge when they are deployed. Integrated red and green LEDs provide users with feedback about the device’s operating mode.
The COiN’s incorporates an internal printed circuit antenna featuring a number of transmission ranges depending on power settings. At the 0dBm output power setting, EM Microelectronic’s beacons can be detected 75 meters away by an iPhone 5S, and at maximum output power, that distance extends up to 120 meters.
The company claims that due to its optimized circuit architecture, it is completely immune to over-the-air attacks, and cannot be “hacked” or modified unless the perpetrator has complete physical possession of the device.
The standard COiN hardware and firmware is designed to be easily modified to fit most applications. At the most basic level, the firmware can be modified to change the UUID, MAJOR ID, MINOR ID, output power, and beacon interval. These changes are useful for adapting the beacon for whatever smartphone software application/API is being used, segregating beacon populations and sub-populations, and for optimizing battery lifetime based on the desired use case.
Willemin said that should more extensive firmware modifications be desired, EM offers a complete development kit , which includes five (5) COiN beacons, programming board and programming cable and is fully compatible with EM’s line of software development tools for the EM6819; EM’s ultra-low power microcontroller.
Using these tools, he said, developers will have complete control over the firmware and can create their own Bluetooth Smart advertising packets and transmit real-time sensor data such as temperature, light level, battery voltage, or other physical phenomena.