During an outbreak, contact tracing is the first line of defense. It's among the first and most essential methods available for use in containment. Since large quantities of tests and vaccines are unlikely to be available for immediate use when outbreaks happen, contact tracing is an effective tool in helping societies reopen from lockdown mandates until tests and vaccines are ready. Digital contact tracing replaces and accelerates the process of manual interview-based contact tracing. It can help contain the outbreak faster and with greater efficiency.


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Contact tracing is a highly-effective strategy for minimizing the impact of infections like COVID-19. It gives communities a fighting chance in containing such an outbreak. The infected are identified as having been been in contact with the infected. Those individuals then have an opportunity to quarantine themselves voluntarily to help prevent further spread.

The entire process takes a lot of time and effort with the risk of human error. There are also privacy concerns to consider. Since in most cases resources are limited, the automation of contact tracing is crucial in efforts to halt the spread of disease.

Most people today carry mobile devices that are traceable using GPS in conjunction with proper infrastructure. Most also have Bluetooth capability. Both make it possible to trace where an individual has been through their device and detect other devices of those who have been within close proximity. But are mobile-based contact tracing solutions the best way to go?

Digital contact tracing strategies available today

Two of the major technologies used for digital contact tracing in the United States are Bluetooth and GPS. These tools can be used to improve the medical monitoring of high-risk parties. They can be used to self-report a user's daily temperature as well as any symptoms of infection that they've noticed. Some management systems using either technology allow for push notifications to send reminders to users for check-in during voluntary isolation or quarantine. These methods have several advantages.
1. They put user trust first.
2. The automation of the process reduces the time and man-power needed to identify contacts, facilitate communication between contacts, and assist in ensuring potentially infected individuals know to quarantine quickly to help break the chain of transmission.
3. Assists in locating potentially unknown contacts.
4. Offers a detailed mobility account of a given individual that lets the subject more accurately track their movements. It also provides public health officials with highly accurate data.
5. Allows for the categorization of different exposure risk groups that health officials can match to varying levels of monitoring, notification, and tracing.

GPS

The concepts of location and proximity are also embodied in GPS solutions. Location data from GPS solutions allows you to map and analyze the movements of individuals or big groups of people. But GPS solutions use more energy as they have to maintain a constant connection where BLE beacons send out packets when another device is detected. GPS solutions aren't as precise as Bluetooth technology either. They can't detect where two or more people have been within six feet of an infected individual for at least 15 minutes when the infection risk is at its highest. GPS location data isn't available in all locations.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth Low Energy, also called BLE, has many advantages over GPS. BLE is widely used in wearables, beacons, smart homes, and much more. BLE beacons are an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that constantly transmit radio signals that identify themselves. BLE beacons are well-suited for digital contact tracing because of their low energy consumption. They can handle proximity tracing with a minimal amount of data necessary for exchange. Their signal power can be utilized to determine the distance between two contacts which is immensely helpful when dealing with a public health crisis.

Contact tracing in the world of mobile devices

BLE solutions are more precise, secure, and use less energy. Let’s focus on their uses in contact tracing, where there are two common ways BLE can be used.

The first method uses a smartphone to directly receive the broadcast packets from another smartphone. They don't, however, establish a connection. In this scenario, each smartphone acts as a BLE beacon or a one-way transmitter that continually broadcasts identifiers to other BLE-enabled devices in close proximity.

The second method in achieving contact tracing is through badge-based solutions. When BLE beacons are used, like those from Kontakt.io, you can trace employees who have let you know they've tested positive for COVID-19. The app-based applications use low energy Bluetooth radio signals to provide real-time notifications when someone comes in contact with a known infected person. You can then immediately send people home and cut off the chain of transmission within your work environment.

It's also possible to figure out where infected individuals and those who came in contact with them have been in the building so the area can be thoroughly sanitized. This helps to block the spread of the virus to the rest of your employee population. Using a continually updated algorithm, individual exposure risk can be calculated so better decisions can be made. You can enforce social distancing, reduce lines and gatherings, track sanitation, and more.

Using BLE beacons and tags, you can promote the safety of both employees and visitors to your business. You're not only preventing the spread of the infection, you're providing peace of mind.

Worker privacy and information security considerations

In recent years, there's been a keen interest in data privacy and the protection of personal information among businesses, individuals, lawmakers, and regulatory bodies. With the broad rollout of contact-tracing applications and technology to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, some fear years of progress in privacy laws are in jeopardy. But new laws just might raise the overall awareness of data privacy.

With BLE beacons, very specific information is provided about person-to-person interactions without dependence on GPS or other mobile devices. They don't require personal details that are in compliance with data privacy laws. The small amount of information from contact tracing is stored securely to protect the privacy of all involved contacts while providing them with immediate attention if there's a chance they've been exposed to a current virus.

Common misconceptions and risks to avoid

The popularity of BLE beacons is growing despite privacy concerns. Data breaches have been growing in frequency and severity around credit cards and businesses for the last several years. It's important to understand that when it comes to BLE beacons from reputable and reliable sources like Kontakt.io, they are completely secure. 

However, they also require a security mechanism to match the asset in question.

With an increasing interest in data privacy laws, it's also important to know that beacons don't harvest consumer data without their express consent. Implementing beacons into your workplace allows you and your employees to control your individual privacy by granting or revoking app permission. The system is fully compliant with all applicable privacy laws.

Worker safety in a post-pandemic reality

In a post-pandemic world, vigilance will be key. Once everything has fully reopened, many sectors will wisely continue to practice contact tracing and even social distancing. While BLE beacons are ideal during pandemic conditions, they can also keep you and your workers safe in other ways.

The safety of your workers is important. That's why BLE beacons are a great way to protect them moving forward. Regardless of your industry, beacons give you the ability to determine each employee's exact location in real time, even where GPS data might not be available. The location data is highly accurate. The system can even send notifications to meet a variety of needs and conditions. Help will always be available using BLE beacons.

Without a vaccine ready and a second wave of COVID-19 looming, American businesses need a practical, affordable enterprise solution to keep their staff safe and to do their part in preventing further spread of the virus. Secure BLE beacons provided by reputable providers like Kontakt.io, offer real-time location solutions that can help you reopen your business safely and fit into your budget as well. 

Would you like to learn more about how Kontakt.io's location-based services can help your business navigate the challenges presented by the current pandemic? We can help you keep your workforce safe while offering many other benefits to your business as well. Join our webinar or contact us today.

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By late June or early July, everyone was hoping that the pandemic would be over. The idea was that warmer weather would, if not cast it out, at least decrease the amount of transmission.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

People had high hopes that, perhaps by September, there would be a vaccine that would help make workplaces and public gatherings safer. 

That vaccine also has not yet emerged. 

