Who’s Winning the War for Beacons? Bluetooth LE Statistics

App Captures Beacon Data

EarthPing is  a Research Project Setting Out to Collect Bluetooth LE Data

How many iBeacon devices are there in your local mall? How many connected products use Bluetooth LE?

One developer wants us to all help find out and to contribute to a global effort to gather stats. BlueScan is an Android app that lets you scan for Bluetooth LE devices and beacons and even in its earliest days it’s unearthing some great insights.

The data it collects is being used in EarthPing, a project that’s looking to aggregate insights into the number and ratio of iBeacon and Bluetooth LE devices, and is being led by John Abraham who is clearly passionate about the project.

While some of the comments on the Google Play download page show that some folks have downloaded the app to help them relocate their lost FitBit, the larger intention is a giant cloud sourced effort to keep track of beacons.I also suspect that the app is also be used by developers in their offices to range and test their beacon kits.

Early Indicators

But the early statistics hold some important reminders. Among them: while beacons like Estimote are important, they represent only a sliver of the actual number of Bluetooth LE powered devices. With your iPhone or iPad being a Bluetooth LE device it’s no wonder.

Total Devices 22,944 Total devices in EarthPing database
Apple Devices 1,477 This is mostly iPhones and Macbooks
Private Registrations 304 Is big brother watching you!? These are Bluetooth radios that have anonymously registered MAC addresses with the IEEE
Beacons 410 This is the total count of Bluetooth LE beacons: Estimote, Insiteo, Gelo, Kontakt, Gimbal(Qualcomm), indoors
Fitbit 1,438 Devices identified as “Flex”, “One”, “Zip”, “Force” or “Quark” Fitbit models
SensorTag 57 Texas Instruments BLE dev kit

John tells me that the users of his app are predominantly from Europe and Asia with good representation in major cities in the U.S. including New York, LA, Boston, DC and San Francisco (which, again, may represent developer hot spots rather than casual users).

Where Do We See Bluetooth LE?

He also said that an early review of the data set elicited the following observations:

  • Some facilities appear to have multiple beacon brands onsite
  • Most facilities have multiple beacons (as you’d expect)
  • Retail, hotels, universities, insurance, and large US tech companies were recorded as having beacons on site
  • Europe appears to be early adopters

John notes that “I am seeing them on the freeways in California. As it turns out our state road organization (CALTRANS) is testing the use of Bluetooth radios on freeways to measure traffic speed.” This kind of insight is the hidden kind of hidden gold that his project will unearth over time.

While the data is early and likely skewed by high use among the developer community (and users who have lost their FitBit watches) the data will only get better as more people download BlueScan.

Apple customers? You’re out of luck. Because while most of the beacons being found are compatible with Apple iBeacon, only Android lets you scan for beacons that aren’t your own – and so we need to rely on the ‘Droids to conduct this kind of in-the-field research.

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3 Responses to “Who’s Winning the War for Beacons? Bluetooth LE Statistics”

  1. Williams Martinez

    Hi Doug,
    Yesterday, playing with my estimote beacons and estimote editor (https://github.com/ygini/EstimoteEditor) I was able to find my beacons without declaring the UUID.
    I compile and install in my iPhone the app (estimote editor) just as is, without any modification, so the UUID was:
    #define ESTIMOTE_REGION_ALL @”me.gini.estimote.region.all”
    To my surprise the app found my beacons without any problem.
    I wonder if I can scan for beacons without knowing their UUID?

  2. From the advertisement hexstring, if I’m not finding FF, is there some other pattern that companies use? Take for example Fitbit, their device names are clear (“Flex”, “One”, “Zip”, “Force”, “Quark”), but they don’t seem to put their company identifier on the advertisement. Yet Nike puts their company identifier on the advertisement, but nothing on the device name.

  3. This would be easier to do if you used a Cisco Meraki access point with Bluetooth built in. They can detect the presence of many iBeacon devices and provide a list of the names such as “Flex”. Just put 1 AP in a public place and you can see up to 1 month of BLE devices.


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