BLE Beacons For Real-Time Enterprise Asset Tracking

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Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons provide 99.95 percent real-time location accuracy, reduces cost spent on tracking and assignment of assets

A huge investment of manpower goes into managing the IT assets of a company, but often manual methods lead to inaccurate assessments, exposing the company to unnecessary risk. IoT (Internet of Things) and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) based technology not just make asset tracking and management easier but also helps saves a lot of money for a company.

In the 1960s, the innovation and revolution were happening basically around the locomotive engines, phones and other physical things. In the 1990s, the digital world began to be explored where the computers and the internet came to be used in a widespread manner.

The fourth industrial revolution that is happening today is connecting both these worlds (physical and digital) together. So, today as millennials we are in a position where we do not worry about whether the machine will take our job, because we are okay to work along with the machine and use its power for better business outcomes.

Smart Workplace

As technology advances, our requirement at a workplace has also changed completely. We have so much information/data around us, but it not possible to gather all those data. What we need today is the information when we need. As millennials we also don’t want to react after something has happened, we want to act before anything happens. So, basically what we want is a self-service model and on-demand information.

To make this happen, the information must be propagated in real-time. But building intelligence from the assets that are around us is a challenge. And so, even in this age of IoT and AI, we are still dependent on manual methods for managing the IT assets.

What we need today to build a smart workplace is a real-time intelligence and tracking.

IMPLEMENTING IFTTT (IF THIS THEN THAT) DASHBOARDS ALONG WITH BLE BEACON WILL BE THE NEXT BIG THING TO COME UP FOR NAVIGATION SYSTEMS

Real-Time Intelligence & Tracking

The first thing that comes to our mind when we think about location tracking is GPS. Over time, GPS technology has evolved so much so that even the smallest distances can be covered using it. However, its tracking system still fails to work inside a building.

This is where the whole concept of beacons for indoor navigation comes in. These beacons known as GIPS (GPS & Indoor Positioning System) have an accuracy of 0.5 meters and operate at high temperatures. This beacon pings every 2 seconds, but has a life span of about 7 years.

Its ruggedness enables it to be used in different environments for various applications. This makes them ready to be used for any kind of use cases.

For example, if this beacon is attached to a movable object, then we can obtain real-time intelligence and tracking information about the whereabouts and activities of the object.

Implementing IFTTT (IF This Then That) dashboards alongwith this beacon will be the next big thing to come up for navigation systems. So if the object takes a certain action, then a trigger will be sent to the dashboard which will in turn alert the user. This is very much suitable for indoor navigation purposes.

Geofencing BLE Beacons

There are different form factors of the beacons. For example, asset tagging where the location of a particular object can be determined for indoor navigation.

Another example of form factor is geofencing, wherein a lot of edge level computing is done on hardware that captures all the BLE signals. While sending this same information to the cloud will cost more, using a small hardware board instead is less expensive comparatively.

BLE Geofence Platform

All the assets are going to have one form factor of the beacon attached to it. And it can navigate without compromising on privacy. This beacon attached to an object can also be referred to as a satellite node, as it can receive BLE signals from everywhere. Algorithms based on RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) have been built for these beacons. The beacon pings at every two seconds i.e the beacon provides information about the location every two seconds.

Also, since these satellite nodes are not connected to the internet, they can be implemented in various environments (that have poor to no signal). This eliminates any possibility of not getting adequate information due to lack of network coverage. At the same time, automated beacon system updates are also performed to continue giving an accuracy of 96 percent.

How it has helped businesses

  • Active tracking: Has provided a real-time location accuracy of 99.95 percent.
  • Automated assignment: Approximately 90 times cost has been saved that would have been spent on tracking and assignment of assets.
  • Push notifications: Sends alerts whenever an asset leaves a controlled environment.
  • Auditing/Compliance: Has helped to achieve upto 98 percent compliance.
  • Self-service: 70 percent reduction in IT support lifecycle.

WHILE IN COUNTRIES LIKE THE U.S, UK AND SEVERAL OTHERS, BLE IS PLAYING A MAJOR ROLE, IN INDIA IT IS YET TO SET FOOT 

Application areas

These BLE beacons can be placed in hospitals (for maintenance of various medical devices), warehouses (for the location of products) and factory floor (for tracking and navigation of products across the shop floor).

Adoption rate of beacons are more in hospitals and warehouses. Airport has started picking up.

While in countries like the U.S, UK and several others, BLE is playing a major role, in India it is yet to set foot. In the future, it is hoped BLEs will come to India and also play a similar huge role in the development of the IoT ecosystem.

With the implementation of 5G technology, perhaps gateways won’t be required. Instead, using 5G, direct communication can be made to the Cloud.

Summary

  • AI, IoT, Quantum Computing will play an active role in the 4th industrial revolution.
  • Self-service and on-demand information is required.
  • Real-time data is required for operational challenges with asset tracking.
  • Active tracking, automated assignments, push notifications and self-service has benefitted businesses.

About the author

This is an extract from the speech presented by Sathyan Sethumadhavan, Regional head – Product Manager, ThoughtWorks, at the IOTSHOW.IN 2019.  

Longjam Dineshwori

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