COVID-19 continues to pose challenges for businesses and private individuals alike. It has changed the world as we know it: the way people do business, interact with the brands they care about, and even come to work each day. People are spending more time online and less time in actual contact with people. They do more online shopping. Many workplaces have turned to remote opportunities rather than asking their employees to come into a physical office environment.

Others, however, cannot allow their employees to work remotely. Some may need to bring their employees in to work occasionally, whether to pick up supplies or to deal with tasks that can only be completed in the office. Some may need their employees to work in a physical building to fill orders, interact with customers, or take care of production tasks. 

As the coronavirus crisis continues to impact the world and the workplace, your business needs contact tracing solutions to help it move through these uncertain times. 


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Why Do You Need Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing solutions can benefit your business, not just in the midst of the crisis, but as we move into a post-coronavirus world. Consider these critical reasons why contact tracing is, and will remain, incredibly important for your business and your employees. 

1. Help your employees and visitors feel more confident. 

The COVID-19 health crisis has created an unprecedented amount of insecurity and fear among many individuals. People are more aware than ever of the potential to spread germs and get sick when they come into contact with others. High-risk individuals, including both the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, have been forced to increase the measures they take to protect themselves.

Contact tracing, including badges and lanyards that can help prevent employees and visitors to your site from accessing potential high-risk areas, can help increase confidence and make people feel better about visiting your location. For your employees, that means decreased stress in the workplace, which can improve productivity as well as creating a better overall workplace environment. For visitors to your workplace, adequate contact tracing could be the difference between choosing to visit your site and choosing to stay away.

This need for confidence in sanitation and safety will likely remain in a post-COVID world. The coronavirus has permanently changed the way many people view health and wellness. Even with vaccines and treatments for the illness, many people will still worry about the potential to get sick and the lack of productivity it may cause in their lives--not to mention the associated risks. Contact tracing can help address that challenge and make people feel more comfortable in your business. 

2. Track the potential spread of illness (and not just COVID-19) through your workplace.

Imagine a typical flu season. An average 90% of Americans report at least "sometimes" coming to work while sick. When they have early symptoms of the flu, for example, they may come to work in spite of it. Some brush it off as allergies. Others say that they "don't feel that bad" or "can continue to work anyway." Many Americans have too few sick hours or feel that they need to save their time off as much as possible. 

As a result, the flu could spread through your workplace like wildfire. It might start in one department, with a single employee noting symptoms and then sharing it with coworkers. Contact by contact, it spreads throughout the building, decreasing productivity and leading to increased sick time. 

Contact tracing can help reduce the likelihood of that spread just as it can decrease the spread of coronavirus.

Many businesses have, as a result of COVID-19, learned just how many of their processes and procedures can be handled remotely. While being in a physical work environment can offer several advantages, including reduced distractions and better connections between employees, your business has likely implemented several workaround strategies that will allow your employees to work from anywhere.

You can continue to use many of those vital processes long after the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end. Like the flu, COVID-19 may become a seasonal malady in the United States, cropping up more often in the late fall and winter. The flu continues to present a significant hazard, not only to the health of the elderly or medically-compromised individuals in your workplace, but to overall workplace productivity. 

Contact tracing can help change that. When you identify an ill employee and trace their connections through the workplace, you can warn and isolate individuals they came into contact with. That may mean moving employees to remote work for a few days or weeks while they deal with symptoms of illness. By isolating those employees, you can prevent the spread of that illness throughout the workplace, keeping all your employees healthier. Not only is this a vitally important process when decreasing the spread of COVID-19 through workplace environments, contact tracing can help you keep your workplace healthier even after the immediate health crisis ends. 

3. Reduce the cost of unnecessary testing and isolation.

If you cannot track and trace the spread of COVID-19 through your workplace, you may have employees going through unnecessary testing. Those employees may have to quarantine until they get results in or until they can confirm for certain that they did not contract the virus. 

This can lead to a great deal of lost productivity and increased costs for your workplace, especially if you work in an environment where your employees need to be sure of their health before coming to work each day. 

Without contact tracing, you may have trouble identifying which employees have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. As a result, you may have employees unnecessarily missing work or going through expensive testing. With contact tracing, on the other hand, you can reduce the cost of expensive external tests and keep employees working when they have not actually been exposed to COVID-19. 

4. Keep business operations flowing more smoothly. 

COVID-19 has caused extreme disruption across many business environments. Businesses have faced shutdowns, employee inability to work, and employees who have needed new modifications. As a result, many businesses have struggled to remain afloat in the midst of the crisis. 

With contact tracing, you can keep your business operations flowing more smoothly. You won't have to disrupt areas of your business where employees have not faced potential exposure, nor will you have to question whether specific employees or areas were impacted by a worker who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, you can keep your company operating more smoothly. 

How Does Contact Tracing Work?

Contact tracing is not disruptive for your employees or your business as a whole. With our contact tracing solutions, you do not have to rely on employee memory of what they did or where they went, nor do you have to question who may have been exposed or who may have been in a specific area. 

1. Employees are issued tags that track their movements. 

These tags, which are worn by employees every day, send messages to a gateway that tracks movement throughout your facility and the presence of various employees in specific areas. As a result, you can easily see what areas employees moved through and who may have faced exposure to COVID-19 if someone falls ill. 

2. Employees notify you if they have a positive test.

An employee who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to notify their workplace as soon as possible. Your organization needs to take fast steps to notify people who may have been exposed and prevent future exposure in the workplace. 

3. You can assess risk levels for other employees. 

With Kontact.io's COVID-19 contact tracing solution, you can access a display that will easily track potential exposure for other employees, including factors like:

The program allows you to collect data about who came into contact with the affected individual and respond accordingly, notifying those who may have come into contact with the affected individual without disclosing any of that person’s private health information. 

4. Take action accordingly.

By now, your business likely has a plan in place for how to respond to potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. You likely have a policy that will notify employees who may have been exposed by an infected coworker. Once notified, you may want to:

Isolate affected employees.

In some cases, you may be able to isolate a small department, keeping them out of contact with the rest of the workplace until they have had negative tests or are at least two weeks past exposure. Your business, on the other hand, may prefer to have those employees work remotely or to have them stay home until they have a negative test. 

Clean the impacted areas.

In order to decrease the potential spread of COVID-19 through your workplace, you may want to deep clean the affected areas. Our contact tracing solution will allow you to easily assess what areas of your workplace the affected individual spent the most time in and clean them accordingly. 

COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon, nor is the need for contact tracing. By installing an effective contact tracing solution in your workplace, you can increase your ability to protect your workers and keep them safe. Schedule a demo today to learn more about how our solutions can improve safety in your workplace.

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The COVID 19 pandemic turned the world upside down, affecting the global economy and many diverse businesses. Many of them have turned to remote work, others had to shut down and hope that they would be able to stay afloat as a company. Alternating between exposing people to the risk of COVID-19 or the effects of the economic collapse, the decision to start reopening businesses was made. However, with this agreement came new safety standards and guidelines for managers that have disrupted the way they think about workplace safety and employee well-being. 

