Clinical engineers are problem solvers. Whether they are in hospitals, private practices, or industry settings, they work with complex human and technological systems. These hard-working individuals tend to wear a lot of hats, including technology managers for medical equipment systems.
Hospital-based clinical engineers are responsible for making sure medical devices are effective, safe, and accounted for. They handle service contract management, the data processing systems necessary for the management of medical equipment, and coordinate not only service agreements but internal operations too. On top of all that, they're responsible for ensuring complete compliance with all laws and regulations governing medical devices with the Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and more.
Maintaining medical devices relates to all activities needed to keep them operating at an adequate level and minimizing any downtime in their use. The responsibility involves both corrective and preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance (PM) for medical devices are handled as scheduled events. The devices need to be evaluated for the frequency of relative maintenance and the impact on patient care if the device fails.
There are also required inspections to coordinate. Every piece of equipment entering a hospital or other medical facility requires an inspection before it can be used. They must ensure each device operates safely and performs as promised.
If this sounds like a tall order, it is. For a hospital or medical facility to offer quality patient care, the equipment used must be regularly monitored, serviced, and if necessary, repaired or replaced while maintaining complete compliance.
To be able to coordinate a successful medical device maintenance program, clinical engineers use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) as a tool in documenting regulatory compliance. These systems are constantly improving and a great help in keeping up with the latest laws and regulations governing compliance. But there's another problem to solve: knowing where every single device is at any given time.
Tracking assets is a vital part of medical device maintenance. By knowing exactly where equipment is when you need it, you save time, better manage your staff, and, most importantly, place the focus on patient care where it belongs.
In a hospital with a high volume of medical devices, a thorough inventory with no visibility can take as long as eight to ten weeks each year without a guaranteed 100% search rate. Up to four to seven hours can be spent each day and as many as 1,200 to 2,000 hours can be lost annually for just one preventive maintenance event.
Frequently used devices like portable ultrasound devices, infusion pumps, and even wheelchairs can move several times in a single day throughout a facility. Time spent looking for these devices is time that could be spent providing the best possible care to the patient who needs them.
One solution would be to invest in additional pieces of equipment but that just increases the workload and hurts your bottom line. If you can't track wheelchairs, you may not realize you don't need to order more. There may be a surplus in one area of the facility and a constant shortage in another.
With proper asset tracking, there’s a quick and easy fix. Without it, you may end up ordering more and overstocking. And wheelchairs are just one example of medical devices that could be underestimated and stocked improperly.
Another solution is one that can be used to easily locate and track medical devices in real-time using established wireless access points combined with Bluetooth-enabled tags and a convenient app on a mobile device or phone.
To help with asset tracking, many innovative new methods have come along including Barcode, IoT, NFC, QR code, RFID, and Bluetooth Low Technology (BLE). While each of these methods has grown and adapted with use, the best solutions for asset tracking are the ones that provide real-time information.
Kontakt.io uses tracking tags with BLE devices inside them to pinpoint locations relative to access points placed strategically through a hospital or medical facility. The location is sent to the CMMS used and anyone authorized to access that software. Unlike RFID tags that have to be scanned by a human or checkpoint scanner, BLE tracking tags provide continuous updates on items the software it's integrated with.
A periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) level is an inventory of all items and devices you have on hand at any given time. Along with this, it's important to understand how many units you need of any particular medical device in your department. Many use their best estimate of how many items they need daily. BLE trackers feed information into the software used to provide you with exact numbers on the minimum and maximum levels you need of any device in a given department based on average daily usage.
This also helps immensely when it comes to managing inventory. Using the data from BLE trackers, you can set PAR levels to lower and upper ranges of usage during a normal working day. This will give you a highly accurate account of how many devices you need.
Clinical engineers can use Kontakt.io solutions to review available device locations, including those closest to the seeker if badges are also distributed to staff. PAR levels can be monitored and recommendations made based on current conditions in the hospital or facility.
If any inventory item is above the maximum needed for an area, the staff knows which department they can grab an infusion pump from to replenish their own inventory. The retrieval is noted within the system for efficiency. If another department has less than what they need for wheelchairs, they are notified so they can replenish their stock before needs become urgent.
Not only can BLE trackers send information on minimum and maximum PAR levels, they can also let you know if any item has been removed from an authorized area. If someone leaves a facility with a wheelchair, you'll be notified immediately. This will help cut down on shrinkage due to theft. That improves your budget and keeps you from being short a vital item until a replacement can be ordered.
Hospital buildings have significant foot traffic at entrances and exits with multiple team members and vendors transporting various materials needed for patient care; and processing laundry and trash. Such high-volume activities result in involuntary negligence leading to unintentional loss of expensive medical devices and wheelchairs.
The problem is greater with small medical devices that tend to get wrapped up without notice in soiled linens or in trash bags that leave the hospital; and are never recovered again. A conservative estimate of 2% loss of devices in a typical 300 bed hospital results in an annual impact of about $200,000. This does not account for indirect losses related to absence of a medical device at the point of care when needed. Delayed treatment results in dissatisfied patients and lower reimbursements. Not knowing exactly if the device is in the building or lost may also cause accounting implications and unnecessary maintenance support costs adding strain to the clinical engineering department.
BLE trackers are available in extremely small form factors and can be attached on small devices that tend to get lost often. Beacons strategically placed in rooms capture restricted movement before it is too late. Notifications can be provided in the form of local audiovisual alarms as well as via mobile devices to alert well intentioned staff to recover items on time. BLE trackers are also read via mobile devices to isolate trash and laundry bags where the device may be hidden for rapid and safe recovery.
Every 36 months, surveyors from the Joint Commission visit accredited health care facilities to ensure compliance. These unannounced visits are called surveys. The Joint Commission sends health care professionals, experts in their fields, to conduct the survey.
The surveyors randomly select patients and review their medical records to make sure any and all applicable compliance standards were met. Not only will they talk to any doctors or nurses who provided care, they'll speak with the patients too.
In order for proper care to be given as soon as possible, equipment for diagnostic tests and other needs must be ready and available. Any inability to locate a medical device can cause a delay in providing patient care and potentially have a negative impact on facility compliance. The result can be fines or even loss of accreditation.
Using BLE technology from Kontakt.io, medical device maintenance and management is greatly improved for the clinical engineers responsible for them. Asset tracking helps clinical engineering staff to optimize their responsibilities and operate more efficiently. They spend less time tracking down devices, managing inventory, and monitoring PAR levels. They can devote their time to providing excellent patient care.
Productivity is increased and that leaves more time for clinical engineers to solve other problems, like cybersecurity threats, repairs, and required service swiftly. Kontakt.io solutions provide the information clinical engineers need to meet any and all applicable compliance laws and regulations.
Using BLE technology is highly accurate and less expensive than either WiFi, passive or UWB tag solutions. Kontakt.io provides comprehensive Asset Tracking and Management applications that not only enable clinical engineers to rapidly search devices but complement CMMS in providing data analytics driving financial decisions related equipment purchase, maintenance contract negotiations, rentals and balancing useful life of assets with depreciation. Application can also be used to track staff, patients, and more for a more efficient, safer environment.
Asset tracking solutions using BLE technology are gaining in popularity. Bluetooth offers a quality alternative to active RFID tags. Advantages BLE offers over RFID open source, interoperability, scalability and lower total cost of ownership. BLE data backhaul is over existing WiFi access points eliminating the need for an alternative network, a significant cost burden for traditional active RFID. Location detection is driven by plug-and-play beacons that are one-tenth the cost of traditional active RFID location detectors. Since BLE radio is designed to consume low power, batteries can be off-the-shelf and last longer than active RFID. BLE is also extremely effective compared to passive tag solutions which require a large number of POE connected readers throughout the hospital to provide real-time location updates and have a significant installation burden that requires skilled labor.
The open source nature of BLE streaming protocol allows various applications to consume the data stream for solving specific problems giving the customer an option to choose a solution that fits their needs effectively.
Kontakt.io BLE tracking tags can easily be implemented and used by clinical engineering staff to help them manage the maintenance, location, and inventory of vital medical devices needed for daily patient care. They provide the information you need to know where each device is and ensure it's maintained and serviced on a regular basis to provide safe and effective patient use. The information can also be used to ensure compliance with all governing laws and regulations.
Contact us today to learn what we can do to improve your hospital or medical care facility with affordable, effective location services. Asset tracking can be handled by our solutions so you can have peace of mind knowing that your inventory of medical devices is well-managed. You can spend less time trying to find what you need and more time providing excellent patient care.
From the Mobile World Congress in Spain to the Himms Conference in the USA to the East China Import and Export Commodity Fair, trade shows and exhibitions have been canceled and others postponed due to the fallout of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. As countries slowly open their economies, UFI has published a global planning framework guideline for reopening exhibitions and B2B trade events. The guidance, which was put together by event organizers, venues, contractors, and destinations, offers a whole range of recommendations for creating a safe and controlled environment. The framework gives authorities the confidence to allow exhibitions to reopen based on the assured implementation of agreed health and safety standards.
