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RFID News Roundup

Kontakt.io unveils Cloud Beacon to manage Bluetooth beacons ••• HID Global adds HF tags to SlimFlex portfolio ••• Radius Networks to provide beacons for ATIV's EventPilot conference app ••• NFC tags give voice to London's Talking Statues ••• SeManTiK initiative studies physical endurance of contactless smart cards.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 21, 2014

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: Kontakt.io; HID Global; ATIV Software, Radius Networks; Talking Statues; and SeManTiK.

Kontakt.io Unveils Cloud Beacon to Manage Bluetooth Beacons

Kontact.io's Cloud Beacon
Kontakt.io, a startup provider of beacon hardware, back-end and software-development services, has announced its Cloud Beacon, which features a Wi-Fi radio to transmit and receive ID numbers, as well as time and distance data used to determine locations culled from signals transmitted by a store's Bluetooth beacons. Cloud Beacons can share the data with Kontakt.io servers via the Internet, and are designed to augment Kontakt.io's regular Bluetooth beacons used by businesses to track and engage with customers in stores.

The Cloud Beacon supports both Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Apple's iBeacon, so it works with both iBeacon- and Android-based mobile platforms. It has a range of up to 200 meters (650 feet) using Wi-Fi to communicate with the Internet and up to 70 meters (230 feet) using the BLE protocol to communicate with the Bluetooth beacons. The Cloud Beacon uses a rechargeable battery with a connection to a standard electricity outlet. The battery has up to six years of battery life, according to Jack Hassan, Kontakt.io's chief brand officer, and the Cloud Beacon can run a complete profile of the iBeacon operating system on the same battery for four years; typically, running a complete iBeacon OS consumes a lot of power. "A four-year battery life is impressive," Hassan says. "Most beacons last a few months with these settings." The Cloud Beacon also includes a built-in memory module that can store the data culled from the various beacons if, for example, the Wi-Fi or the Internet connection goes down.

Headquartered in Kraków, Poland, with offices in New York City, Kontact.io says it designed its Cloud Beacon to act as the "manager" for the Bluetooth beacons. For example, all of the ID, distance and time data collected from regular beacons located throughout a store can be sent via the Wi-Fi connection and over the Internet to Kontakt.io's servers, and Cloud Beacon users can access that information through the company's Web Panel application. According to the company, it is currently developing analytics for use with the Web Panel, to provide stores with greater insights into a beacon's ID and location.

The Kontakt.io Web Panel also lets businesses remotely configure and manage the Bluetooth beacons, such as assigning actions based on a predefined trigger (proximity range, for instance). According to Hassan, the Cloud Beacon can set the beacons' configurations, such as each Bluetooth beacon's transmission power—for example, -12dBm gives Kontakt.io Bluetooth beacons a range of about 4 meters (13 feet)—and how frequently a Bluetooth beacon transmits its unique ID number. Reducing power has the advantage of extending a Bluetooth beacon's battery life. With the Cloud Beacon, an entire fleet of Bluetooth beacons—as long as they are in range of one Cloud Beacon—can be configured from anywhere. Before the Cloud Beacon was developed, administrators had to be physically next to the beacons in order to update them, using an iPhone or iPad running a Kontakt.io Administrator Mobile App. The app lets businesses test and manage Bluetooth beacons, as well as push updates whenever a configuration change is made or a new Kontakt.io firmware version is released. An Android-based version of this app is under development, according to the company.

Cloud Beacons can also collect anonymous MAC addresses from shoppers' mobile devices that have Wi-Fi turned on, whether or not a device's Bluetooth radio is activated. Privacy is protected, the company says, because identities are not collected; instead, the Cloud Beacon collects such data as where a MAC address moves or how long it remains in one location, in order to provide even more data and insight regarding customers within a store or venue.

The Cloud Beacon is available now for pre-order at a cost of $79 per device, or $225 for three ($75 each). The first units are scheduled to ship in October 2014, though Kontakt.io notes that only 10,000 will be available before January 2015.

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