The basic configuration settings for beacons include:
- Transmission Power (also known as TX Power) and
- Advertising Interval (how often your beacons push out a signal)
The settings you choose for Transmission Power and Interval, have a great impact on how your beacon network operates – therefore choosing the most practical and efficient settings is greatly determined by your specific needs and use-case.
Today we will focus on Transmission Power only, because there are a number of factors to consider when choosing the optimal TX Power setting for your needs. The major things the above settings will affect include:
- Signal range (greatly influenced by TX Power)
- Signal stability (somewhat influenced by TX power but more so by Interval)
- Battery life (somewhat influenced by TX power but more so by Interval)
Now it may be easy to say “I want the best of all three” – but this is not always possible or even really necessary. The keyword here is efficiency and practicality – using too much, or too little power, can greatly affect the effectiveness of your beacon deployment. Let’s go over the particulars.
Beacon Transmission Power Basics
Your Transmission Power setting determines how powerful the signal will be transmitted by your beacon. This is measured in dBM (Decibel-milliwatts) and corresponds to a number rating (from 0 to 7) that you change via our Admin App (0 is least powerful – 7 is most powerful). Tx Power option of 0 is not available for the Beacon Pro.
As you might expect, if you make your transmission more powerful – you will increase the range of your signal. However it is also true that the more powerful your transmission – the bigger the energy drain, and accordingly the shorter your battery life.
The table below shows how your TxPower setting affects a beacon’s range and battery life.
|Admin App Setting||TxPower||Expected range||Battery Life1|
|1||-30dBM||4m (13')||Up to 52 months|
|32||-12 dBM||35m (115')||Up to 50 months|
|7||4 dBM||70m (230')||Up to 35 months|
1 Assuming interval of 350ms and optimal environmental conditions for SB18-3 Smart Beacon.
2 Kontakt.io default TX Power setting on some beacon models.
Determining optimal beacon Transmission Power
The best way to determine the best TX Power for your needs is to answer the following questions:
How much range do you really need?
For example you may want to use the max TX Power for beacons placed at a venue entrance. This is because you likely want as many people connecting with this beacon as possible (e.g. to send a welcome message) – therefore you are willing to sacrifice battery life to gain the widest range possible.
Then you may have beacons attached to a specific item (say an exhibit or shelf) – where you only really want to connect to people who are standing directly in front of said item. In this case you certainly want to use a lower TX Power to conserve battery life, and still achieve the same expected results (i.e. sending relevant information about that specific item).
How often are you really willing to change the battery?
This is a question of cost vs. convenience vs. efficiency. Maybe you are perfectly willing to change your battery every month, or perhaps you vastly prefer getting a few years out of each battery.
Since you can configure beacons individually, it is also pretty simple to get the “best of both worlds”. For example having a few entry / exit beacons with max TX Power, and then having the rest of your fleet use a lower setting to extend the battery life.
Keep in mind however, that to maximize the value you get out of beacons – you may end up having to replace your batteries more often that you may prefer. It’s just good business sense – a little bit of bother to gain a lot of profit.
When do you really need to use a higher TX Power?
This is a question of intended use. According to customer feedback, these are some of the common reasons our customers are using the maximum power setting:
- It is really important that this beacon can be found by as many people as possible e.g. to identity a landmark, or mark a meeting point.
- It is really important that visitors more than 5 meters away, don’t miss the message attached to this beacon e.g. marking entry / exit from a zone, or helping someone find their seat.
- There is a lot of potential interference in the immediate vicinity of this particular beacon, so you need a powerful signal to cut through the interference e.g. many solid dense objects are surrounding the beacon (yes, people count as “dense heavy objects”).
If the above situations do not apply to you, then you can likely get away with a lower TXPower setting. This will help save your battery, and overall make your system operations more efficient.
Beacon installation recommendations
In order to get the best performance – with the lowest possible TX Power setting or widest possible signal coverage – without unnecessarily wasting battery life.
- If you need the signal range to be as wide as possible in a high traffic area – use the max power setting and install the beacon roughly 3 meters (9 feet) up from the floor, to reduce interference from people walking by.
- If you only need the beacon to be detected a few meters / several feet away (say to identify a product sitting on a shelf) – use a lower power setting.
- Always be mindful of “line-of-sight” i.e. that in general there are no objects in between a beacon and the customer’s smart device.
- If getting “line-of-sight” is impossible or impractical – try to make sure these objects are not too heavy or dense e.g. thick steel panels or brick walls between a beacon and smart device.
Also remember that the battery in our Smart beacons are replaceable.
Since beacons can have their TX Power configured individually, it is easy to mix and match beacons with different TX Power settings. This enables you to assign an optimal value to each beacon, based on the intended use of that beacon. Enabling you to maximize efficiency as best appropriate.