Over the years, trade shows have grown to be the places where tens of thousands of buyers and sellers converge into controlled spaces to discuss problems, solutions, pricing, and aspirations associated with brands. The success of trade fairs is determined by human capability in regards to the maximum number of meaningful exchanges you had with qualified buyers and the ability to convince potential buyers to purchase your products. Technology has been and continues to be a deal maker in trade exhibitions. It will continue to make a major impact on events involving huge crowds due to the safety parameters to be maintained at these events. Real-time location tracking technology makes it possible for event organizers to measure the effectiveness of the different components that make up an event.
By adopting location-tracking technology in your trade fairs, you will be able to understand the behaviors of all participants well enough to facilitate better business connections. Success based on the number of people who visited your booth, being able to maintain safety guidelines, guided indoor navigations and successfully tracking your assets after the event are key metrics. Below are some of the ways that location tracking technology will help trade fairs and exhibitions in the post-COVID19 reopening.
Bluetooth Low Energy tracking technology has been deployed in trade fairs and exhibitions through stationary transmitters that are placed in specific locations throughout the exhibition floors. These transmitters replace badges and scanners that have been used over the years to estimate metrics. Attendees will be required to download and run the mobile event app that will be connected to the receiver to receive real-time tracking information. Alternatively, due to the complexities involved in convincing attendees to download the app, BLE beacon tags embedded in their wearable badges can be used. A network of BLE readers will then be deployed throughout the exhibition areas to capture and store attendee data that will help you measure the success metrics, including the peak traffic hours, wait time, traffic flow, and occupancy rates.
It is never easy to find your way around large and confusing hallways hosting numerous exhibitors and gastronomy areas at trade fairs, in spite of the hall plans. Exhibitors are confronted with the problems of easily losing sight of their stand personnel and have problems locating their employees under time pressures.
Indoor navigation with location-tracking technology offers decisive advantages for exhibitions that are dependent on high accuracy. Bluetooth Low Energy beacons are installed throughout the exhibition grounds to help the trade fair visitors' smartphones to receive Bluetooth signals from the beacons and use a signal strength measurement for positioning, which serves as a basis for indoor guidance. The navigation system is a versatile concept for determining your attendees' positions, the specific locations of your products in your booth, the various floors in the exhibition venue, etc. The user is guided from their current location to the desired destination through a turn-by-turn navigation. For instance, attendees are directed through navigations to a session that is about to commence on the next floor while they network. This is a great way to foster engagement among attendees while ensuring they get the most out of the event.
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For decades, exhibitors have relied on a manual checklist to inventory their assets before and after a trade fair event. In some instances, you may report the loss of assets including booth parts and components and other inventory during the event, which is an additional cost to your company when replacing these assets. While asset tracking can be time-consuming and expensive, location tracking technology offers an alternative method of keeping track of all your assets thus maximizing asset control efficiency and minimizing equipment loss. Furthermore, you can track the location of assets as they arrive at the venues, especially if you are dealing with sensitive assets. Bluetooth technology helps in tracking both movable and immovable assets at the event and will help you keep track of the location of these assets before and after the event.
BLE beacons use wireless technology where they are attached to assets and IoT gateways to help find the location information of assets and show the real-time location of the assets within the floor plan setting. Kontakt.io Simon AI’s Search & Find provides a dashboard for system administration and management where you can commence your set-up procedure. You can place the BLE gateways on each floor in a grid pattern to maintain a regular power outlet and upload the floor plan on the dashboard for tracking of the assets.
One major advantage of Bluetooth asset tracking technology is that you can design the whole system to suit your needs and budget. You can create a system that will track assets indoors automatically with minimal human participation. You may also reduce your costs by combining QR and barcodes on your assets with Bluetooth beacons to locate the position of all your assets. With the advanced BLE beacons, you will not only track your assets but also capture the physical conditions and create an automated system of IoT with your assets during the exhibition.
Given the global dynamics of coronavirus after lifting the stay at home measures, contact tracing will be a key aspect in ensuring social distancing and safety standards in trade fairs and exhibitions. You will need automated feedback from the attendees without direct interactions as a measure of ensuring minimum physical contact with people. Location tracking technology makes these efforts possible through tags and ultra-wideband signals to track attendee locations during the trade fair event. When social distancing parameters are violated including the 1-2 meter radius distance, the tag alarm alerts you and persons in violation of the parameters.
RTLS technology from Kontakt.io uses badge-based technology to track the location of each visitor, recording whether they have maintained proper social distancing parameters. The historical data collected and recorded will allow for accurate contact tracing. In the event that any of the attendees shows symptomatic signs of the infection, the COVID19 Contact Tracker Webapp will be able to locate the contacts of all the persons in the event as they would be at risk of exposure to the disease.
Equipping your visitors with smart badges when checking in will help you to define geo-fenced areas within the exhibition floor, allowing you to set maximum occupancy and to monitor the area to avoid overcrowding at any given time. It will also enhance the setting up of geo-fence hand washing stations and track the amount of time spent at a particular point in case of an emergency.
As the global economy gradually reopens, it is time to rethink and reshape events that attract huge crowds. As you plan to reopen your facilities and host trade fairs and exhibitions, it is important to ensure that your facility is safe for occupancy. Location tracking technology will make it possible for you to automate event services from automatic check-ins, navigation, asset tracking, and contact tracing. Contact us today for more information on how to deploy indoor location services in your facility.
The COVID-19 epidemic has brought many things to the forefront. Among them are the need for smart buildings that can monitor occupants, trace contacts, and support the safety of workers and visitors alike.
We talk a lot about smart offices and smart homes, but less about the smart factory and what it can bring to a company. Smart factories use location tracking to monitor employees, track products through the manufacturing process, keep track of movable equipment, etc. If you haven't introduced indoor IoT location services in your factory, here are some reasons why you need to take a closer look at what it can do for you.
COVID-19 is the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, but there's no guarantee it will be the last. Although we can hope future epidemics and pandemics will be less serious in scale and scope, the fact is that we have had a significant outbreak every few years. Local outbreaks can be just as much of a problem for a facility's direct logistics as global ones. Contact tracing is key to controlling outbreaks of directly contagious diseases such as COVID or influenza.
Indoor location technology tracks both visitors and employees by using smart Bluetooth badges. This allows the system to monitor who was in contact with or close proximity (less than six feet away) to someone who has been diagnosed with a contagious disease and apply the appropriate measures so that close contacts can be notified. Factory workers are generally less at risk of occupational exposure than most, due to the more open space on the floor, but new infectious diseases emerge all the time.
Contact tracing can help reduce downtime by avoiding the need to send all employees home, decrease employee and visitor anxiety and reduce the cost of testing. Without proper contact tracing, you may need to test everyone who was in the building, even people who were never on the same floor as the infected person.
If you have a fire, explosion, or leak of toxic chemicals, evacuating the building is likely to become necessary. A historical problem is ensuring that everyone gets out.
With employee and visitor tracking, you can quickly check to make sure that nobody is still in the building; furthermore, you can even tell where in the building a "missing" person might be. This allows you to send help to get the person out or provide their location to emergency services for needed rescue. During drills, you can identify people who are slow to get out of the building and then determine why – did they fail to hear the alarm? Was the fastest evacuation route blocked? You can use this information to improve evacuation speed and safety.
Kontakt.io has indoor location services that give the location of everyone in a facility and allow a one-touch check on entire groups. You can also use them to track employees and visitors in real time throughout an evacuation, and trackers can even be given to first responders so that their location can be monitored and they can be given even better information to find a missing, and potentially injured person.
You can also set up real-time emergency alerts that ensure that everyone in the building is notified of the emergency through their phones or other means. The system uses a map to show the locations of personnel, making it easy to show first responders both the location and aspects of building layout they may be unfamiliar with. Overall, real-time tracking reduces the time needed to evacuate, reduces the number of people left behind, and helps first responders find trapped or injured personnel.
Lightweight Bluetooth tags can be used to track raw materials, completed orders, and movable equipment. Because individual parts can be tracked, the system helps ensure that you neither run out of nor over-order materials, reducing waste. It assists with loss control by ensuring parts and components do not "wander" out of the warehouse. Time spent picking items out of the warehouse can also be reduced, with the AI giving the employee the most efficient route to collect any items needed.
The tracking system can also track movable equipment such as forklifts and tool kits. Employees can use the system to find the closest piece of equipment even if the last worker failed to put it back where it belongs, saving time which might otherwise be wasted searching. Alarms can be set up if a piece of equipment is taken out of its designated area, preventing both theft and simple errors.
Tracking the movement of assets and employees also allows you to analyze efficiencies on the shop floor and improve processes. Employee buy-in is important, however, and it's important to phrase tracking as a way of improving protocols rather than looking for problems with individuals.
Asset tracking can also be used to improve the manufacturing process itself. Each individual product can be tracked through the manufacturing process and the aggregate information can be used to monitor the speed at which a product moves through the system. Although some parts of your process will inevitably be slower than others, the information allows you to identify bottlenecks which can then be targeted for efficiency improvement.
The system can also monitor orders to provide flow management. As manufacturing becomes more complex, order flow management has become even more critical. The system gives real-time visibility to track inventory levels and progress and match them to order volume. This is vital for both small operations that may be making items to order and large factories churning out a high volume of product.
