Bleu Station Installation with external antenna
We had a customer looking for a solution to automatically open a gate when the owner’s vehicle approached. We helped him with a prototype of our new beacons and an external antenna. Here is his experience.
Article written by Robert Predovich:
We wanted to automatically open a sliding wrought iron gate at the entrance of a new home as the homeowners approached it within their vehicles. The “open gate” command is available via custom programming within SmartThings and attempts were made to use geofencing on their iPhones to recognize proximity and create a trigger. However, this proved very inconsistent and unreliable. The concept of using a locally installed Bluetooth beacon that would trigger an app on the iPhones, which would in turn trigger an event within SmartThings, was then considered as an alternative.
The location is near Toronto, Canada and so weather, especially cold and snow in winter, become a major issue with regards to determining where a beacon could be installed. Not having to rely on battery power that would be susceptible to a shortened lifespan with the cold temperatures was a significant design consideration. Therefore, an enclosed area that could be serviced with AC power was desirable.
The General Plan
The gate is controlled by a DoorKing unit that provides a user interface for visitors. The hope was that a beacon could be mounted within its metal enclosure without interfering with that unit’s electronics. This would provide the protection and AC power required.
Initially a Proxidyne Bleu Station Series 100 Beacon was installed. The small size of the unit, even when powered via the AC adapter, was perfect. However, the metal enclosure severely restricted its range. Considering the homeowners would be in their own “metal enclosure” (their vehicle) as they approached the gate, the result was that there was no perceived benefit of an automatic reaction by the system to open the gate compared to their ability to manually trigger the opening of the gate as they arrived.
When I explained the dilemma to Tim Perfitt and Russell Scheil of Proxidyne they recommended that I do an experiment with a prototype Bleu Station Beacon that had the ability to have an external antenna attached. In this way the beacon could be mounted inside the metal enclosure, safely away from the weather elements and powered via AC, with the dipole antenna sitting on top as illustrated by the photos.
The beacon range, which was only a few meters from the enclosure when the antenna was inside it, was increased to approximately 110 meters during testing when walking away from it. Although the range during normal use is expected to be reduced by the fact that the iPhones will still be within a metal vehicle as they approach, the external antenna has made this concept a practical solution for us.
Thanks for the great writeup, Bob!
Here is a photo of our Series 360 Beacon with external antenna, powered over mini USB or 2 AA batteries:
If you are interested in an external antenna for your iBeacon application, or more information about our beacons and bluetooth devices for deployment, get in touch!