A beacon is an instrument meant to attract attention to a specific location or event. Beacons in combination with certain other instruments or indicators provide vital information that requires urgent attention. All are familiar with the beacons functioning on top of the vehicles of VIPs, ambulances and fire engines.
Beacons are basically different types of signals that indicate the proximity or location of a device or its readiness to perform a task. There are different types of beacons that use radio signals, visual signals and sound signals to generate alertness. The origin of beacons can be traced to the fire used as signals in the ancient times. Beacon signals possess lots of parameters like location, timestamp, signal strength, temperature and many more. The beacon signals are the backbone of today’s wireless systems which makes them more intelligent. Lots of scientific and commercial applications rely on beacons ranging from mobile networks to search-and-rescue operations and location-tracking systems.
A lighthouse has a tower and a beacon and airport has them too. Beacons are devices put on the top of a tower and are designed to attract attention to a specific location. This is done in many ways. For example, in the case of a light house a beacon attracts attention by projecting light beam skyward. Beacons can thus function as an ordinary light source which becomes some kind of a landmark for sailors sailing in the dark. They basically help in guiding sailors or pilots to their destination.
In satellite communications, a beacon becomes a tracking device used by control engineers on the ground to monitor the satellite. The beacons used for navigation purpose could either be lighted beacons or unlighted beacons. Radar signals, sound signals or light signals are normally used as medium of navigation. Apart from navigation, beacons could be used for defensive communications as a warning signal on an elevated position.