This improves on-time delivery, allows you to make better decisions, and provides a constant flow of data. One advantage of Bluetooth tags is that the readers are so cheap that they can be integrated into the process, rather than having products scanned at specified checkpoints. This saves employee time and effort. There is no manual entry of data, reducing errors and eliminating wasteful paperwork.
Accidents can happen when employees – or less experienced visitors – go out onto the factory floor. Systems can be set up to alert people if they are about to step inside a safety line, if there is a forklift out of their line of site, or about other hazards. Visitors can be monitored to ensure that they stay in safe areas or close to an escort.
Data can be used to establish if individuals are following safe distance requirements so that careless employees can be targeted for reminders or training. During the current situation, alerts can even be provided if people get within six feet of each other, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are followed. Moving forward, sensors can warn if an area is becoming overcrowded, if too many people try to crowd into an elevator, etc.
Alerts can be sent out if somebody enters a potentially hazardous area. Finally, employee and visitor badges can also be fitted with panic buttons, which allow people to quickly call others in the event of an accident. An injured employee has a greater chance of being able to hit a panic button than finding their phone, and somebody who witnesses an accident can hit a button and then immediately move to assist the injured person. This can greatly increase the speed at which assistance, including first responders, arrive and result in better outcomes. Panic buttons can also be used during a security breach.
Developing a smart factory takes time, but immediately implementing real time tracking of assets, employees, and visitors can show benefits right away. The current crisis has brought attention to contact tracing, but most of these benefits are not going to go away when the pandemic is over. Instead, companies will continue to move forward to improve safety, security, and overall processes. Improved employee training and awareness, greater visitor safety and increased security will all benefit companies and employees moving forward.
At Kontakt.io, we offer indoor location services that help improve safety and security while reducing costs. Schedule a demo today to find out how our Bluetooth Low Energy tracking systems and Kontkt.io solutions can help your facility gain a competitive edge.
College and university campuses are quiet these days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The faculty, staff, and students of schools across the country are staying indoors to learn and teach online using video conferencing platforms. Meanwhile, the cost of the pandemic is putting huge dents in the budgets of institutes of higher learning.
How do colleges and universities prepare to reopen? How can they safely handle outbreaks like coronavirus while continuing to teach?
How can technology companies like Kontakt.io, which specialize in streamlining location services, help with these plans to safely reopen college and university campuses?
Aside from the pervasive threat to human health, the Covid-19 pandemic also poses a very real financial threat to colleges and universities across the nation. As a result of the pandemic, the number of returning students will decrease for various reasons the longer campuses remain closed. College and university administrators realize that students who can't return to campus in the fall may either postpone their education or drop out entirely.
That, in turn, poses a problem for the institutions themselves. Most colleges and universities are on the semester system and collect tuition twice a year at the beginning of the two primary semesters, fall and spring. Most of them depend on tuition money. Losing the fall semester means losing half a year's income. Even those institutions that were financially stable before the pandemic would experience major problems.
Since higher education institutions are a large employer in the U.S., there's also an impact on the national economy if students can't return to campus this fall. According to the New York Times, Data collected about the 2017-2018 school year showed that as many as three million people worked in higher education. Such employment is stable and helps sustain the communities around the schools. Over $600 billion in spending from higher education went into the national gross domestic product.
Economic impact aside, our schools allow us to educate future generations and enable them to become productive contributors to society.
Since reopening our colleges and universities is vital for many reasons, it has to be carefully yet quickly planned. Such plans need to be crafted around basic methods of infection containment and mitigation. Even if there's success in flattening the curve, until a vaccine is ready and proven to be effective, realistic plans that account for additional waves or hotspot outbreaks have to be carefully developed. Moving forward, schools can't really close everything down and send everyone home again each time we experience a similar outbreak.
Opening our colleges and universities by the fall is within the realm of possibility. Since it's not the first widespread viral outbreak we've experienced, we do have some proven health protocols to help us control infectious diseases. However, there are some new technologies we didn't have before that could greatly help schools in managing the spread of disease on campus.
Plans to reopen schools will be crafted around three components: testing, tracing, and separation.
There will be a lot of changes to how campuses normally operate. Shared living and study places aren't really suitable venues for social distancing. Many social functions will have to be reconsidered, including the normal parties that take place on campus.
Most students living on or immediately around campus who become infected with the virus will experience mild symptoms if any at all. Some with certain health factors risk serious illness. The chances for exposure in such an environment are high for students, staff, faculty, and the community at large.
The plan to reopen won't work if schools don't have a way to rapidly test all students for coronavirus when they first arrive on campus. Testing should also be conducted at scheduled times throughout the year. Given the high number of those who are reportedly asymptomatic, just testing those who are displaying symptoms won't be effective in managing infection risk.
In the past, contact tracing was pretty hit or miss. When you have a campus with thousands of people, a student may not know who they were sitting next to in class or who exactly was at an event they attended. Thanks to the advanced technology we have today, we have a better solution with digital tracing. Technology companies can help trace the spread of diseases like coronavirus, enabling colleges and universities to share their data with local and state health departments for the benefit of everyone.
Using smart badges to enhance standard student ID cards, universities can gain and maintain valuable insights into the daily flow of their faculty, staff, and students. The systems can be established quickly and very affordably. Universities can leverage their existing infrastructures to efficiently add location-based solutions. And if your institution doesn't have a current infrastructure in place, Kontakt.io can set you up with affordable BLE and WiFi-enabled gateways. As an added bonus, Kontakt.io is already integrated with the top WiFi providers like Cisco, Cisco Meraki, Juniper, Ruckus Networks, Mist Systems and more. The solution you need to help you safely reopen your campus is ready to implement and economical.
Once you've utilized testing and tracing, the infected students or others have to be separated from the rest of the population. Shared living spaces like dorms can't be used for this. Special accommodations for isolation and quarantine will be necessary for the school to offer. Enforcing quarantine policies will be important too.
Top companies like Apple and Google have already thrown their hat into the ring by announcing that they would develop contact tracing systems intended to keep the spread of coronavirus down by tracking those who have been exposed to infected people. According to The Verge, many consider it to be ambitious.
Yet several companies who already specialize in location insights, like Kontakt.io, already have systems in place to help accomplish this. Using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) radio technology at the system's heart, location tracking can be easily established on most college and university campuses.
A low power derivative of standard Bluetooth technology, BLE uses less power than a normal Bluetooth connection. It uses shorter bursts to make connections instead of being constantly connected. The choice of technology makes sense. Most smartphones on the market today support Bluetooth technology. BLE also offers incredible flexibility with low power usage so it's not a constant drain on battery life.
BLE's proximity profile is the key to making it effective to use here. At its heart, the proximity profile is what Bluetooth depends on to locate devices, and for the purpose of tracking. The RSSI value, a measurement of how much power is received from a Bluetooth signal, helps approximate the distance. It helps the Bluetooth connect to your specific phone when it's in range as opposed to any number of other similar phones using Bluetooth technology.
Smart badges, like those used by Kontakt.io, work together well with this technology when given to those on a college or university campus for tracking purposes. The campus WiFi infrastructure would need to be BLE-enabled which Kontakt.io also assists with. For those with WiFi infrastructures that are BLE-enabled already, establishing location services on campus to help them control and mitigate coronavirus infection is easier still.
There are a lot of useful applications that location services can be used for during an instance like the coronavirus pandemic.
Thanks to real-time tracking and BLE-enabled badges, you can be alerted when people congregate in groups that exceed the allowable limit. The technology can also be used to notify you when people are not the required distance away from each other. Also, when the technology is used for smart buildings, the badges can also be programmed to deny access to areas of buildings where people commonly gather to eliminate those risks.
There are a lot of access points on a college campus our hands touch, like door handles, keypads, and more. Since Covid-19 remains a threat on various surfaces, able to stay alive for hours, a method of reducing the risk of mass infection from such contact would be highly useful.
With Kontakt.io badges and automatic doors, you could have a system in place where the person's badge is recognized and the door opens for them to walk through without touching anything. No-touch access can also be established by Kontakt.io using smartphone-based systems as well. Many processes can be automated, like building entry or making payments to reduce the need for person-to-person contact.
Infection control includes any packages you get from other places. College campuses get thousands of deliveries every day from parcels to students from home to supplies from hundreds of vendors. The virus can live on surfaces for hours and you don't know who touched a given package when. The same thing goes for equipment or anything other object or asset being introduced to the campus.
Tracking these items can help you locate them and make sure they are properly sanitized. You can also use this technology to keep items from being loaned out or shared to prevent infection.
There are often a lot of visitors to college campuses, particularly for those students who live locally. With the use of BLE technology, the time a visitor spends on campus can be minimized. To help them shorten their visit, they can get directions to their intended location, get assistance without direct contact with another person, and more. They can be directed away from isolation or quarantine areas to keep them safe. The technology can be used to find the party on campus they are there to visit so they can arrange a quick meeting in a common area.
Not only does this help reduce the risk of infection for the visitor and those on campus, but it also makes the visitor's experience much easier.
In the weeks to come when quarantine restrictions ease and schools resume operations with mitigation measures in place, tracking systems like those offered by Kontakt.io can do much to help in efforts to track Covid-19 infections and help reduce the spread of the virus. Systems using Bluetooth technology work with existing WiFi infrastructures and are low cost. They are also easy to scale up if needed in the future.
