Back in December we hosted a webinar looking at Asset Tracking at Scale Using Bluetooth Low Energy. In that webinar we made the case that not only is Bluetooth Low Energy the right choice for asset tracking, it’s actually the most exciting choice as well!
What’s so exciting about it? Well, for a start, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is intentionally building its technology to allow for effective, yet inexpensive, tracking of nearly any item.
Interoperable and Affordable
Bluetooth provides a robust level of support for sensors of all types, allows for bi-directional communications – which allows over-the-air sensor configuration and firmware updates – and offers an excellent security model. BLE also allows for long range communication. The fact is the infrastructure is not only cheaper, but because of the range, fewer devices are needed than most would expect.
In the webinar we also look at how the proliferation of Bluetooth in the consumer space has resulted in a dual benefit in terms of cost. 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, the chipset vendors are making impressive reductions in the power consumption – a cost that is of note in asset tracking, where battery consumption is a consideration.
Further, the use of BLE in the asset tracking space 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.
- Applying algorithms to distributed, real-time decisions – HVAC systems are one common example where adjustments can be made intelligently based on how many individuals are located within one part of a building. There are many other deployments that similarly improve outcomes for occupants.
- Finding non-obvious relationships and patterns – Like, for example, how dwell time from an occupancy sensor in a stairwell can predict activities taking place there other than stair climbing.
Making these uses possible requires not just the use of BLE but also edge-capable gateways that process and utilize data correctly.
Finally, in January of 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 the range of a meter can now be detected down to the centimeter!
The benefit of this change is a more precise and accurate result without any additional drawbacks of a traditional range-based approximation. The new specification does require significant hardware changes to use, and will take several quarters before it starts showing up as available in new products, but it also holds a lot of promise.
The pinpoint accuracy, affordable infrastructure and operating costs, and the ability to get monitoring data (temperature, vibration, motion, etc.) in addition to location all make BLE the right selection for asset tracking.
For more information, check out the links in the article or visit our Smart Logistics solution page.