Here at Estimote, we believe that beacon infrastructure management should be extremely simple. From the very first version of Estimote Beacons, we’ve put a lot of effort to make this true. One of the most important aspects of this is energy efficiency. As a software company, we’ve been constantly pushing ourselves to improve it without hardware changes. As a result we’ve created extremely energy efficient firmware with useful features like Power Modes and Conditional Broadcasting. Today, we move energy management to a whole new level by introducing Beacon Clustering!
Software is the key to deployment efficiency
Hardware is not a solution for building flexible deployments. We could have introduced a range of beacons with different batteries and capabilities a long time ago. But it’s not that easy... multiple form factors would force us to build and maintain different production processes and thus introduce complexity to stock management and shipping. These would limit us heavily in the mission to make beacons as affordable and accessible as possible. It wouldn’t benefit our customer, either.
By setting certain limits and functions to particular products, it can be difficult to suit every possible use case and deployment. What’s even more important, your needs can change over time. You may need a longer lifetime at some point, and with a fixed device range you’re stuck replacing an existing one with the newer.
Gain flexibility with Clusters
We’ve decided to solve all these problems with software. Thanks to Beacon Clustering an unlimited number of physical beacons can act as a single logical unit. All beacons in the cluster are sharing the same settings, but only one is actively broadcasting at any given time. It gives you extreme efficiency and flexibility. For instance, combine two Location Beacons into a Cluster and you will achieve 11 years of battery life on default settings. It’s really easy to manage a cluster. You can add beacons as needed at any time, or if your needs change, remove beacons from the cluster to use elsewhere. This allows you not only to optimize deployment lifetime but also responsiveness, since you can apply more power-hungry settings. The deployment of beacons is much more reliable, as a single logical beacon is represented by a few fully capable hardware devices. Clustering is the most advanced beacon power management feature on the market and it’s patented by Estimote.
Clusters use Estimote Low-Energy Mesh underneath
Estimote was the first company in the world to launch a low-energy BLE mesh network. Clustering is a great example how this breakthrough technology can be used in practice. Thanks to mesh capabilities all clustered beacons are in constant sync. Any configuration change only needs to be sent to a single beacon in a Cluster. It’s then propagated instantly to all the other members - saving hours of expensive, manual configuration time. You can use this same approach to effortlessly flash firmware updates from beacon to beacon. It’s even possible to set up a simple but powerful failover mechanism, where failure of a single device in a cluster can be handled transparently by other cluster members. All these advanced capabilities are available without any additional complexity - you work with the cluster the same way as with a single beacon!
Clustering in practice
To try out this cool new feature, just place two Long Range Location Beacons next to each other and use the Estimote Deployment App in version 1.1 or higher. Just a few simple steps will guide you through the Clustering process.
A created Cluster can then be seen and managed using the Estimote Cloud Dashboard and Remote Fleet management API. Clustering requires firmware 4.10.0 or higher.
Got any questions or ideas to share? Let us know!