Tracking employee interactions, ensuring social distancing, monitoring symptoms and sanitizing facilities are some of the strategies that can prevent the spread of the virus in workplaces. For very small companies maintaining these health standards manually may be sufficient, but when it comes to bigger corporate buildings it is impossible and can be a never-ending task with unsatisfactory results.

Therefore, many businesses have started to implement location-based solutions that gather necessary data to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spread among workers and ensure safe reopenings.

Having real-time insights into the movements of employees and their interactions is key when it comes to identifying infection chains early on and preventing venues from shutting down. But real-time location systems are not a brand new technology. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, real-time employee tracking was commonly used for job clocking automation, building evacuation or employee distress & workplace injury. And as new challenges come to the forefront, location-based technologies have filled the gap and provided us with new solutions that can prevent businesses from the COVID-19 outbreaks and make employees more confident about returning to work.


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But what exactly are location services? 

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) or indoor positioning systems, as the name suggests, are used for identifying and tracking the location of people or assets. This may seem similar to GPS systems, but RTLS is updated to more modern tech standards and capabilities and used mainly in indoor environments. 
The increased visibility into people and object movements provided by real-time location systems is key when it comes to improving efficiency and safety. Managers enabled with actionable insights can more easily identify where exactly inefficiencies are and make data-driven decisions to remove them. RTLS can also improve worker safety when used for evacuation monitoring or the location of personnel in case of an emergency. Want to learn more about how RTLS transform major verticals? Download the guide now> 

How can location-based systems help in the post-Covid world?

The health sector and corresponding stakeholders in the government and economic sectors have given the green light to reopen various sectors of the economy that cannot survive in a remote working model for an extended period. To enhance employee and customer safety, social distancing and contact tracing are paramount.

Social distancing refers to maintaining sufficient distance between individuals to reduce the risk of viral transmissions. As a rule of the thumb, the minimum distance is six feet, which should be maintained in any social set up at any given time. Social distancing also extends to the practice of staying at home to reduce the number of contacts as a way of protecting people whose working from home strategies are no longer feasible.

Contact tracing refers to the process of identifying, assessing, and isolating people who have been in close contact with an infected person. Contact tracing is an extremely labor-intensive process that involves getting in touch with a list of contact persons to assess the extent of the exposure. Due to the level of stigmatization for COVID-19 positive patients, contact-tracing information needs to be stored securely to ensure all contact persons receive immediate attention to curb the further spread of the virus.

Sanitization tracking

Shutting down and sanitizing an entire building can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. And as major sanitization responses have already affected revenue and processes of many diverse companies, real-time location systems can help by identifying where the infected person spent time so there’s no need to shutdown and sanitize the entire building.

Contactless access

WHO states that COVID19 droplets can land on surfaces and stay there for up to 72 hours. And as door handles or pin pads are a hotspot for bacterias, no-touch access can be a great way to decrease the spread of the virus. Real-time location systems can simply recognize the badge your employee is wearing and open the door each time someone walks through an access point. Instead of the Bluetooth LE badge, there is a possibility to use smartphone-based contactless access as well. 

According to QIMA Survey, 9 in 10 businesses report being affected by the Covid-19 epidemic and only 4% of businesses consider themselves prepared for an event like the Covid-19 outbreak. It shows that now, more than ever, we need to take advantage of technologies to ensure workplace safety and employee well-being.

Challenges around mobile-based contact tracing

Distinct from social distancing, a behavioral impediment, contact tracing is key to preventing mass infection in the workplace and is now a measure available for employers to increase employee safety and reduce the adverse effects of the pandemic on business continuity. With a second wave looming and no clear end in sight along with mounting pressure for reopening America, we are seeing more businesses introducing various mobile-based and device-based contact tracing solutions, in which Bluetooth™ technologies are playing a key role.

Contact tracing in the word of mobile devices

The World Health Organization has identified contact tracing as the biggest challenge in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Contact tracing entails identifying and contacting all the persons an infected patient interacted with within 14 days prior to testing positive. Doing this manually is the biggest challenge for health professionals, making it nearly impossible to control the virus. With technology devices and location tracking technologies, app-based contact tracing applications through Bluetooth low energy radio signals have been developed, making it easier for users to get real-time notifications in the event of contact with an infected person.

Common misconceptions and pitfalls to avoid

Despite the increased attention that BLE beacons have received from the tech world, beacons are yet to go mainstream since businesses have major concerns regarding their security. While data breaches around credit cards have tormented businesses for years, data security concerns surrounding beacons are still new. In addressing the security misconceptions about beacons, it is important to realize that beacons from reliable sources such as Kontakt.io are secure but require a security mechanism appropriate for the concerned assets. With the increased data privacy laws, beacons do not collect data from consumers without their consent. Adopting beacons within your organization does not breach privacy laws since users control their privacy by granting or rejecting permission to apps.


Technology cannot prevent the onset of a pandemic but it can offer risk mitigation strategies to curb the spread of the pandemic. At Kontakt.io, we recognize the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, providing real-time location solutions through BLE beacons. By adopting beacons within your business enterprise, it will be easy to reopen while keeping the spread of the virus at bay. If you want to learn more about how location-based services can solve current challenges and help you reopen your workplace safely while unlocking new business opportunities, make sure to join our webinar or contact us.

 

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Over the last few years, cities have been taking a closer look at ways to reduce the number of cars on their streets. Finding ways to improve public transportation and draw interest to it has been a priority. Now, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, finding ways to minimize personal contact in public transit is of vital importance.

Technology solutions can greatly enhance public transportation by making the ticketing and validation process easier to use and, more importantly, contact-free. Mobile payment solutions used with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are a winning combination that is growing every day in accessibility and performance.


Looking for beacons for your contactless solution?

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Bluetooth Technology and the World of Transportation

When we think of Bluetooth technology, transportation isn't the first thing that comes to mind. We might think about our smartphones, speakers, headphones, and other personal electronic devices. Most wouldn't associate Bluetooth technology with the bus they take to campus each day or the road they take to work. 

Bluetooth is already used in the world of transportation. Bluetooth sensors are currently built into highways to track traffic and provide data on congestion, high-occupancy toll lanes, maintenance, pricing, toll collection, safety, and more. Transportation sensor networks provide invaluable information to cities.

Bluetooth beacons also offer an opportunity to devise smart solutions for improved public transit. 

A transit agency's mobile payment app might trigger a message telling you that "your bus is here" when the bus traveling the route you need is within proximity to your smartphone. You are then able to quickly and easily pay for your ticket without the interaction of a sales agent.

