Bluetooth for Asset Tracking
Back in December we hosted a webinar looking at Asset Tracking at Scale Using Bluetooth Low Energy. We made the case that not only is Bluetooth the right choice for asset tracking, it’s actually the most exciting choice as well!
What’s so exciting about it? For a start, the Bluetooth SIG is intentionally building its technology to allow for effective yet inexpensive tracking of nearly any item. The upcoming Bluetooth v5.1 specification is going to significantly increase the location accuracy of tracked assets. Combine sensor/beacon data with edge filtering and processing capabilities to take Asset Tracking to the next level.
Interoperable and Affordable
Bluetooth provides a robust level of support for sensors of all types. The protocol offers bi-directional communication, enabling manageable over-the-air sensor configuration and firmware updating. It provides an excellent and scalable security model. It also allows for long range communication, resulting in a relatively low total number of required devices. Wireless edge infrastructure built on Bluetooth is not only cheaper, the protocols ubiquity supports increased interoperability.
The proliferation of Bluetooth in the consumer space has resulted in a dual benefit in terms of solution costs. First, the ability to bring personal mobile devices into a commercial solution saves on the need for additional badges or wristbands to track individuals. Second, chipset vendors are making impressive reductions in power consumption – of particular note in asset tracking, where battery consumption is a key solution consideration.
The use of Bluetooth in asset tracking solutions means an upgrade of traditional uses:
- Anticipating peak times. Locating important items is a common use, but understanding the traffic and utilization pattern of an item being used – such as a wheelchair in a hospital – elevates asset tracking to a next level of value.
- Improving resource allocation. In the hospital example, a cache of mission critical assets can be kept in the right place, at the right time, to reduce the cost of operations.
- Algorithms applied to distributed, real-time decisions. A common HVAC system example is learned adjustments based on the number of individuals located within one part of a building. There are many other use cases that similarly improve outcomes for occupants.
- Finding non-obvious relationships and patterns. For example, how dwell time from an occupancy sensor in a stairwell can predict activities taking place there other than stair climbing.
Making these possible requires not just the use of Bluetooth but also edge-capable gateways that process and utilize data correctly.
In January 2019, the Bluetooth SIG announced the Core Specification v5.1 for Continuous Tone Extensions. The result is that application location accuracy levels that were previously measured within a meter range can now be detected down to the centimeter!
This allows for a more precise and accurate location result without the drawbacks of a traditional range-based approximation. The new specification does require significant hardware changes to use. Expect that it will take several quarters before becoming commercially available in hardware. Continuous Tone Extensions hold a lot of promise for future development of Intelligent Asset Tracking solutions.
The pinpoint accuracy, affordable infrastructure and operating costs, and ability to deliver real-time asset monitoring and tracking data all make Bluetooth the right selection for the next generation of Asset Tracking solutions.
For more information, check out the links in this post and visit our Smart Logistics solution page.
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