What are Beacons?
Bluetooth beacons are small form-factor devices consisting of a radio transmitter and a battery in a tough enclosure. They are a class of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that periodically broadcast their identifier; that is, they “advertise”. Nearby devices that “listen” for BLE signals react to these advertisements. Different behaviors are possible for the receiver of these signals.
Beacons are BLE devices that can be placed throughout any ‘target’ area or asset that emit a signal that can be detected by other BLE enabled devices like Smartphones or Gateways receivers. Depending on the beacon device and how frequently it sends out a signal, the battery life can last for 1 to 5 years or longer.
Certain mobile devices themselves can also act as a beacon that can both emit and receive signals.
How do you use BLE beacons?
Tracking in real time the physical location of people and mobile assets is a critical need in many applications. Tracking assets in a yard, facility, lift trucks in a warehouse, mobile medical equipment in a hospital, or children at a bus, all share a strong requirement to identify, monitor, and locate in real time. And very often, to learn where everyone and everything has been over time.
Beacon tags are attached to such assets as wheelchairs, shipping containers, assets or equipment while corresponding receivers are installed in areas or zone, as rooms and some hallways. The receivers capture tags’ regular signals and forward the data to the Smartx Hub cloud-based server. The software is able to link each tag’s corresponding asset with their physical location (GPS or Zone location).
Some applications can be done using zonal Tracking, especially focuses on larger areas and can pinpoint the relative location of an asset on an indoor map.
The Smartx solution can provide current and historical location and status of assets and people. It can also detail how the assets are being used and, in some scenarios, by whom.
BLE beacons are configured with a unique identifier. In addition, depending on application requirements, the frequency of advertisement should be adjusted to meet user case needs while maximizing battery life. For example, advertising frequency could be set at 10 seconds to track assets in a yard. Tracking fast moving vehicles, such as autonomous robots in a production plant may require more frequent advertisement.
Process and Alerts
Beacons could also be leveraged to track check-in, check-out, cleaning, and maintenance.With Beacons tags, personnel responsible for equipment maintenance, calibration, and certification get automated alerts and reports with the location, next service date and status of all equipment ensuring equipment is being maintained on time and calibration and certification cycles are shortened.