If your college or university could benefit from BLE-enabled badges or location tracking, contact Kontakt.io today.
The prospect of introducing a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) to your healthcare organization may seem intimidating, especially if your organization spans across multiple locations. But the benefits of deploying an RTLS are so compelling that you can hardly afford not to introduce an RTLS. The key to successfully implementing an RTLS is to create a strategic plan that breaks the process down into manageable steps. Below is a look at the benefits an RTLS offers and ten steps to consider when implementing RTLS in healthcare.
"Next-generation RTLS technology is as transformative to hospital operations as Uber is to personal transportation... Just as Uber eliminates the waiting and uncertainty associated with personal transportation, RTLS eliminates hours of searching, repetitive calling and paging to locate people and equipment, all the while automatically tracking key metrics to analyze workflows." - Ari Naim, Contributor, Becker Hospital Review
Before diving into the measures you can take to implement an RTLS, it is helpful to review a few of the key reasons why healthcare executives would want to invest in an RTLS. From time savings to a more streamlined workflow, here are some benefits of introducing RTLS in healthcare.
Clearly, there are many reasons to implement an RTLS. And while the nation's top hospital asset tracking systems are designed to be easy to roll out, the key to a streamlined implementation is to have a well-organized plan in place. Below is your step-by-step guide to introducing an RTLS.
The path to a successful RTLS launch begins with the support of your owners, executives, and department managers. Some leaders may bristle at the idea of change, worrying about the initial expense and potential disruptions to productivity. But if hospital leaders receive your RTLS with open arms, your frontline staff will typically follow suit. Here are some ways to generate enthusiasm and secure the support of your leadership team:
Now that your leadership team has embraced the idea of implementing an RTLS, your leadership group needs to be on the same page with respect to your ultimate goals for introducing the system. Outlining your goals will also help you select the type of RTLS to implement at your medical facility. Here are some of the most common goals hospitals hope to achieve through RTLS implementation:
Every hospital or medical facility has existing technology platforms, many of which will need to be integrated with your RTLS. The integration process should begin by creating a comprehensive list of the software systems being used in each department. Common examples include general hospital management software, accounting software, and operating room management systems.
Measuring the impact of your RTLS is essential to justifying future usage. This measurement process begins with a baseline measurement of the key performance indicators you outlined when you set your goals in Step Two. With baseline figures in place you can then calculate any differences that occur and determine whether they are statistically significant. Here are a couple of examples using the hypothetical goals referenced in Step Two:
RTLS solutions vary in terms of the degree of specificity they offer. For example, some systems provide an estimated location of a device by indicating the hospital unit where the device is located. Other solutions offer a much greater degree of specificity or certainty, identifying the exact patient room and space where the device is located. Before selecting a solution, review your workflow applications and budget to determine what type of system best meets your needs.
"Equipment tracking with the use of RTLS also saves time for facility staff. Being able to know the exact location of a tagged piece of equipment provides staff clear direction for retrieval — and ultimately allows them to spend more time with patients." - Josh Kelly and Nikki Tuft, Health Facilities Management
Ideally the RTLS solution you select will be responsive and able to detect activity between devices, staff, and patients immediately. Slow systems interfere with accuracy, preventing you from capturing real-time data on equipment. With a speedy system, on the other hand, you can capture mileposts right away, thereby improving efficiency.
The efficiency of your RTLS hinges on the reliability of the tags you select. Tags should be constructed with high quality materials and feature long-life batteries. Many hospitals use infrared tags, as they are relatively simple to use. However, the type of tag you use should reflect your goals for introducing an RTLS in the first place. Tag selection should also reflect the value of the assets you are tagging. Here are some tips to consider with tag selection:
Scalability is a key factor to think about as you plan to launch your RTLS. Specific points to consider include any upcoming plans for expansion, acquisition, or merger with other healthcare centers. Selecting a system that can easily be introduced to new wings and new sister hospitals will help your healthcare organization operate smoothly and with minimal disruption as growth occurs.
Transparency and communication with frontline staff is vital to a smooth roll-out of your RTLS. Employees need to understand how the system will impact their duties and how it will make their jobs easier. They also need an opportunity to ask questions and express any thoughts or concerns about the system.
The most effective way to achieve these objectives is to schedule a comprehensive training initiative that involves initial education, multi-step training, and refresher courses. Additionally, FAQ sheets should be prepared and posted in highly visible locations for employees to easily access.
Successful RTLS implementation does not occur in a vacuum. Progress should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially in the formative months following rollout. Through regular reviews and analysis of outcomes, you can identify opportunities for improvement and make any necessary changes. Here are some tips to ensure that you conduct an efficient review:
RTLS implementation is not a fast or simple process. By following the ten steps above, you can ensure that the process unfolds as smoothly and quickly as possible. But even more important than these measures is choosing a trusted software provider with a proven track record of success in healthcare. By selecting a proven industry expert, you can help ensure that you achieve your RTLS goals and continue to improve your hospital's efficiency.
The single best step to take when considering RTLS implementation is to schedule a discovery call with a Kontakt.io specialist. During this discovery call, you can learn how Kontakt.io can help you achieve the following:
Order and material traceability are important in any kind of industrial space. In the past, tracking focused on packages being shipped to a customer, but internal tracking is just as important. Improving traceability helps your business in many ways. Traditional systems involve a lot of paperwork and checklists and can be an extremely time-consuming part of a worker's day. End-to-end traceability is a goal of many companies but has historically proved hard to fulfill. Today, however, new ways to improve traceability are beginning to emerge in the business world.
New technology is starting to fill this gap with automated systems that use RFID or Bluetooth chips to trace parts and supplies as well as warehouse equipment. Bluetooth chips have the advantage of a longer range.
Click here to download our ‘What Lean Manufacturing Means in the Age of IoT’ white paper >
There are a number of benefits of these new automated systems that can help improve traceability:
Knowing how to improve traceability allows companies to improve putting-away and picking processes and greatly enhances the recall process. However, the biggest advantage is the large amount of data generated that allows a company to know exactly how well their processes are working and where improvements can be made. This does require a lot of data processing, but technology has now reached the point where AI can handle this easily.
Over the past few years, the use of RFID tagging has expanded beyond the automotive industry and across a variety of use cases. It became popular early in the healthcare and aerospace industries. High-frequency RFID was most commonly used, but UHF tagging is starting to come into use because those chips tend to be smaller and cheaper.
Bluetooth has a high advantage for certain applications in that it has a longer range. Bluetooth is used for active tagging, although the expense of the beacons means it's generally used on assets. However, newer beacon and tag systems are now cheaper than active RFID tagging.
Essentially, Bluetooth beacons are used to create a grid and tags track the position of assets and objects within the grid. Bluetooth Low Energy tags are cheaper and can be used to track parts and orders. For example, each pallet in the warehouse can be tagged and the system will record what was put on the pallet and where that pallet needs to go. The order can then be tracked onto the truck, and GPS tracking used to track the vehicle all the way to delivery. Some companies still prefer to use RFID tags for orders because those tags are so cheap there is no need to worry about tag retrieval. For most purposes, though, the higher cost of the Bluetooth tags is overcome by the much lower cost of readers (in many cases employees can simply use their phones).
The biggest advantage of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology is an increased range. Reading an RFID tag requires that you bring a scanner close to the tag, which is time-consuming. This makes it a much better system for real-time tracking, as the gridded beacons can read the tags automatically and constantly without any input from employees. Tags can be used to track the movement of assets (including employees) through the warehouse constantly, and the higher range means they can also be used outside in loading areas and parking lots. However, real-time tracking systems also require AI support.
Thus, these systems are linked to AI software designed to analyze real-time data and, for example, highlight bottlenecks where a production or shipping process is causing the entire system to slow down. AI support eliminates the time spent analyzing data and reduces that managers have to spend studying trends so they can work out how to improve the process and give employees better support and knowledge.
Simon is one such AI tool and it offers the following features (among others):
AI systems can learn the patterns of your workplace and alert you when something is out of place. Simon can integrate with third-party applications including ERP and human resource systems to provide data to everyone in the company who needs it. Alerts can be sent via email or an employee's phone. Bear in mind that although ERP and MRP systems are amazing, they still require manual inputs and some systems still involve physical paperwork. With Simon, everything is automated and all data is generated through sensor and location data. MRP systems are not inherently granular, automatic, or real-time, but they can be integrated with the data provided by Simon for a complete solution.
If you are looking for a real-time tracking system to improve traceability, reduce time wasted by employees, and offer better monitoring of processes, then contact us to schedule a demo of our Simon AI. With Simon and Bluetooth Low Energy tagging you can build a system that will help you meet the standards of order and material traceability your company and your customers expect.
IoT, or Internet of Things, devices are wireless devices that connect via a network to communicate with one another. Companies are increasingly reporting that they consider IoT solutions to be beneficial to increasing the productivity of their employees. However, many of these companies, despite the expressed confidence in the technology, are not investing in implementing IoT in their processes.
Converting everything over to data-integrated manufacturing with IoT devices driving the change is expensive and will radically alter the way a manufacturing company operates. These can be difficult things to get shareholders or major stakeholders on board with.