The city of Minsk, for example, recently announced that commuters will be able to buy tickets online for all public transport on September 1st. It's interesting to note that the use of face scans for fares is also being developed there. It's been said the technology has been tested and works well. An implementation just might be in the future there once the coronavirus pandemic is over and protective face coverings are no longer required.

Contactless Payment Using Mobile Devices 

When transit vehicles, platforms, or stations use Bluetooth infrastructures, they have the ability to track riders. With Bluetooth-enabled mobile payment apps on commuter devices, riders can be tracked as they move in and out of the network. That type of framework can capture and provide comprehensive statistics very similar to gated systems but without a huge financial investment.

Systems using beacons with Bluetooth infrastructures in conjunction with real-time mobile payment systems make things infinitely easier for the commuter. Instead of having to understand complex tariffs and fares, the automated system takes care of this for them. The fare is determined in real-time while the rider is on the bus or train. The system can also ensure they get the best fare automatically. The commuter check-in experience is convenient and hassle-free.

Many public transit systems use systems like CAD/AVL or Automatic Passenger Counting (APC) to gather real-time passenger tallies and vehicle locations. These systems already in place can greatly benefit from installing beacons on the vehicles and pairing the location information and vehicle capacity data with comprehensive data about on-board commuters. Combined, you'd get the value proposition of CAD/AVL, APC, and fare collection systems used into a single, insightful data stream.

Planners and other stakeholders can use such data to make vital decisions about routing, frequency, and vehicle needs. Public safety personnel can determine vehicle occupancy and location using real-time metrics.

The use of beacons can greatly increase the accessibility of public transportation to commuters. Commuters with disabilities or mobility challenges can travel with increased efficiency and safety. Bluetooth beacons combined with apps on mobile devices can be used to find blind or visually-impaired commuters within a transit location. They can then be directed using verbal instructions on how to navigate. They can be told how many steps they need to reach a staircase or how many steps to the left they have to go to reach the appropriate bus or train. Since some apps are designed to let commuters know when a bus or train is nearing their station, a visually-impaired commuter can track the route they need within the mobile payment app. Once the right train arrives at their station, the app will let them know.

As the use of beacon technology grows, there will be more involvement with retail participation. Beacons are commonly used in retail to help navigate through large spaces or send notifications to let passersby know about coupons or sales at nearby businesses. It's an opportunity that would allow local businesses and transit agencies to form partnerships. They could provide special offers to commuters within a specific geo-location. A commuter using the transit agency's mobile payment app that physically comes into proximity with the retailer's Bluetooth broadcast might get a coupon notification or special offer alert on their device.

BLE Beacons

What Else a Mobile Payment System Can Do For Your Business

Transit agencies using contactless payment systems with beacons can help reinvigorate interest in public transportation and help improve service. They can also serve as an important mode of communication with commuters.

There are more transportation options available today with car-sharing or ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. They're convenient because you can request these services via a mobile device. Using a contactless payment system, you can provide commuters with the convenience that drew them to the other services. The system allows you to reinvent your transit as a service that's easy to use, something you can access immediately, and more welcoming. 

Beyond convenience and the commuter's journey, there's a lot a mobile payment system can do for you. Most people spend a few hours a day on their smartphones and mobile devices. Transit agencies can use their mobile payment systems to collect vital data that can be used to improve services and communicate with commuters in a fast, personalized way.

Improving services

The information collected from a mobile payment system is invaluable to transit agencies when determining common payment preferences, preferred fares, passenger boarding locations, and more. Such data can be incredibly useful when it comes to planning routes, upgrading used infrastructures, and customizing the user experience. It can also help identify existing or potential problems so solutions can be found.

All you need to do is determine what type of data your agency would like to gather based on your priorities. You can use analytics to make improvements, find solutions, and keep costs down. The data that can be harvested from the right mobile payment platform is a significant tool in making operational changes and increasing efficiency. 

The use of these systems greatly speed up boarding and reduce the amount of time commuters spend waiting. Contactless payment systems keep commuters moving swiftly through your transit system. That efficiency will affect the passenger experience in positive ways. It also improves driver safety. Drivers greatly benefit from quicker boarding times and less of a need for handling cash.

With the comprehensive data on your operation and how it's used, you can foster trust with your stakeholders, the public, and most importantly, your community.

Effective Communication

Harnessing the power of beacons, mobile payment systems can be a very effective way for transit agencies to communicate with commuters. 

Given the amount of time most consumers spend on smartphones and other mobile devices, as much as 90% of that time using installed apps, real-time notifications can be easily sent to commuters, letting them know about special promotions or updates to service. You could send push notifications about tickets that will expire soon. In-app messages could be sent to commuters within the app to let them know about new features. There are many possible applications for building an effective outreach strategy.

Conclusion

Offering a touch-free payment experience is important as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic. In minimizing personal contact, it helps minimize the risk of spreading the virus. 

Contactless payment systems using BLE beacons are affordable to implement, and reduce infrastructure and ticket handling costs. 

The systems not only provide an excellent commuter experience, but they also increase profitability. When commuters can quickly and easily use your contactless payment system for an efficient trip to wherever they need to go, they'll return and your revenue will increase. Younger commuters are more likely to try public transportation when they don't have to worry about carrying cash with them. 

Want to know more about beacons for a contactless payment system? Contact us today for more information. 
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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.


Ensure workplace safety and avoid shutting down the entire facility with real-time insights.
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Contact Tracing

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. 

Mustering and Building Occupancy

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.

Asset Tracking and Inventory

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.

Streamlining Manufacturing Processes

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.

Improving Factory Floor Safety

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.
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For indoor wayfinding and similar purposes, the installation process can be complicated, but mostly requires a beacon-based structure that can interface with user devices to provide a seamless and safe experience.


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In our last post, we talked about gateway and access point-based infrastructure, which is one of the two overall categories most installations fall under. The second category is beacon-based infrastructure. Each of these categories is aimed at different solutions and contexts, and requires a different approach to installation and use. You will need to choose the best infrastructure for your solution and project.
The essential difference is that in a gateway-based project, each asset is affixed with a beacon or tag, which then connects to a gateway that can be accessed using an application or specific hardware. Gateway based projects are used primarily for asset and employee tracking.
Beacon-based infrastructure, however, uses mobile phones to provide users with wayfinding information and location-specific contact that can be used for providing enhanced customer experience. Phones connect only to the beacon, keeping them separate from your local network and protecting the privacy of users. This makes the infrastructure ideal for public-based wayfinding applications.

How Does Beacon-Based Infrastructure Work?

