Location fingerprinting with bluetooth low energy beacons


The complexity of indoor radio propagation has resulted in location-awareness being derived from empirical fingerprinting techniques, where positioning is performed via a previously-constructed radio map, usually of WiFi signals. The recent introduction of the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio protocol provides new opportunities for indoor location. It supports portable battery-powered beacons that can be easily distributed at low cost, giving it distinct advantages over WiFi. However, its differing use of the radio band brings new challenges too. In this work, we provide a detailed study of BLE fingerprinting using 19 beacons distributed around a ~600 m$^2$ testbed to position a consumer device. We demonstrate the high susceptibility of BLE to fast fading, show how to mitigate this, and quantify the true power cost of continuous BLE scanning. We further investigate the choice of key parameters in a BLE positioning system, including beacon density, transmit power, and transmit frequency. We also provide quantitative comparison with WiFi fingerprinting. Our results show advantages to the use of BLE beacons for positioning. For one-shot (push-to-fix) positioning we achieve <; 2.6 m error 95% of the time for a dense BLE network (1 beacon per 30 m$^2$), compared to <; 4.8 m for a reduced density (1 beacon per 100 m$^2$) and <; 8.5 m for an established WiFi network in the same area.

IEEE journal on Selected Areas in Communications