In this post, we'd like to talk about what IoT is, how it is used in manufacturing, and how you can maximize your ROI while minimizing your risk while you make the switch over to a more automated workflow.
If you found the definition at the beginning of the post a little vague, allow us to clarify what IoT devices are. They are very commonplace, so you've probably seen them before even if you didn't know what they are called.
A common example of an IoT device is a smart bulb in your home. When you tell Alexa or Google to turn on your smart bulb, two IoT devices are communicating with each other to automate a task in your daily life. Light bulbs and smart speakers are universally useful, but IoT devices can get very specific as well. So specific, in fact, that there is likely a wide variety of IoT devices on the market specific to your particular industry.
While there are likely devices specific to your industry that will allow your various processes to communicate with one another and more effectively automate your workflow, there are also more general-purpose solutions that apply to manufacturing processes more broadly. These solutions allow you to streamline your workflow, reduce human error, and seek out inefficiencies through the machine-learning analysis of the data that they collect.
Let's take a look at some of the ways that IoT technologies can aid in your company's digital transformation as you embrace the move to industry 4.0.
Bluetooth low-energy is similar to the Bluetooth technology that you use in your home, except that it uses significantly less battery power. This makes BLE ideal for manufacturing solutions because you can have a large number of devices without having to worry about constantly charging them or swapping out batteries.
As a tracking technology, BLE is more advanced than RFID, which cannot be tracked unless it is scanned. BLE is an IoT device—it will send its tracking information wirelessly to your software so that it is available in real-time without the need for human intervention or chokepoint-creating scanning stations.
One of the big advantages of IoT-based tracking is that any item that is tagged cannot be lost. Finding the item will always be as simple as opening a computer and searching for it. The uses of such technology are endless. You will be able to more accurately keep track of all your work-in-progress parts as they move through the various stages of manufacturing and storage.
If you have costly equipment that must be shared across a large facility by an equally large number of employees, then checking that equipment in and out, and ensuring that it doesn't get lost, becomes a lot easier. BLE powered tracking devices can even alert you if a piece of your equipment is leaving a designated area so theft and unauthorized use can be prevented.
IoT tracking can also be used on people. One of the biggest benefits of this is that IoT-enabled badges can completely replace your current time management solution. Your employees will no longer need to clock in or out because the platform will know that they are on the job as soon as they step into their designated work area with a badge on.
The use of the technology that we hope never has to be used is in regard to employee safety. Should an accident occur, it can be difficult to know where any employees that are not accounted for are located. They could be trapped and in danger and finding them may be difficult. If those employees are wearing IoT tracking badges, then finding them is easy and rescue efforts can begin promptly.
Tracking your assets as they move through the manufacturing process, or equipment loaned out to employees, isn't the only way that tracking can be beneficial. When materials need to be stored away, you need a reliable way to know exactly how many of which materials you have. Inventory management done manually is a time sink and prone to errors. But leveraging the power of IoT trackers allows you to automate your inventory workflow and get more reliable results that are always updated in real-time. You'll never again have to worry about over or under purchasing because of a bad inventory count.
IoT tracking devices allow you to mark where a device is in the manufacturing process. This will provide you with the greatest transparency about how your workflow is performing. By having a more granular look at how your manufacturing process is organized, you will get a quick heads up when problems occur, allowing you to more accurately convey to customers how long their orders should take before completion.
IoT devices are constantly recording data. In the case of IoT tracking, you will not only know the current location of a given asset, but its historic locations as well. Feeding all of this data into machine learning algorithms can provide you with some key insights about how your operation is running. The machine can learn (or be taught) which anomalies represent a problem and automatically alert someone so the problem is taken care of quickly. These algorithms can spot chokepoints that slow your productivity and give you a heads up so that you can make the changes necessary to resolve the problem. Perhaps a commonly used path takes a significantly longer time than a less commonly used one. Switching your flow up could lead to a significant boost in performance thanks to insights that otherwise would not have been available.
Click here to download our ‘What Lean Manufacturing Means in the Age of IoT’ white paper >
A functioning IoT implementation brings together several different aspects that will all work together to ensure that your productivity and user experience is maximized. These different parts should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as parts of a whole. The performance of one aspect can have profound impacts on the performance of the others.
- Hardware - The hardware in an IoT implementation is the 'things' part in the 'Internet of Things.' These are the actual devices that will be communicating with your software to provide data about their operation and about the data that they are supposed to be monitoring. The hardware is the heart and soul of the implementation.
- Software - The software that powers your IoT installation will provide the brains that the hardware needs in order to make your automation efforts worthwhile. This is the part of the installation that allows all of the devices to be accessed from a central location and that processes the data that they are all sending in order to make meaningful use of it.
- Consulting - Digital transformation and the move to industry 4.0 is complicated. So is the move to an IoT-based manufacturing process. It is vital that you have someone on your side who can evaluate the needs of your business and give you useful advice about the best way to proceed with a new installation or any upgrades that you may be considering. Having knowledgeable consultants on board is an important step to maximizing your ROI in the move to IoT.
Awareness that IoT-based manufacturing can improve your productivity is one thing, but the confidence that you can implement it seamlessly and affordably with your current workflow is another. This disconnect could be why businesses that are aware of the benefits haven't taken the step towards implementation yet. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, though, and soon you'll need to begin your digital transformation in order to remain competitive. Here are 3 ways Kontakt.io can help give you the confidence you need to make that step.
- Single Source Provider - Kontakt.io provides hardware, software, and consulting for the adoption of IoT in your manufacturing processes. This reduces the expense and ensures that your adoption process will be as painless as possible.
- Technology Agnostic - We talked a lot about BLE devices in this post, but our Simon AI platform is technology agnostic. It will work with BLE, but also with UWB, WiFi, RFID, and more. This helps to maximize the compatibility with your existing workflow.
- Multiple Integrations - Speaking of your existing workflow, you'll want an IoT partner that is able to integrate with the tools that you want to use. At Kontakt.io, we already have integrations with Cisco Meraki, Ruckus, Juniper, Rigado, Quuppa and more. By integrating with the tools you want to use, we can help reduce the cost of your installation.
If you are ready to see what Simon AI can do for your business, contact us today.
The age of real-time data is upon us. We can now collect and process more data than we could have dreamed of even a decade or so ago. Complex machine learning algorithms can crunch all of that data and give us insights on how to improve efficiency. With BLE tracking, you can put those innovations to work on your postal carriers and cages. Powerful real-time tracking can optimize workflows and bring efficiencies that are impossible to achieve otherwise.
In this post, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about BLE tracking. How is BLE used to track assets? How can that improve the efficiency of your operation? How can Kontakt.io help bring it all together for you? We'll answer all of these and more so you can start putting BLE tracking to work for you.
Let’s first cover how BLE tracking technology can be used to:
With BLE tracking, you’ll be able to know exactly which employees interacted with which cages or which vehicles without any of them having to fill out any paperwork. You’ll know who moved which cage where, who loaded which truck, and which paths they took along the way.
All of this provides much more transparency over the day to day operation of your business than you’ve had access to before. BLE tracking can even tell you when employees show up for work and when they leave, so even your payroll paperwork can be greatly reduced. All of this time saved allows your staff to focus more on the task at hand and less on tedious administrative work.
Location IoT Analytics platforms, such as our own Simon AI, are able to take the data gathered over time and detect inefficiencies and bottlenecks that human observers would not be able to find. Using these tools, you’ll have the information necessary to ensure the best utilization of your fleet capacity, allowing you to more efficiently get parcels where they need to go.
No matter how many cages they have to keep track of, with BLE tracking and a smartphone, your staff will always be able to quickly find the one that they are looking for. If packages end up in the wrong cages, you’ll be able to identify who accessed that cage and figure out how the mistake happened. Information like this will help make your staff more productive, prevent mistakes and save money.
Before we can talk about all of the ways the BLE tracking can help you improve the efficiency of your operation or any of the ways that Kontakt.io can help you implement the technology. In this section, we'll take a look at BLE and how it is used for tracking.
BLE stands for Bluetooth Low Energy. It is very similar to the technology that your wireless speakers or various computer accessories may use. The difference with BLE, as the name implies, is that it is designed to provide a similar range while utilizing significantly less power. This allows the technology to be used in areas where extremely long battery life is important.
Tracking beacons use BLE in two ways. The first is that they send information about the location and sensor data of the object such as:
Secondly, beacons have assigned a unique ID to whatever it is they are tracking. This last feature is important because it allows the beacons to cooperate with other tracking technologies, and wireless communications technologies, such as WiFi. By leveraging multiple technologies, the range of the devices can be extended nearly infinitely.
BLE devices can also be read automatically, so you do not need to worry about having staff manually scan the tags or carefully pass them through checkpoints. This makes them far more efficient than technologies like RFID for automatic collection of data.
Having these powerful beacons at your disposal isn't much of a benefit if they do not come in a form factor that fits your requirements. Kontakt.io Bluetooth beacons and tags come in different sizes and shapes: from small flat cards to palm-sized pebbles to big boxes that can be mounted with a zip ties, screws, velcro, two-side tapes or with a custom casing and personnel cards which can be carried around by your postal carriers in the same way that they may carry their ID Badges. Below you can see the examples of mounting / application method within the kontakt.io Bluetooth beacons and tags:
The battery life can be impacted by the following three categories of factors: hardware-specific, configuration-specific, and environment-specific.
