Hybrid Bluetooth LE: The Next Generation of iBeacon Is Already Here

AirFy is More Than a Beacon
AirFy is More Than a Beacon

The next generation of Bluetooth LE devices will let you know when the front door is opened, whether your bacon is crisp enough for you, and let you tap into free WiFi to overcome limits to 3G/4G bandwidth in a store.

For all the talk about beacons, the true power of a connected world comes when we start combining the Bluetooth low-energy specification with other chips and processors.

The popular Estimote beacon already contains an accelerometer and temperature module, while Sonic Notify produces a beacon that bundles together Bluetooth LE with audio signals (to accommodate older phones, including many Android devices).

AirFy Takes the Bandwidth Pain Away
Beacons cause confusion. People often think that they’re like a little WiFi hub because they “transmit” data. But the truth is, your phone does all the work.

AirFy App Samples
AirFy App Samples

A Bluetooth LE beacon simply ‘advertises’ that it’s there. The data is a small packet, but it has enough information so that your phone can figure out where it is in, say, a store.

But then your phone does all the work – if you want to send a user a coupon, you need to deliver it through their normal phone connection (3G/4G etc). If you want to send them a video, you’d better hope that they can get a decent cell signal inside – a risky proposition if you live somewhere like New York City where wireless connections can be slow.

Along comes AirFy which is taking preorders and raising funds on Indiegogo.

This is one of those products that I predict will get made regardless of their crowdfunding success. Sometimes a fundraising effort is as good as a pitch to your local VC.

Airfy is a sexy looking series of devices – from a simple beacon to a “Hotspot AC” which boasts:

Indistiguishable on the outside from the HotSpot N, it boasts dual-band WiFi featuring 802.11N 3×3 and 802.11AC 3×3 with up to 1.3 GBit in your WiFi network. In addition, the airfy HotSpot AC comes with 5 Gigabit ports and a USB 3.0 interface. Naturally, it offers the full range of airfy functions: airfy free WiFi, VPN, HomeZone, LED and Mesh. You also have the option of setting each LED independently. Use this high performer with the fastest WiFi available and simply allow yourself to succumb to the spell of the LEDs.

But the thing I REALLY love about Airfy is the visual cues it gives through LED:

AirFy Hot Spots Glow!
AirFy Hot Spots Glow!

“Turn your HotSpot into a design object. Use the airfy LEDs to stay informed when something happens in your digital world. Set the LEDs to glow when you’ve been tagged on Facebook or choose from dozens of other fun options. Can be controlled via the app or the airfy website, and also features IFTTT support.”

Light Blue Cortado Wireless Arduino Kit
But these hybrid devices are just the beginning. Light Blue Cortado is a spiffy little kit that lets you code Arduino applications to cover everything from building an iPhone controlled Nerf gun turret to notifications and text messages if someone moves your bike.

They get super bonus points, however, for this photo, demonstrating how you can use the humidity detector to check out the crispness of bacon:

Cortados ship with Bluetooth LE profiles:

“We will ship the Cortados with a profile built especially for the common features of the Cortado. This will let you program it, read the accelerometer, set the RGB LED, and run your Arduino code like you’d expect on the Atmel chip. We will also release separate firmware images to load onto the module via our Apps that implement both iBeacons and Apple’s notification center service.”

One big benefits? No wires. And the first Arduino that can be seamlessly programmed from any device.

It’s a brave new world of beacons. And the next wave is already upon us: devices that combine Bluetooth LE with accelerometers, WiFi, and the power of bacon crispness detection all in the palm of your hand.

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