Beacon-based infrastructure relies on the fact that all modern mobile phones have Bluetooth and are designed to work with location services. Thus, the user's phone becomes the hardware needed to access the system. The user is required to download an indoor wayfinding app, which should be made available through the Apple Store and Google Play. 
The app then uses the phone's built-in Bluetooth to triangulate to beacons set up throughout your property. This provides the user with location-based content and indoor navigation and wayfinding. Standard phone location services will not work indoors and often lack the granularity needed to, for example, determine which exact gallery in an art museum the user is in. The app will thus include the indoor map, wayfinding ability, and a way to access location-based content. Visitor Wi-fi can be used to assist users in accessing content.
The phone can either upload its location to the cloud or keep it private. You can also program specific beacon units to trigger features on the phones. For example, you can have the phone notify users of a hotel amenity as they approach it. As the phones do all the calculations for wayfinding and route optimization (based off of past users), the beacons need little power, extending their lives.

How is the System Designed and Deployed?

The system consists of smart beacons placed in various locations through the building, generally on walls, an app that is downloaded onto the user's phone, and location services and content pushed from the cloud. Data from phones should only be collected if the use case requires it, such as for visitor tracking in a hospital. 
The initial design is thus based on the use case and the floor plan. The design for a museum, where the app is used to provide extra information or accessibility features such as audio signage may be quite different from an app used to help visitors navigate a large hospital and find their way to the patient or provider they are visiting.
The design process needs to include:

Throughout the entire installation process, the specific use case needs to be kept in mind and best practices should be followed for deploying beacons.

Best Practices for Beacon Placement

Beacon placement needs to follow a plan and should never be randomly done. Getting full coverage requires knowing your needs and floor plan. You also need to choose the right beacon for your case and beacons should be configured off-site to save time. You should also:

The floor plan should be made available to anyone working on beacon placement, as installers may detect problems that you initially missed. In addition, you should use the right mounting type for various beacons. For example, if beacons may need to be moved, then you can use velcro or double-sided tape to secure them. Other mounting types include plastic or metal zip ties and screws for permanent attachment. Wearable beacons might be used if you have employees that users may need to find, such as a concierge or on-duty doctor.
Deployment types include:

For many projects, a mixed deployment type is the best, but some sites may find that only point-based is sufficient.

Steps for Delivering a Good Project

To deliver the right infrastructure for yourself or a client, you need to follow certain best practices. For clients, start off with a business and technical workshop to go over their plans and establish what the use case actually is. Sometimes they may not know their own needs in detail without going over them with you. You should do your own site survey rather than relying on the client.
For projects that use wayfinding or content delivery, integration with existing Wi-Fi is key, and there needs to be Wi-Fi available to users. For most businesses, this means setting up a separate public-facing network to ensure security. In most buildings, cell phone coverage can be shaky and Wi-Fi is needed to download maps and content. Make sure that Wi-Fi signals are available throughout the site both for users and for the beacons themselves. Additional routers may be needed to properly support this.
Both the cellphone app to be provided to visitors and any software needed by employees need to be properly configured and tested. The visitor app should be tested across multiple devices including older or budget phones; accessibility questions can arise if not all devices can run the app. Employees need to be trained in the use of the app so they can assist visitors, and good documentation should be provided. (For accessibility reasons, the app should not be the only source of a floor plan in public-facing buildings). Handoff should only occur after all of the testing has been done to make sure the deployment meets the client's needs and the app functions as intended.
Coverage should be tested by doing walkthroughs. Visitors should not have to raise their phone or move to get a good signal. For point-based deployment, make sure beacons are not so close together that the signals overlap, resulting in incorrect content being served.
Properly installing a beacon-based real time location system requires an understanding of both the specific use case and the site. There are no standard installs or shortcuts, although there are app engines that can be used to shorten the process of software development. The system has to be fully tested so that all users have access to it and implemented correctly to ensure full coverage.
Kontakt.io has the expertise needed to help you through the complex process of installing beacon-based systems. We have already done it many times, and we know exactly what systems and services are needed for different use cases. All you need to start is to contact us for a starter kit and to discuss your needs.

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As we start to move into the next phase of mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, factories are going to open up again. However, hesitation is likely, especially given the number of outbreaks that have happened in meatpacking plants. The factory floor is not an easy place to practice social distancing and most factories are not designed to be operated remotely. Let’s look at how real-time contact tracing can help. 


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OSHA has released a number of guidelines to help factories navigate the emergency. They include flexible work hours, barriers between workstations, and wearing masks. But the fact remains that outbreaks in factories are going to be likely for a while, and these outbreaks have led to plants being shut down for days while they are deep cleaned and sanitized, which is a considerable cost. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to shut down and sanitize the building.
The best solution to this, in addition to promoting personal hygiene and following guidelines, is to track potential outbreaks early and isolate affected workers. "Contact tracing" has become a buzzword, but it is key to ensuring that a plant does not experience a major outbreak.

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is a process that activates when you have a confirmed case of COVID (ideally lab-confirmed, but presumed cases should be considered as testing is not always available). The process involves tracking down everyone who has had close contact (within six feet for more than a couple of minutes) with the patient over the two weeks before the confirmation of the case. Those people can then be tested and/or isolated. This allows you to catch and isolate potential carriers even if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic. With a disease that produces a high percentage of asymptomatic carriers, contact tracing is essentially the only way to avoid further extended shutdowns and balance the economy and public health.
Contact tracing slows an outbreak by removing potential sources of infection (or establishing that they are not infected through a negative lab test). Additionally, it can improve worker confidence by assuring them that infections will be tracked and that they will not be sent home without cause. This can help make employees more willing to come back to work, although it should be combined with transparency about procedures and good hygiene. It can also make visitors more comfortable about entering the building and interacting with employees, although social distancing should be maintained where possible.
Without contact tracing, it is not possible to keep a fast-moving, highly infectious virus under control, and it is simply not possible to safely and efficiently reopen plants. Nobody wants their factory to be on the news as the center of another outbreak.

How Can Businesses conduct Contact Tracing?

Traditionally, contact tracing is done by interviewing the patient and then calling all of their contacts. This, of course, relies on human memory, which is often fallible. It is also a highly labor-intensive process. Human resources have to track down every employee who worked with the patient, and obviously you can't count on people being where they are supposed to be at all times. Did they use the break room near their work station or did they trek somewhere else because it was out of coffee? Did they stop to chat with a coworker on their break? While micromanaging employee location tends to reduce morale, tracking it in this situation is absolutely vital from both a safety and a business perspective.
It also requires a level of agility that your staff may not have. It has to be done quickly and it is not always reliable. Before you know it, you're having to send everyone home and shut down the plant for days. For small offices and workshops, manual contact tracing can work well, where everyone knows everyone and you have a relatively small number of employees and locations to deal with. For large factories, it is potentially cost-prohibitive.
Thankfully, there are ways to support contact tracing that reduce the amount of labor needed and increase speed. Modern technology can help by tracking the location of employees. You may already have systems in place to do this for purposes of productivity, making sure everyone evacuates in an emergency, accurate timekeeping, etc. Employee tracking can support many things, including in-building contact tracing.
Businesses should also be willing to be generous on paid sick time not only for people who are infected but for those in quarantine, including employees quarantined because of exposure elsewhere or exposure of a family member from whom they are unable to isolate themselves. Employees should be properly incentivized to report infection or exposure that happens off the clock and should never be penalized for doing so.