1. Hardware specific.
Battery lifetime is significantly driven by the number and capacity of batteries. The more batteries, the longer the life (and the bigger the device size they can support). Everyone knows that. But what isn’t so obvious is another factor: the design of the hardware and the firmware it runs on. If you’re wondering why some devices have a longer lifespan than other products using similar components and the same batteries, that’s the secret sauce. Top hardware vendors design printed circuit boards and on-device software to optimize energy consumption.
2. Configuration-specific factors are defined by you.
In general, battery consumption is affected by two settings:
As a rule of thumb, the stronger the transmission power and/or the shorter the interval, the faster a device will consume the battery. This has very significant implications.
3. Environment-specific factors like temperature or humidity also affect the battery life
If you know your deployment will be exposed to extreme temperatures or frequent temperature changes, keep this in mind. Some environments may be more challenging than others. In areas where large, heavy packages are likely to be moved around with the potential to damage beacons, or in the outdoor environments, heavy-duty options are available. These beacons are a little larger but are built to withstand an impact so a falling crate doesn't destroy them.
A complete BLE tracking solution encompasses a wide range of technologies. You'll need the beacons themselves, software to interact with the beacons, some form of cloud management, and technology to connect them to other services. This technology can include WiFi and machine learning tools to take all of that wonderful data you've collected and provide some meaningful context to it.
With Kontakt.io, you don't have to rely on multiple technology partners to bring all of these different pieces of the puzzle together. We offer a full solution for tracking your postal carriers and cages. Let's go over the steps in the process, and how we can help you with them.
A large operation could use hundreds or thousands of beacons. This has the potential to make managing all of them a headache. If all of the devices had to be managed manually, then BLE tracking's benefits might not outweigh its disadvantages. Thankfully, there is software that handles most of the infrastructure. This software, such as our Kontakt.io Infrastructure Management, allows users to manage as many beacons as they need to remotely. The software will be able to manage updates and monitor the status and telemetry of the beacons so that the devices themselves are as close to “set it and forget it” as you can get. We'll discuss our software in more detail in a later section and give you a glimpse at some of the powerful features it enables.
Getting a new device running with your existing system can be tricky. Kontakt.io completely solves this problem for you by providing beacons that are preconfigured and ready to go. We offer beacons in all of the form factors mentioned earlier so you'll be sure to have what you need for your particular use case.
Our systems are able to work with beacons that use both the iBeacon and Eddystone protocols. From the web-accessible control panel, you'll be able to activate and deactivate the firmware on the devices and configure device settings.
Kontakt.io software allows you to group devices together, update their firmware, and monitor their battery power easily from one central location. But the power of the system does not stop there. You'll be able to set custom rules for different users. You can have the system trigger an event whenever a beacon enters or exits a certain area. Simon AI will then take that data and apply machine learning methods to it to detect patterns that will improve your efficiency and help you to cut costs.
Even in small-to-medium size deployments, the number of devices involved means there are performance issues that can threaten their operation and utility. Take battery life, for example. With Kontakt.io Infrastructure Management, you can remotely monitor battery levels in all connected devices and plan preventative maintenance rather than allowing dead batteries to interfere with the operation of the deployment. Without fleet management capabilities, you learn about problems only when they reach a point where they can negatively impact performance. Also, alerts can be set up to give you advance warning when potential issues are still manageable and larger problems can be avoided.
Security is crucial. You do not want unauthorized parties viewing the location of your carriers or the internal operations of your business. All of the data that moves between your beacons and the Kontakt.io portal is encrypted with secure AES128 encryption. With Kontakt.io, you can be certain that your data is safe from prying eyes.
While beacons and tags can collect and store sensor data, and broadcast BLE-signals to other devices, they cannot connect to the cloud via wi-fi, ethernet or cell towers by themselves. In order to track, manage, monitor as well as read BLE sensors and location data, and process it in other applications, another (Edge) connectivity layer is needed. Kontakt.io provides gataways, so called scanners and gateway SDKS, that work with any GW or pre integrated solutions with our partners GW. Our size and experience have allowed us to partner with leading providers of WiFi access points, such as Cisco, Ruckus, Juniper, Cassia Networks, Rigado, and more. These mobile gateways can be mounted in trucks to capture BLE data in transit or in the entire facility to capture entry and exit data.
In any business where the flow of people and things need to be tracked, BLE tracking offers the most flexibility of all the options. The data is automatically read from anywhere, unlike RFID which would be manually read with a scanner or pass through certain checkpoints. The technology allows you to collect data at a level of detail that would be impossible with other means. Using this data, you can identify weak spots in your operation and improve upon them.
Kontakt.io provides a full solution for tracking your postal carriers and cages. We are a global leader of location technology, which gives us the experience to provide dependable BLE hardware. Our devices come in a diverse set of form factors and operate under both the iBeacon and Eddystone protocols. The hardware is only the start, though. We also provide infrastructure management software to control the devices. This important part of the equation is what brings everything together. With our Simon AI solution, you'll be able to gather key insights into how your operation works and improve any bottlenecks that may arise. Contact us to discuss your projects today.
Whether you are a third-party logistics provider or are handling logistics on your own, there are a lot of problems that can arise from the need to track many different items over a large area. In the best-case scenario, you are only dealing with a giant warehouse. In the worst case, you could have several buildings all spread across a large property. That’s why automated tracking is so important.
The lack of precise tracking has historically led to a number of trade-offs that facility managers must make. It wasn't a matter of whether or not to sacrifice productivity and transparency, but when. The option to completely eliminate those bottlenecks simply did not exist. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is an IoT technology that has allowed for the creation of devices and associated software that solves those problems. In this post, we'll talk a little bit about what BLE is and how it relates to automated tracking. Then we'll discuss the ways that it can help eliminate common logistical problems in your business through automation of your tracking systems.
Click here to download our ‘What Lean Manufacturing Means in the Age of IoT’ white paper >
Older methods of tracking often involve having an employee manual enter data about the object in question. This could be as complicated as requiring them to actually input the data into a computer, or it could mean having them scan RFID tags. Either way, the limitation means that you cannot track a large number of items without sacrificing productivity somewhere in your supply chain.
The other alternative is to have a checkpoint that all objects pass through which reads their RFID tags. This is a productivity improvement over forcing the employees to do the tracking manually but only allows you to track a product through certain phases of your processes. This limits the utility of the data that is collected.
Our Bluetooth low energy devices and the Simon AI platform for automated tracking are different. BLE devices can be read from anywhere in your facility, and their location immediately looked up using the Simon AI software. This allows you to track every move of objects throughout your processes in fine-grained detail.
Warehouse automation isn't the only benefit of BLE. The powerful Simon AI platform will then use the power of machine learning to catch inefficiencies that humans would not be able to catch, allowing you to optimize your workflow in addition to having greater knowledge of how your operation is running.
Large operations often mean multiple places where parts or finished products can be stored. Often, these parts are stored in the most efficient place for them at a given time, but this might not be the easiest place to find them later. Storing the items in the easiest place to find them can slow down productivity for sufficiently large operations. This means that you must choose when to negatively impact the efficiency of your operation. Do you take longer than needed to store the items, or do you risk taking too long to find them later? In extreme cases, you might not find the product. This can result in overproduction, wasteful scrapping of completed products, lost revenue as actual scrap lingers, and an overall inefficient supply chain. With old tracking methods, picking/packing/shipping operations will never be as efficient as they can be with automated tracking.
BLE tags allow you to track every object on your property. The items can be sorted by a unique ID, a description, or some other attribute that is unique to your process. Any employee with access to a computer or tablet will be able to search for those items based on whichever descriptor that they need at the time.
Additionally, because Simon AI can track all of the movements of every item throughout its time with you, it can identify inefficiencies in where you are storing things and recommend optimizations. This way you will always be striking the perfect balance between how long it takes to store an item and how long it takes to retrieve it. Hence, Simon Al is the perfect example of why automated tracking is essential.
When you have many different product lines each going through several stages of manufacturing it can be difficult to keep track of them, especially if you are not using automated tracking. This creates a problem because it reduces your transparency. In the digital age, customers expect to be notified promptly. They want exact delivery dates and immediate notification of unforeseen delays. You cannot provide these notifications to them if you do not know exactly how your manufacturing process is flowing along. This is especially true if you offer customization as an option for customers. In that case, you must know exactly where their particular order is in the process. Modern order fulfillment requires greater knowledge than old tracking methods allow for.
Furthermore, there may be inefficiencies in your manufacturing process that you have not caught because you do not have a granular enough view of your manufacturing process, or because you do not have the computational resources to identify these trends. This means that you could be leaving money on the table through decreased productivity.
By tagging works-in-progress and individual parts with BLE tags, Simon AI can track every part of your manufacturing process no matter where it is at. Using this data, the platform will be able to tell you exactly which phase of production that particular product is in. This gives you a complete overview of what is going on in your manufacturing process.
