That's a great use case, and beacons should be a great fit. You can assign unique identifiers to beacons placed on the pallets and map them to the payload in your backend—e.g., beacon X = pallet #123, beacon Y = pallet #456, etc. Much more convenient than QR codes, and doesn't require any specialized equipment like RF tags, just a Bluetooth-enabled phone.
On to your questions:
Is this technology possible outdoors?
Yes, our beacons are waterproof and withstand a wide range of temperatures. Extreme conditions (mostly—high humidity) might impact the range of the beacon signal though. Extreme temperatures will decrease the battery life.
Will the beacons work if it is put on pallets containing IT equipment?
Yes, the only thing to keep in mind is, placing a beacon amidst a lot of objects, especially metal ones, can greatly reduce its range.
Should the beacons be activated with the iOS app prior to shipping?
No, the beacons are on as soon as they leave the factory. You might want to adjust their settings before placing them on the pallets though—bump the range, assign a unique identifier (becomes are shipped set to broadcast a random identifier), etc.
Do you have rugged beacons that can withstand the harsh shipping ordeals, and still adhere to the pallets. Kindly give us a cost estimate.
We ship our beacons in their silicone, water-proof enclosures, and a 3M tape to stick them to most surfaces. The only thing to watch out for would be for the payload not to crush the beacon—the silicone enclosure won't withstand too much pressure. As for the pricing, I suggest you contact our business team at email@example.com, they'll provide a quote.
What will be the read range?
When set to maximum broadcasting power, the range is about 50-70 meters, when unobstructed.
What is the battery life?
Out of the box, it's ~ 3 years. Bumping the power would decrease it slightly, but you can also enable our energy saving modes, which will likely get the battery life back to ~ 3 years.
Should there be a 3G/4G connection to make the app work, or is it enough to switch on the mobile phone's Bluetooth 4.0?
Bluetooth is enough.
What is the proximity with which one can detect the beacon? Does it show the distance (say in metres/cms) that you are close to the shipment?
Beacons are detectable within their entire broadcasting range (i.e., up to 50-70 m in ideal conditions). It's possible to estimate the distance to a beacon at shorter ranges (I'd say, up to 20-30 m). The mean error is about +/- 20% (so e.g., at 20 m, the estimation can be off by 4 m, i.e., show either 16 or 24 m on average).