GeLo Bluetooth Beacons and CMS: An Inside Look

GeLo aims to make more than just solid, dependable, all-weather, indoor/outdoor (“and yes they’ll survive the Canadian winter”) Bluetooth beacons. They’re looking to build an integrated platform including hardware, SDKs for mobile app developers and a Content Management System.

We got our hands on some GeLo beacons a few days ago and we’ve been impressed with the industrial quality of the devices, the enthusiasm of the GeLo team, and the early phase of their CMS.

At a webinar they held today, hosted on the Bluetooth Developer site, GeLo demonstrated that they’re off to a good start in creating an integrated solution for proximity-based services.

Inside GeLo

They’ve been at this for a while. The Michigan-based company has been deploying proximity-based projects locally and were well prepared when Apple announced support for Bluetooth LE in iOS7.

While their initial focus was on developing solid beacons, they’re well aware that a beacon without a system for managing both the devices and the content that appears on a user’s app is just another device on the wall. With that in mind, they’ve been building out their SDK and Content Management System and gave us a peek at their progress to date.

GeLo: Making Content Management Easy
GeLo: Making Content Management Easy

Today’s webinar covered a wide range of topics from top line applications of the technology to thoughts on marketing and strategy; right down to the nitty-gritty view controllers and proximity settings on the device. Most importantly, it gave us a very good look at the GeLo Content Management System.

The system looks very promising and includes a number of handy features to manage your beacons.

GeLo also outlined its intentions for further development on its platform. The list of features to come represents an aggressive strategy. For many beacon developers and providers these are early days and the list of what’s coming is longer than what’s here now.

Questions…and Answers?
The Q&A lasted for about 25 minutes. A big tip of the hat to Matthew for fielding so many questions. Here are a few highlights:

Android Support
One of questions that came up from the webinar was Android support. The short answer is: “not yet”. There are millions of Android devices that have shipped with the 4.0 Bluetooth spec but APIs haven’t until recently been available to developers unless you had the capacity to code your own. That has put a burden on developers to roll their own Bluetooth Libraries. Android 4.3 does have support built into the OS  and we expect to see widespread Android support in the coming months and years.

How do I track the analytics using GeLo beacons?

Matthew replied that “our hope is that you don’t actually need to track the analytics at all. In the future, the SDK will handle that for you so you can simply say, ‘I’d like to track certain metrics about a beacon’s use’…how long someone stays in proximity to a beacon or what they do in the app while they’re at that beacon….Our goal is to put that all into the SDK for developers so that they don’t actually have to write much code to do that…”

How Rugged Are GeLo Beacons?

“…you should have no major problems there…. You can not submerge them underwater; you cannot throw them into a burning fire, but for the most part they are ruggedized and weather resistant. We have beacons that are ruggedized, outdoors, in rain. The batteries last about 2 years… there are no moving parts.”

In the SDK, how do you determining if you are moving towards or away from a beacon? 

“… there are number of ways to choose how you monitor that information. You could choose to monitor the closest beacon and tracking method for where person is in the site. You can also get the reported decibel values for any given beacon. And the beacons have different signal strengths. You can configure them…for example you can configure some to be high and some to be low depending on what’s needed…so there are number of strategies for doing that. The method you pick will depend on the solution you need in terms of your output data and fault tolerance you need…”

How do you handle triangulation of multiple beacons?

It’s important to note that this is a proximity-based technology rather than a position-based technology. GeLo explained that they’re “using a couple of different methods for triangulation. It’s playing pretty heavily into dynamic mapping, so what we’d like to eventually offer is the ability for a site to upload a static image of their map or a vector image of their map… and then click and drop the points where they believe their beacons are.”

With a special thank you to Al Wareze and Matthew Seeley we want to thank the team at GeLo for not just explaining their own integrated system of beacons and content management, but for also answering general questions about beacons, Bluetooth LE and their future direction.

I was excited to hear the team outline their vision and I look forward to their next webinar.

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4 Responses to “GeLo Bluetooth Beacons and CMS: An Inside Look”

  1. I will watch the archive of this webinar, but do you know if GeLo provides a simple way to alter the UUID, major, and minor values of the beacons?

    Reply
  2. No they don’t. You can manage the equivalent of major/minor from their CMS, assigning your beacons to “tours” and “locations” (or beacons). Their system generates an ID number which your app picks up (different from a UUID) and tells you which beacon/tour it represents.

    So, you can achieve the same outcome but you can’t change the actual settings. I’ve asked them to further clarify but that’s where it stands right now based on our own tests of the system.

    (Not sure I like this approach – it means you need to use their SDK in order to access their beacons. Best we know, there’s also no way to change the power setting – but this might all be coming).

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the info, Doug. I definitely don’t like this approach. I want to be able to deploy beacons that are specific to my app (no additional mapping to/from another ID). I’d rather have the option to use, or not use, their CMS (not just talking about GeLo here; there are others going down this same road). OTA configuration is the way to go.

    Reply
  4. Mark and Doug, the latest version of the GeLo beacons and firmware enable the end user to customize the UUID, Major, Minor, as well was a few other properties of the beacons. This configuration can be done over the air with mobile application.

    Reply

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