Beacons broadcast 2.4 GHz radio waves that are susceptible to environmental factors. Antenna orientation, interference, human bodies, metal obstacles: all of these can reduce signal range and stability. Take them into account when deploying beacons.
Below we share some of the best practices for beacon placement, settings, and avoiding interference. We’ve also covered them in more detail on our blog: read the UX for the real world post. However, it’s always best to test and experiment yourself to achieve the best results.
Beacon placement and orientation
Try to create a line of sight between a beacon and user’s phones. The easiest way to achieve that is to place beacons above crowds and objects. Our data science team has been experimenting with different orientation and determined that the most effective placement for optimal signal propagation is vertical, with the little dot facing upwards (like on the picture below). Installing beacons on ceilings also works well.
You can adjust signal performance by editing beacon’s settings:
Broadcasting Power directly impacts signal range. The more power, the longer the range. Increasing the power can also make the signal more stable, but keep in mind it can have negative effect on battery life.
Advertising Interval describes the time between each beacon’s broadcast. The shorter the interval, the more stable the signal. Keep in mind that adjusting Advertising Interval will impact battery life in a big way.
To dig deeper into signal characteristics and performance, read this article:
What are Broadcasting Power, RSSI and other characteristics of beacon's signal?
If you’re using many beacon regions in close proximity to each other, it’s likely that you will experience signal bleed: beacons from one region being detected in the other. Imagine that you’re using beacons in a museum, and audio tour for exhibit A start playing as you approach exhibit B, To avoid that, you can reduce beacons’ range. Some clever beacon placement will help, too. For example, if you attach a beacon to a metal case, the case will shield the signal, reducing the range in one direction.
Obstacles and interference
Signal can also be blocked and absorbed by obstacles. Metal and water will have the strongest effect, significantly reducing beacon’s range. Remember that human body is made of water: that’s why it’s so important to place beacons properly when deploying in crowded places.
Below are some common material types and their interference potential.
Low interference potential: wood, synthetic materials, and glass
Medium interference potential: bricks and marble
High interference potential: plaster, concrete, and bulletproof glass
Very high interference potential: metal, water
Please refer to the Potential sources of wireless interference article for more details.