share

ENGINEERING

3min read

Using iBeacons to trigger synchronization with external piece of hardware

There are many overviews of what can be done using iBeacons. Our friends from Mutual Mobile published a comprehensive summary on what you can and can’t do. We’d like to share some a non-typical way of using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) on iOS.

The problem

We’ve recently been working on an app for a fitness tracking service, which included communication with a BLE device. One of the requirements for this app was to connect to the device every few minutes to trigger notifications for users. Everyone who tried to make an iOS app do anything at a scheduled interval, while the app is in background, knows how hard this task is.

Our first try was to use notifications from CBCentralManagerDelegate, which are delivered when a device is discovered. It seemed obvious to solve the problem this way, as the device was advertising all the time, so the notifications should also arrive on time. Unfortunately, it failed miserably. While the app was in the foreground this solution worked pretty well, but in the background the app stopped receiving notifications after a few minutes which seemed to be a result of how iOS preserved battery life.

Next, we tried to keep the connection with the device open and register for changes on one of the BLE characteristics in CBPeripheral. This worked a bit better, we received more notifications than in the previous solution, but it was still far from perfect. Also, it turned out that it drained the activity tracker battery overnight.

iBeacons to the rescue

Focusing on the pure Bluetooth LE API failed. We started thinking what we could do to get better results combined with energy efficiency. During one of the meetings someone proposed to use the iBeacons API and modify the tracker so it sends an iBeacons advertisement every time it had a new bunch of data. We gave it a shot and it worked amazingly well.

The integration went smoothly. We only needed to register to proper region in CLLocationManager and add suitable background modes for communicating with external hardware. That went really quickly, so we could start testing. It turned out that over the weekend we got over 99% of notifications delivered to the app. It was what we were looking for. Using iBeacons had another advantage. When an app gets killed by the OS, whenever a new advertisment is received, the app gets restarted. The new solution reduced the phone battery consumption significantly.

Android

The app was developed not only for iOS. On Android, however, this wasn’t an issue. Apps can schedule regular background tasks which can be used to synchronize with the tracker.

Summary

We got everything working, but we still had one test to pass. The iBeacons technology was introduced for location purposes and the location permission popup appeared when app started monitoring for iBeacons. As this is still quite a new technology and our solution was unprecedented, we were curious how Apple would handle it. The app was approved, although it took some time as we had to ship an actual device to Cupertino for a full review.

Many people think about iBeacons as a location-based technology. Normally the iBeacons are broadcasted by a passive piece of hardware, which is placed somewhere to notify about its proximity. We can extend that thinking by using them in a variety of devices to communicate with apps in background, even when the phone is in standby mode. Have you heared about any other not-trival usage of the iBeacon technology? Leave your comment below.

share


BłażejLead Software Engineer

LEARN MORE

Contact us if you have any questions regarding the article or just want to chat about technology, our services, job offers and more!

POLIDEA NEWSLETTER

Sign in and expect sharp insights, recommendations, ebooks and fascinating project stories delivered to your inbox

The controller of the personal data that you are about to provide in the above form will be Polidea sp. z o.o. with its registered office in Warsaw at ul. Przeskok 2, 00-032 Warsaw, KRS number: 0000330954, tel.: 0048 795 536 436, email: hello@polidea.com (“Polidea”). We will process your personal data based on our legitimate interest and/or your consent. Providing your personal data is not obligatory, but necessary for Polidea to respond to you in relation to your question and/or request. If you gave us consent to call you on the telephone, you may revoke the consent at any time by contacting Polidea via telephone or email. You can find detailed information about the processing of your personal data in relation to the above contact form, including your rights relating to the processing, HERE.

Data controller:

The controller of your personal data is Polidea sp. z o.o. with its registered office in Warsaw at ul. Przeskok 2, 00-032 Warsaw, KRS number: 0000330954, tel.: [0048795536436], email: [hello@polidea.com] (“Polidea”)

Purpose and legal bases for processing:

 

Used abbreviations:

GDPR – Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016
on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement
of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)

ARES – Polish Act on Rendering Electronic Services dated 18 July 2002

TL – Polish Telecommunications Law dated 16 July 2004

1)        sending to the given email address a newsletter including information on Polidea’s new projects, products, services, organised events and/or general insights from the mobile app business world |art. 6.1 a) GDPR, art. 10.2 ARES and art. 172.1 TL (upon your consent)

Personal data:name, email address

2)       statistical, analytical and reporting purposes |art. 6. 1 f) GDPR (based on legitimate interests pursued by Polidea, consisting in analysing the way our services are used and adjusting them to our clients’ needs, as well as developing new services)

Personal data:name, email address

Withdrawal of consent:

You may withdraw your consent to process your personal data at any time.

Withdrawal of the consent is possible solely in the scope of processing performed based on the consent. Polidea is authorised to process your personal data after you withdraw your consent if it has another legal basis for the processing, for the purposes covered by that legal basis.

Categories of recipients:

Your personal data may be shared with:

1)       authorised employees and/or contractors of Polidea

2)       persons or entities providing particular services to Polidea (accounting, legal, IT, marketing and advertising services) – in the scope required for those persons or entities to provide those services to Polidea

 

Retention period:

1)       For the purpose of sending newsletter to the given email address – for as long as the relevant consent is not withdrawn

2)       For statistical, analytical and reporting purposes – for as long as the relevant consent is not withdrawn

Your rights:

 

Used abbreviation:

GDPR – Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016
on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement
of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)

According to GDPR, you have the following rights relating to the processing of your personal data, exercised by contacting Polidea via [e-mail, phone].

1)       to access to your personal data (art. 15 GDPR) by requesting sharing and/or sending a copy of all your personal data processed by Polidea

2)       to request rectification of inaccurate personal data
(art. 16 GDPR) by indicating the data requiring rectification

3)       to request erasure of your persona data (art. 17 GDPR); Polidea has the rights to refuse erasing the personal data in specific circumstances provided by law

4)       to request restriction of processing of your personal data (art. 18 GDPR) by indicating the data which should be restricted

5)       to move your personal data (art. 20 GDPR) by requesting preparation and transfer by Polidea of the personal data that you provided to Polidea to you or another controller in a structured, commonly used machine-readable format

6)       to object to processing your personal data conducted based on art. 6.1 e) or f) GDPR, on grounds relating to your particular situation (art. 21 GDPR)

7)       to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority,
in particular in the EU member state of your habitual residence, place of work or place of the alleged infringement if you consider that the processing
of personal data relating to you infringes the GDPR
(art. 77.1 GDPR)

No obligation to provide data:

Providing your personal data is not obligatory, but necessary for Polidea to provide you the newsletter service

Refusal to provide the above data will result in inability to receive the newsletter service.

Profiling

In the process of providing the newsletter service, we make decisions in an automated way, including profiling, based on the data you provide.

 

“Profiling” means automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of your personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to you, in particular to analyze or predict aspects concerning your personal preferences and interests.

 

The automated decisions are taken based on the analysis of clicked and viewed content. They affect the targeting of specific newsletter content to selected users registered to receive the newsletter service, based on the anticipated interests of the recipient.