How Does Real-Time Tracking Support Contact Tracing?

Real-time tracking supports contact tracing by keeping track of the location of employees at all times. This means that you know the real (as opposed to planned) location of employees, and have an accurate record that does not depend on human memory. Badge-based tracking systems can track visitors as well as employees, and visitors are asked to provide their contact information so they can be reached in the event of an alert.
The tracking system records when people are within six feet of each other, and for how long. It does not take into account the use of masks and other protective gear, which may reduce the risk of infection. The layout needs to be programmed into the system, so it does not flag as close contact when people are on opposite sides of a wall or significant barrier.

Does it Require Additional Infrastructure?

If you are already using Bluetooth for employee and asset tracking, you can use that infrastructure and merely need to add software that helps assess risk and send appropriate alerts. Location-based solutions can give a graduated assessment of risk, allowing employees and supervisors to make meaningful decisions and reduce the cost of unnecessary testing or absenteeism.
Otherwise, contact tracing can also use existing Wi-Fi services, although Bluetooth tends to be more accurate. If you have been considering implementing real-time tracking now is a good time. The system can be integrated with asset tracking to help reduce losses, spot production bottlenecks, and improve procedures. This means that the infrastructure remains in place for other purposes and can easily be reactivated if there is a later wave of COVID or an outbreak of a different infectious disease. It can even be kept in place to help track more common threats, such as norovirus or Legionnaire's disease, in a way that manual contact tracing cannot be, because of the higher expense. By reducing occupational exposure, it will continue to reduce absenteeism in the future.

How Does the System Work?

When an employee or visitor reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the system will check their contacts for the previous 14 days, and assess the amount of risk experienced by those contacts.
The system then informs supervisors so that exposed workers can be sent home. Potentially, as testing becomes cheaper and easier, on-site testing could be deployed to ensure that employees are tested before they leave the office. Visitors can be notified so they can make their own informed decisions. 
By notifying workers at high risk of exposure, the system reduces downtime, reduces the number of employees who have to be sent home, and saves money on testing. It can also be used to track locations where the employee spent a lot of time so that extra cleaning can be done as needed, particularly of high-touch areas.
The user will receive reports that support compliance and also help them keep track of places they have been. This can also be passed on to supervisors so that they can address risky behavior such as lingering in break rooms in close quarters. It can be used to enforce temporary closures of high-risk common areas such as kitchens, or assess actual use so that sanitation procedures can be optimized (which will remain useful long after the pandemic).
The BLE tags used in the badges are affordable enough that a lost badge or one not returned by a visitor is not a major cost. Badges can easily be distributed and collected and visitor badges can easily be sanitized or, alternatively, a phone app can potentially be used to reduce social contact further. Badges can also be used to facilitate contactless access, which also helps with infection control.
Kontakt.io has put together the COVID-19 Contact Tracer Webapp, which works with a Bluetooth-based employee, visitor badges,  that provides a report of people who are likely to have been exposed. This can then be used to determine who needs to be tested or isolated. The system is designed to control spread, reduce unnecessary testing, and decrease employee and visitor anxiety. It can also be used to improve sanitation and decontamination plans by tracking actual usage of high-touch areas. Our app provides compliance reports, shows locations on a layout so that actual contact can be determined, and ranks exposure in a graduated way for proper risk assessment. Contact us to find out more and schedule a demo.
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As stay-at-home orders and business closures extend, a lot of us are starting to think about what happens after the various lockdowns end. A rapid return to the prior normal is impossible, at least until we have a vaccine. Employers and building managers need to start thinking now about what they can do to control infection and reduce spread.
Smart building technology may provide part of the answer. Real time location services can track the movement of people and objects, monitor entry and exit and improve both bio control and convenience.


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Contact Tracing

A key aspect of controlling the pandemic as we move forward is contact tracing. When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers have to track down everyone who was in close, extended proximity to them for the previous two weeks and arrange for those people to be quarantined or tested.
For employers, who can place a higher level of control on people, contact tracing within the workplace is vital. Using Bluetooth-based access badges, when an employee informs you they have tested positive for COVID-19, you can easily trace their contacts and send those people home. You can establish where in the building they were and arrange for deep cleaning of not just their office but other places (such as conference and break rooms) where they spent extended time. This prevents spread of the virus through your workforce. An AI-based algorithm can calculate individual exposure risk so you and they can make reasonable decisions. The algorithms can be updated as we learn more about the virus and specific risk factors.

Enforcing Social Distancing

If you have ongoing rules to enforce social distancing, real time tracking of employees can be used to warn violators. For example, if you have asked people not to linger in the kitchen but rather to heat up their lunch and immediately return to their desk to eat it, real time tracking can notify you if anyone is breaking the rules. You should consider closing break rooms and kitchens altogether, but this may not be practical depending on your location and what options employees have e.g. for storing and heating up their lunch.
The same goes for closed conference rooms and other areas where people may tend to gather.
Bluetooth access badges can also be re-coded to deny access to certain areas of the building, separating your workforce into groups of people who routinely interact and compartmentalizing infection risks.

Reducing Lines

The last thing you need right now is lines to get through a security checkpoint. Smart buildings allow for employees to walk right through checkpoints. You can even have visitors click on a link or download an app to their smartphone to allow for seamless access. This means that there are fewer lines at entrances and at elevators, and people are not going to be milling around in close proximity.

Contactless Access

COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces such as doorknobs for hours. This means that door handles, pin pads, and any other "high touch" surfaces may be a risk. We do not know how infectious the virus remains in these circumstances, but there may well be risk from touching a handle right after an infected person.
Contactless access and automatic doors reduce these risks. If somebody can simply walk through an access point and have the door open for them as it recognizes their badge, then there is no need for them to touch anything, reducing or even eliminating this particular risk. Smartphone-based contactless access also has the advantage of not having to give out visitor badges, reducing the contact between visitors and security or the receptionist. Everything can be handled with no need for face-to-face contact, including any payment needed to obtain access to the building.

Asset Tracking

At first glance, asset tracking does not appear to have much to do with infection control, but remember that the virus can survive on surfaces. Asset tracking allows you to track down and sanitize equipment that was borrowed or used by a person now known to be sick.
Asset tracking can also be used to enforce temporary rules about borrowing equipment or using other people's phones and computers. In general, workers should not be sharing equipment and hot desking should be monitored for the duration.