But it does not stop there. Simon AI will automatically detect when an anomaly occurs. When one does, the software can be notified to automatically notify employees so that someone can identify and resolve the issue promptly. In complex operations, this can increase productivity significantly versus relying on employees to manually catch each problem before it becomes a larger problem.
If your business uses a large amount of expensive equipment that is meant to be shared amongst an equally large employee base that is spread across multiple buildings or departments then the logistics of keeping track of it all can be a nightmare. If a piece of equipment goes missing, you might not ever find out about it, much less be able to identify what happened to it so that it doesn't happen again. Employees may spend too much time looking for assets that have not been properly tracked. Some of those assets might not even still be with the company.
Manually managing who is responsible for what at any given time is a difficult task. It will either needlessly limit the utility of the object in question and its ability to be passed around efficiently, or fail to do provide any meaningful tracking entirely. Of course, none of this accounts for the productivity that is lost when employees must spend time logging asset usage. In a worst-case scenario, you may have dedicated employees just to track who has checked out which items and what they are being used for. All of these issues result in wasted money and decreased profits that could be avoided with automated tracking.
Using the search feature that we've discussed previously stops the need for employees to spend time searching for an asset that they need. The Simon AI platform will be able to direct them to the asset. They will even be able to narrow down their search and find the one closest to them so that they waste as little time as possible retrieving the item. This alone will limit the negative impact of assets being left places where they are not supposed to be and getting lost, but Simon AI can go a step further and send a notification if an item sets for too long without being used. This will help further ensure that assets always make their way back to where they are supposed to be.
Using BLE and Simon AI is as simple as assigning a tag to an object, taking that object anywhere within the coverage area, and searching on any computer terminal using Simon AI to find it. Because automated tracking requires a wide range of form factors Kontakt.io offers a number of different BLE tags. There are tags in card form for people, in tiny form for portable assets, heavy-duty form for assets that may take some physical abuse, and in forms that can be permanently mounted. This means that no matter what your tracking needs, we have a tag that will be able to meet them.
The real power of the tags is unlocked with our advanced Simon AI - the Location IoT Platform. The platform will make it easy to find assets quickly and identify inefficiencies in your operation that will improve productivity. To see what automated tracking with Simon AI and BLE can do for your business, visit our website and contact us.
Asset tracking is particularly important in healthcare as well as in pharma. Sometimes minutes can make a world of a difference to patient outcomes, and the last thing you want your staff to be doing is desperately searching for the closest infusion pump or wheelchair while a patient is left waiting. In pharmaceutical labs there are often similar issues with locating equipment and wasting time looking for it. And in both cases human error can cause real problems. Many hospitals and larger lab facilities have literally thousands of assets to worry about. The problem has only grown worse, with the number of devices next to a typical bed growing from eight to 13 in the period between 1995 and 2010, and it has only accelerated since.
BLE-enabled badges can allow the system to track doctors, nurses and other staff members as they move through the facility. By tracking staff location, the system can answer their queries about the location of the nearest piece of equipment, or even the location of a patient. Some hospitals also use the system to track visitor badges so they can be sure visitors don't enter clean rooms or other facilities where you don't want outsiders present.
The system can also replace loud traditional paging systems that disturb patients and add to the negative aspects of the "hospital atmosphere." It can tell staff that a surgeon is in the OR or prep and thus should not be disturbed. It can also be used to help staff choose efficient routes through larger facilities, saving time spent in transit that can then be spent on patient care.
Other staff tracking systems can also be used to monitor compliance with hand washing or clean room procedures, ensure that there are enough nurses on duty, and decrease potential incidents. Monitors attached to patients can also monitor vitals.
A nurse needs to find a wheelchair for patient discharge. A physician assistant needs to find a missing blood pressure cuff. A lab worker needs to track down a spectrometer. In the past, lost equipment could cause large amounts of lost time, worsen patient outcomes, and result in workers having to stay late to finish an experience. When each piece of equipment or box of supplies is tagged and tracked, staff can find it easily, even if it has been left outside in the parking lot or they are in an unfamiliar part of the facility.
The system will always send staff to the nearest piece of equipment, further saving time and freeing staff to do their actual jobs. Also, staff who know they can find what they need, when they need it, are less likely to take matters into their own hands and hoard equipment.
AI-assisted asset tracking can give you a picture of how assets are being, or not being utilized at any given time. This can help improve efficiency in several ways:
By using the Simon AI, healthcare facilities can ensure that equipment and supplies are stored in a way that really is the most efficient, rather than simply appearing that way. Beacons and tags can be placed on individual items and on boxes of disposable items, such as syringes.
In pharmaceutical labs, the same system can be used to keep track of which lab is using which piece of portable equipment at any given time, allowing staff to know who has an asset and when it might be available for use. This also allows labs to determine if more equipment needs to be purchased or leased. As the entire system is automatic, there is never any need to ask where equipment is.
Tracking systems can also help hospitals determine how many of an item to buy and leverage bulk item discounts that can offer savings. They can also help calculate depreciation.
Overstocking can be a particular problem in labs, and overstocking of perishable items can cost a lot. By monitoring inventory levels over time, you can ensure that stock levels are always close to where they need to be.
The system can also make sure that supplies and equipment are stored correctly. It can even track whether perishable supplies are in the right refrigerator or freezer and alert when something has been left out in a wrong location. It can be used to help design a storage system that is efficient, giving staff easy access to the most commonly needed items and ensuring that only equipment that is rarely used is stored in hard-to-reach corners. Staff can easily see, in real time, where inventory is and how much they have left.
This saves money by ensuring it isn't spent on unnecessary inventory and also reduces waste.
Expensive equipment has been known to walk out the door. Automated asset tracking systems prevent this by alerting if equipment is removed from the facility. Combined with tracking of employees, it may be possible to identify exactly who moved the equipment. Alerts can also be sounded if equipment is not returned to its proper place after use.
This not only reduces the risk of employee theft but can also help deal with carelessness, such as an employee walking out with an item still in the pocket of their lab coat. Otherwise they might get all the way home before they notice it, and then forget to return it. Alert systems can inform forgetful employees right away if they still have a stethoscope in their pocket. The alert can also ensure that patients return borrowed mobility aids. Theft can also occur at the hands of patients and visitors, so it's wise to ensure that loss prevention methods are in place. Overall, asset tracking ensures that equipment stays in the facility where it belongs.
One of the most common errors healthcare practitioners make is administering the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Medication errors can be fatal or cause other long-term side effects. Electronic medical records go a long way towards reducing medication errors. Asset management systems can help by attaching patient data to a tag on the patient themselves that nurses can then check before administering and using a tag or bar code on the medication itself. These can be cross referenced to alert staff if they are about to make a mistake. Tagging the bins in which medication is stored can also help. The system can provide an alert whenever a high risk medication (one likely to cause severe negative outcomes if incorrectly administered) is checked out and ensure that the staff member pulling the medication is reminded to be particularly careful with it.
This can also reduce the theft of expensive or easily-abused medications, especially by staff. Ensuring that medication containers are checked out and checked in can help track medication theft and can help identify individuals who may need help. Medication theft can also cost a healthcare facility a significant amount of money.
Many hospitals also tag beds, which can then alert if the patient in the bed is not the one the system says should be there, ensuring that patient turnover is properly documented and staff don't think a discharged patient is still present, preventing errors that can endanger patients or cause wastage of medication (such as pulling a dose out of a fridge that is not actually needed).
Hospitals and labs produce large amounts of potentially hazardous waste. A location-based system can track waste as it goes out the door and make sure that the right bags go to the right place. Hospitals have to worry about handling sharps, infectious materials, pharmaceuticals that can't get into groundwater, etc. The system also stores a record of how waste was disposed of that can save a lot of time when it comes time to audit waste or otherwise ensure compliance with regulations about the disposal of waste.
It can also make sure that, say, a bag of radiological waste is not simply forgotten in a corner, and assess how systems for ensuring waste is disposed of correctly are actually working.
Asset management is vital to both save money and improve patient outcomes. The use of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) tagging in conjunction with the Simon AI can help keep track of mobile assets in labs and hospitals, ensuring that assets are where they need to be, are not underutilized, and that processes can be monitored and improved. Bluetooth is ideal for this due to the low cost of the tags and the ability to place beacons to create exactly the right level of precision for asset and staff location. If you are a healthcare facility or lab manager who wants to improve asset tracking, schedule a demo today to see how Simon AI can help you.
Leading the digitization of movements in the physical space, we’re well aware of the importance of being able to expand and connect to new systems and platforms. Easy integrations are fundamental to creating ecosystems of connected infrastructures that, together, are able to deliver more and better solutions than they could separately. As the speed of both the innovation of RTLS and IoT solutions and their adoption in all verticals grows, it’s important to facilitate further growth.
That’s why we’re excited to announce that our integration with Cassia Networks is now complete. This means that we support customers who can now easily manage and configure their Kontakt.io devices through Cassia Networks gateways. On the solution side, Cassia gateways are integrated with Simon AI, our Location IoT Analytics Platform and can be used for various use cases.
