digraph bibeacon_architecture {

    bibeacon_1 [ label="BI-Beacon\n1" ]
    bibeacon_2 [ label="BI-Beacon\n2" ]
    LAN_caller [ label="LAN\ncaller" ]
    Cloud_caller [ label="Cloud\ncaller" ]
    state_server [ label="State server" ]

    bibeacon_1 -> state_server
    bibeacon_2 -> state_server
    LAN_caller -> state_server
    Cloud_caller -> state_server
BI-Beacon 1 and 2
This is either physical or virtual BI-Beacon devices, showing some state of something interesting to your business.
State Server
This is the source of state for BI-Beacons.
Caller systems
This is the user of the Beacons - where API calls originate.


The BI-Beacon architecture is fairly straightforward, however, might need some explanation anyway since it is not the simplest of possible designs and this is intentional.

So let’s begin with the simplest possible design and work our way from there.

Idea 1: direct cable connections

If we want to control devices in our offices, the simplest possible idea would be to connect them directly to our computers.

Indeed, this is possible with a BI-Beacon, using a USB data cable connected to a wall-powered PC, but since it requires USB-serial device drivers, as well as the right user/device permissions on the PC in question, this would actually be harder to do than using the REST API over WiFi!

This method also has the drawback of limiting the location of a Beacon to the vicinity of a PC. Also, the software controlling the Beacon would need to be on that PC.

Idea 2: dynamic IP addresses

The next natural step after direct connection to a PC would be to connect over the local network - be it over WiFi or an ethernet cable, giving the device a local IP.

So why not use this method?

Well, the reason is corporate IT networks; they’re a mess in general!

Getting a dynamic IP by connecting a device to the network is one thing; DHCP is common enough today that it can be generally relied upon, however, what then? If you want to communicate to a (local) device connected to the (local) network, you would need to know its’ dynamic IP address.

At home, you could just login to your router (at least if you are tech savvy enough!) and find the IP-address of the Beacon.

But at work, unless you’re working in the IT department, that is typically out of the question, not only for “security reasons”, but also due to that the IT department most likely already have enough on their hands! And getting them to configure a device to have a static IP is just .. many weeks of delivery time - time none of us has, nor want to put into getting a BI-Beacon up and running.

A drawback of this method is also the ‘local’ part - we cannot control a BI-Beacon unless we’re on the same network. Forget about controlling it from the cloud!

Idea 3: IoT to the rescue!

So, as odd as it sounds, it is actually easier to make the device an internet-global device instead of a local (direct cable, or local network) device!

The trick is to have the Beacons retrieve their respective state from a known server (corporate internal or otherwise), via secure HTTPs requests.

This means the devices can get their dynamic, local IP-addresses inside of your fine and dandy corporate network and you address them indirectly by communicating with the state server, which resides either inside your corporate network (at a well-known address) or via the public internet!

As an integrator or user of Bi-Beacons, all you have to do is send off HTTPs requests to the state server (or “API server” if you prefer) which stores the states and serves them to Beacons asking what state to switch to.

It Just Works™! :)