Smart Restrooms

Restrooms are an obvious concern for infection control, and traditional room-to-room checks don't take actual usage into account, resulting in a restroom running out of soap. Restroom sensors can detect actual usage and real time tracking of inventory will ensure there is always soap (and toilet paper) available. While one probably doesn't want to go as far as to monitor how long employees spend washing their hands, making sure they have what they need to do so goes a long way.
Touchless restroom facilities including soap dispensers make a huge difference; consider retrofitting to install these if you don't already have them. Many people prefer them (as long as they work), and they will also help reduce absenteeism in future flu seasons.

Minimizing Visitor Time

Real time tracking can also minimize the amount of time a visitor spends in the building, and their contact with people not directly involved with the purpose for their visit. The system can send directions to their phone, allowing them to take the shortest route to their destination. This kind of technology is already being used by hospitals to help keep visitors out of dangerous areas, but can be used in offices to send a visitor to the office of the person they are there to meet with.
This also has the effect of improving the visitor experience, as nobody wants to get lost in an unfamiliar building. Office buildings in particular can end up looking very much like a labyrinth of similar corridors and rooms. Meanwhile, security can track the visitor and ensure they don't go too far off course.
If that person ends up being infected, contact tracing can be done, but the primary point is to get visitors in and out as quickly as possible. Staff will also not have to be in contact with visitors in order to give them directions.

Tracking Cleaning and Sanitization

Asset tracking and personnel tracking can be used to ensure that cleaning happens as needed. In general, normal cleaning protocols should be followed, with deep cleaning of areas used extensively by a person who tested positive or showed symptoms. (E.g., if you have to send somebody home because of symptoms that might be COVID-related, you should deep clean their office using appropriate cleaning chemicals).
Real time tracking systems can allow cleaning staff to tag that they have cleaned the area, ensure that supplies are where they need to be, and track whether equipment has been sanitized as needed. Similar tactics are used in healthcare settings to ensure that equipment such as IVs is properly sanitized between patients. For equipment that must be shared the same tracking can be used to make absolutely sure that it is cleaned between users.
If you have pin pads, doors that must be opened, etc, frequent cleaning is required and should also be tracked.

Monitoring Employee Symptoms

One suggestion that has been made for controlling the spread of COVID-19 is to take people's temperature at the start of the work day. This is only a partial solution, as people can be contagious before having symptoms and some people have no symptoms at all. However, thermal imaging systems may be used to flag people with high body temperature. This can then be verified and the employee sent home right away if needed.
While extensive behavior monitoring tends to be negative to morale, cameras can also detect whether employees are, for example, wearing masks for their commute, and flag them for a reminder. (It is particularly important for people who commute on public transport to wear face coverings). Smart building systems can also monitor for loud coughs and other disruptive symptoms, but it's important to balance this with your employees' privacy.
Real time tracking systems can be helpful as we move out of the "quarantine" phase and into a temporary mitigation phase, likely to last until we have a vaccine or extremely reliable treatments for COVID-19. Bluetooth-based systems are often superior because of their low cost, but systems can also use your existing Wi-Fi network, helpful for scaling up. Now, before offices and other buildings reopen, is the time to plan for how you are going to protect your employees going forward.
If you are looking into adding Bluetooth-based or other real time tracking systems to your building as part of your protocols for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, contact Kontakt.io today.
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IV pumps are a piece of equipment that clinical staff need often (and urgently). Their presence or absence is critical to patient care, but it is not uncommon for staff to lose track of them, to find that somebody else took one, or realize that they do not have one that is properly sanitized. Given their unique importance to patient care, IV pump tracking and availability is key. Let’s take a look at how Bluetooth tracking is the most efficient way to track IV pumps indoors. 

IV Pump Indoor Location Tracking

IV pumps are particularly easy to misplace, and poor tracking can cause nurses to literally hide pumps so they know where they can find them later. Nurses who don't trust the IV pump tracking system will take matters into their own hands, so it becomes important to create a system they are comfortable with. Nurses should also not have to worry about inventory management; they should be able to focus fully on patient care. Some hospitals try to address this situation by simply buying or leasing more pumps, and then end up with overstocked inventory that is still not getting to patients in a timely manner. That’s why effective IV pump tracking is so important. 
Given the basic, essential nature of IV pumps, they make a good starting point for moving to a full real-time tracking system for assets. This can eventually include everything from beds to disposable supplies. Many hospitals are finding that the systems they use are no longer sufficient in today's complicated world, or simply that better options are available. As technology continues to improve, new ways to track and manage IV pumps will no doubt be invented, but for now, Bluetooth tracking has proved to be the best option. Here’s why digitized Bluetooth-based real-time IV pump tracking is essential to hospitals. 

How Does IV Pump Availability Impact Patient Care?

IV pumps, also called infusion pumps, may be the most commonly used machines in patient care. Ninety percent of hospitalized patients receive some kind of IV medications, most of which are delivered by pump. They are required for providing fluids, medication, and sometimes nutrition to patients. They are used to administer anesthesia or rehydrate dehydrated patients. If IV pumps get lost (or even stolen; they are expensive devices and have been known to walk out the door), then they are not available when patients need them.
IV pumps also need power, although they can be operated for a period of time using batteries. Newer IV and infusion pumps are "smart," which means they can be programmed to drip at certain speeds, etc, and this also means they have Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connectivity, but also further increases their expense.
Without enough IV pumps available, a hospital cannot treat all the patients who come in the door and may have to resort to more primitive measures that waste the time of nursing staff.

How Does IV Pump Sanitation Impact Patient Care?

The other side of the picture is that IV pumps have to be clean and ready to go. Because the IV pump is in contact with the patient, it is automatically considered contaminated after use and has to go through an entire sanitation cycle before it can be used again. This is a complicated process that involves:

Needless to say, IV pumps can be lost or forgotten at any part of this stage, and a dirty IV pump cannot be used on patients without an extreme level of risk. A hospital's available IV pumps are, thus, only those in the "clean" storage room, and it's vital to ensure that used pumps get there as quickly as possible without compromising patient safety.
Proper tracking ensures that IV pumps are sanitized in a timely manner (and do not build-up to the point where the chore becomes annoying for ClinTech), and then get to the cleanroom without taking any detours. Nurses and doctors know exactly how many IV pumps they have available and where they are.
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How Digital Tracking Supports Patient Care

In addition to ensuring IV pump tracking and availability, digital tracking supports patient care and improved outcomes in a number of ways:

Digital tracking, in other words, reduces the amount of time wasted tracking down pumps. Smart pumps can tell nurses whether or not they are clean, reducing errors and protecting patients from contamination and other problems. The key here, though, is reducing so-called "hunt time," which can leave a patient without their medication for longer than is truly necessary and result in frustration for clinical staff. This then results in hoarding, which further increases hunt time.
It ensures that pumps are available for all patients that need them without wasting a lot of money acquiring and storing extra pumps.