The following products have been integrated:
This integration delivers new conveniences and efficiencies for both Cassia Networks and Kontakt.io customers. The latter group can now take advantage of Cassia’s gateways with their Kontakt.io beacons and tags, creating new opportunities for:
For Cassia Networks' customers, this means:
These new integrations are completed in two different ways, for current and future Cassia customers. For existing clients, the two-step process involving the Kontakt.io Panel applies. Future Cassia gateway customers will use a pre-installed application to accelerate the deployment and integration process for direct support of the enterprise network requiring the use of proxies for outbound traffic. This integration also reduces network bandwidth requirements and allow for the sending of compressed data.
Now, through the Kontakt.io Panel and an Infrastructure Management (IM) subscription, devices scanned by Cassia gateways will be visible in the Kontakt.io Panel, along with battery level monitoring, remote beacon firmware updates and beacon provisioning.
With Data Streams and an Infrastructure Management active subscription we can also provide Presence Stream, Telemetry Stream and Raw Stream data. All documentation regarding these integrations can be found at the Kontakt.io Support Page.
Both existing and future Cassia Networks customers are covered by these new convenient and beneficial integrations. To find our more about how they work, what they can do for you and the solutions we’ve delivered for Cassia, join our live webinar on December 17th at 9am PDT.
The automotive industry has long been a proving ground for technologies focused on a number of different aspects of the production process. With its especially open attitude towards innovation, it should come as no surprise that the auto industry provides ample opportunities for automation based on location data to drive real-time asset tracking and data analytics.
Click here to download our ‘What Lean Manufacturing Means in the Age of IoT’ white paper >
The challenges of automotive production start well before the assembly line. Warehousing, supply chain and other issues must be addressed and managed well in order to avoid backups, bottlenecks and, worst of all, downtime. With so many interconnected procedures and just-in-time philosophies at work, orchestrating smooth workflows depends more than ever on visibility into each step and stage, from components and steel coming in one door to four wheels rolling out of another.
These logistical challenges are increasingly being met with the assistance of Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) based on location data gathered everywhere across the production facility. This information is used to streamline processes, better coordinate complicated procedures and provide visibility into highly complex operations.
But the applications of location data don’t stop when a shiny new car is added to the plant’s daily production total. There are benefits from RTLS in other, post-production stages of the automotive life cycle, from dealer to end users with fleet operations.
So start your engines and let’s look at how advanced tools focused on indoor positioning are adding value, cutting costs and streamlining processes at multiple points in the path from the production line to the parking lot.
Even the simplest and most humble cars on the road are the result of a hugely complex industrial process. In an industry that often doubles as a laboratory for every imaginable experiment designed to squeeze out inefficiencies and increase productivity, asset tracking delivers comprehensive visibility into even the most complex operations.
Let’s start with managing the flow of orders through the facility. While they may all look the same as they make their way, station by station, towards the end of the process, each car on the assembly line has its own order status and priority. Using RTLS, tracking that progress is easier than ever. With real-time visibility into the position of every car on the production line, managing or reconfiguring their places is easier should it be necessary to move late orders forward or optimize their position to meet deadlines. Also, alerts can be set up to make stakeholders aware of any vehicle that hasn’t moved beyond a certain point or fails to meet some other predefined performance metric. Overall plant efficiency and production is boosted by avoiding delays and failing to assign the right priority to certain orders.
Vehicle assembly involves a precisely orchestrated sequence of steps through fixed stations. A breakdown or backup at one of those stations can quickly snowball into a chain reaction that echoes further down the line. With RTLS, you can get advanced warnings using predefined alert levels set to activate when assets haven’t moved or haven’t moved enough in a given time period. This can be enough to address a small problem before it turns into something more difficult to manage as it impacts work stations further down the line.
Inventory and component tracking is fundamental to a process where a hundreds of parts have to be stocked, transported to the factory floor and delivered to work stations spread over what is often an enormous facility comprised of multiple, separate areas and even buildings. Location data can inform decisions about resupply traffic priorities and give stakeholders real-time information about the location and status of any piece of tagged inventory. When questions about restock times and component locations can be answered instantly, it saves time and ensures the smooth ongoing functioning of assembly operations. There’s no need to waste time searching or wondering when and if parts will arrive when you can get live updates on the location of exactly the pieces you need.
Many of those components, as well as certain tools and other assets in the production area, are rather high-value. RTLS can also be configured to track them with the aim of mitigating loss and unnecessary replacement expenses. This can be done not only in terms of instant location and inventory data (how many there are and where), but also with geofencing capabilities that can enable alerts when certain assets are moved beyond predefined virtual borders. Location data can add a dimension of asset security that is impossible with conventional measures.
The world of RTLS is going beyond Bluetooth Low Energy
Bluetooth is well established as the industry standard in wireless communication platforms and for good reason. Driven forward by the applications made possible through its extreme energy efficiency, BLE has become the default choice for solutions across all verticals. It dominance is also attributable to the ideal balance of features it offers, trading extreme performance in any one area (with the exception of energy usage) for an above average rating in a longer list of performance metrics. It also helps to be easily integrated into an existing global ecosystem of Bluetooth-enabled devices that allow anyone to interact with RTLS applications.
There are, however, a number of technology platforms that are proving themselves to be better suited to the needs and circumstances of particular RTLS use cases. Take Ultra Wide Band (UWB), for example. After focusing on consumer electronics earlier in its development, UWB has since pivoted to asset tracking solutions. By transmitting its signal over a wide segment of the radio spectrum (hence the name), UWB achieves a low spectral power density, meaning that it is very unlikely to interfere with other signals being transmitted at the same frequency. This is a useful feature in crowded industrial spaces with multiple active wireless networks in operation. Also, by using an extremely short but powerful signal burst, UWB transmissions can penetrate obstacles and manage well in environments filled with metal objects, all while delivering the same rates of positioning accuracy and energy use as BLE.
A crowded industrial space filled with metal parts? Sounds like an automotive plant. Will UWB become the primary tech platform for auto industry RTLS solutions? Time will tell, but it’s good to know that you have options when it comes to selecting the appropriate technology for your location data-based deployment.
Managing large numbers of cars as part of a fleet presents another logistical challenge where RTLS can help. As in other fields and use cases, the data gathered from monitoring logistical processes involving fleet vehicles can be converted into useful information for improved operational efficiencies.
Although we often think of fleets as something that end users of cars set up—rental cars, governmental entities, large commercial operations, etc.—they also exist before the leave the production facility. All those new cars rolling off the production line have to be stored somewhere, often for an extended amount of time, before they’re shipped to dealerships and end customers.
With RTLS, those cars can be located instantly without the time-consuming need to access logs or manually-recorded lists of where cars were temporarily parked. Keeping track of all vehicles and their current location at all times is simple with location data, eliminating delays in locating particular orders and optimizing staff labor time.
For fleets owned by end users, the same functionality applies. Cars returned to massive lots can be automatically reentered into available inventory, while those that leave a geofenced area are marked as taken or otherwise unavailable. Again, staff time is minimized while the reliability of real-time inventory information is enhanced through the elimination of human error.
Historical data can provide insights about which cars are over/under-used, helping to better distribute client or driver assignments and avoiding additional maintenance costs as a result of overuse. Parking patterns can also be better optimized to match demand, customer preferences or anything else.
Moving to a sales-oriented context like a car dealership, many of the same benefits and functionalities just described above can serve to enhance the customer experience and improve general operational efficiency here as well.
Starting with the obvious applications of RTLS, dealerships can access real-time inventory information along with vehicle locations at all times and generate instant audit reports at any time.
Sales staff can instantly access the position of individual cars or use filters to feature cars that meet certain search criteria, a major time saver on exceptionally large lots and a useful tool to help the sales effort. Success in car sales is often a question of choosing between alternatives rather than a simple yes or no on a particular model. When sales staff can more easily locate those alternatives, the chances for conversion increase.
Dealerships can also use RTLS to get feedback from customers without asking for it. Sensor-enabled tags can record customer interactions with cars on the sales floor, for reliable data representing interest, or lack thereof, in particular models. After collecting a sufficient sample size, historical data will clearly show which models get attention and which don’t. From there, it’s a simple step to optimizing the selection featured to customers entering the showroom and adjusting inventory accordingly.
Dealerships are also often paired with service and repair centers. In a situation that starts with customers who aren’t typically happy to be there at all, RTLS can help to mitigate that frustration and help service staff exceed customer expectations. The source of customer frustration is usually a lack of awareness of how long their visit will last and the lack of status information about their car. Using RTLS, dealerships can not only use location data for their own purposes, but easily make it available to customers. While this may not do much to speed the process along, the simple act of engaging the customer can make the experience less frustrating than it might otherwise be and lead to greater client satisfaction.
Regardless of the business context, location data delivers a level of visibility into processes that is otherwise impossible. Through monitoring and archiving digital representations of physical movements, you can recreate flows and patterns in a way that gives you the opportunity to identify areas for improvement. The limitations of real-time manual observation have been broken and RTLS makes it possible to not only see what couldn’t be seen before, but to do it on the scale needed to encompass the complex operations of modern industry.
Whether applied to the automotive industry or any other vertical, RTLS lets you boost productivity while reducing inefficiencies through optimized workflows. If you’re wondering how location data can help your business download our free Essential Guide to Asset Tracking Solutions.