Beacon Technologies: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem
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Computers are bursting out of the metal boxes and machine rooms where they were born and are becoming embedded throughout the world in which we live. The communication technologies that enable what is called the Internet of Thingsextends their reach to appliances in our homes and the meters and valves that regulate the flow in our heating, power, and water systems. The outputs have evolved way beyond the original paper printouts we used. Now these machines engage us through the voice of Siri, virtual reality headsets, and massive digital displays. The inputs are just as diverse, from finger-sensing layers on tablets, cameras that can guess our mood, and a wide variety of technologies that are designed to track the location of people and things. These are described variously as “presence,” “proximity,” and “real-time location systems”. The ability for computer systems to know where objects are located is key to what is being described as “digital to physical convergence”. This is where computers and the real world become melded together. The Bluetooth beacon has taken center stage in this location technology evolution. These devices, which can be the size of a guitar pick, are being sprinkled around buildings, hidden away out of sight. They allow mobile phones to understand their location indoors, something that was very hard to do previously. They enable proximity triggers that can cause apps on our phones to start to interact with the world around us in new ways. At one level they are very simple devices, but rather like the transistor, which helped to fuel another technology revolution, the possibilities are endless. Their successful use requires the understanding of a large array of related subjects.
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