How Bluetooth Tracking Solutions Improve Outcomes

Bluetooth tracking can support everything already mentioned and further improve patient outcomes. Bluetooth is ideal for tracking hospital assets because the chips are inexpensive and the system allows for a fine enough grid that it is even possible to tell what shelf in the storage room an object is on, further reducing search times.
Bluetooth tracking solutions can:

Bluetooth Tracking is Vital for Healthcare 

Most modern smart pumps are, in fact, already Bluetooth-ready, meaning that there is no need to "tag" these pumps with beacons. The IV pump tracking solutions can generate an alarm if an IV pump is ever removed from clinical areas (except for broken pumps that are tagged out for disposal), and thus acts to prevent theft as well as hoarding of pumps by worried staff. It also allows for the tag in and tag out of infusion pumps that are temporarily sent home with a patient, ensuring that those pumps, too, are properly traced and returned when no longer needed.
Kontakt.io offers robust Bluetooth IV pump tracking solutions, and hardware which uses less power, has to be replaced less often and integrates well with Bluetooth-based smart pumps comparing to other technologies. Our healthcare solutions further support decision making when controlling inventory. Contact us to find out how our solutions can help you or to schedule a demo.
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Bluetooth LE Beacons
 

Whether it's a large-scale accident or a global pandemic that has your hospital dealing with a significantly larger influx of patients than normal, keeping up with triage for all patients becomes significantly more difficult. The sheer number of people that you must sort through during times where mere seconds can mean life or death leads to a situation that is both stressful and logistically challenging. This situation is worsened when that influx of people is carrying or potentially carrying a highly contagious illness as in the recent COVID-19 outbreak. In these situations, you need to balance the already stressful task of triage with the need to keep contagious patients as far from healthy patients and staff as possible.
This requires keeping track of people in a hectic and crowded environment. You must be able to quickly get patients into beds, while still keeping the contagious people quarantined as much as possible. This means not only tracking people but knowing immediately which beds are clear and who else may be in the room. This is one of the areas where technology can help, making it easier to track the people, the beds, and the conditions so you can get your patients sorted and moved as quickly as possible, cutting life-saving seconds off the time it would otherwise take.

How Real-Time Location Services (RTLS) Helps Medical Professionals

Bluetooth-enabled active staff badges, patient wristbands, and bed tags allow you to track every person in your hospital or medical center. You'll know instantly where every patient, doctor, visitor, member of staff, and even bed are. This tracking requires no paperwork or other procedures that will slow you down and put lives at risk. Instead, anyone with an internet-capable device will be able to see the locations of everyone and everything tracked in real-time. This data, along with a well-trained staff, will allow for more staff autonomy, better health outcomes for your patients, and a better guarantee of safety for visitors.


How can you improve the overall quality of care in your hospital while decreasing costs?

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What RTLS Does to Help You Manage a Crisis

Like almost every other device we use, the hospital wristband and staff badge can now be a lot smarter. The IoT (internet of things) allows various devices to connect to each other and exchange meaningful information. In the case of real-time location services, this data includes tracking information and key bits of metadata that will give meaning to those locations.
Let's take a look at some of the ways that hospitals and medical centers can use this technology to improve their ED triage process, whether it is during a mass casualty event, global pandemic, or simply day to day operations.

Live tracking patients and staff

Real-time location tracking allows staff to immediately locate those patients, which can be especially important if the patient were to fall, have a medical emergency, or test positive for a virus. Tracking patients in this way also allows you to keep them out of restricted areas that may be dangerous to them or isolated if needed.
Location data is key to fulfilling the central mission of triage operations—prioritizing. When every minute counts, wasting that time on locating patients defeats the purpose. With real-time tracking, it’s far easier to separate urgent cases from those assigned a lower priority and then to locate everyone as their time for treatment comes.

Manage ED patient flow, beds, and spaces

Once a patient has been placed, it is often necessary to move them between departments. At some point, they will be discharged. Both of these procedures can be paperwork heavy and lead to delays and errors. With real-time location tracking, it will not only be easier to keep track of patients, but you will be able to use the data that you gather to identify and resolve the bottlenecks that are slowing down your processes.

Trace patient and staff interactions

We've seen how fast a highly contagious virus, like COVID-19, can spread. It needs to be able to track patients that may be contagious and show in a system which visitors, patients and staff members have been in contact with affected patients to further decrease the spread of virus. 
When you are busy trying to find a bed for everyone, you may end up inadvertently reusing equipment that has been contaminated. Keeping track of these things manually under high-stress situations is error-prone and can result in further transmission of the virus. Tracking systems allow you to tag contaminated beds and equipment so that extra care is taken not to use them until they have been sanitized.
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How Real-Time Location Services Are Used for Tracking

For a while, the dominant tracking technology on the market was RFID. This technology is appropriate for some use cases, but it requires items to go through a checkpoint or be scanned by a human in order to track them. In a hectic hospital situation, this would only consume more valuable staff time and create more bottlenecks. It would not meet the needs of a hospital trying to efficiently respond to a crisis.
BLE devices do not require scanning. They work by triangulating their location with ‘base stations’ that have a known location. This means that you only need to place a BLE tracking tag on the object that you want to track and begin tracking it. Because they are smart devices, you can associate data with the tag. For example, as mentioned earlier, you could note that a piece of equipment is in need of sanitation or that a patient is contagious.
Because the location is always transmitting, the data is available in real-time, all the time. This data can be used not only by your staff but by powerful machine learning algorithms in the software that will help you identify bottlenecks and improve the flow of people and equipment in your hospital.
BLE devices are small, so the tags come in a wide variety of form factors. The most useful devices for hospitals and medical centers are:

Conclusion

As a leader in real-time location tracking services, Kontakt.io offers BLE tags in a number of form factors for visitor, staff, patient, and asset tracking as well as a software application that will allow your staff to access the tracking data from any internet-enabled device. Contact us today to see how location services can help ER staff members during triage crisis situations in your hospital.

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In today's world, the constant advancements in technology help to add a whole new level of convenience and efficiency into our everyday lives. For years, many companies have been utilizing the new technology to make their offices run more smoothly. But office buildings are not the only ones that can benefit from using advanced technology in the workplace. In fact, malls and museums were the first to update the Internet of Things (IoT). These public venues found that by incorporating these technologies into their establishment, they were able to create an overall better customer experience. Here’s how you can use Bluetooth to create smart buildings and improve the quality of your business.

Now that technology has helped to create "smart cars" and "smart homes", many people have come to expect a certain level of convenience in their daily lives. Turning buildings into "smart buildings" is becoming a must especially when we think of office buildings. Many public venues have already started using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to enhance their visitor's experience. By simply installing Bluetooth beacons into your public space, you will be able to create a more convenient and engaging environment for both your visitors and your employees. 

Improving Employees and Visitors Experience

Because technology is so widely used today, most guests that visit a public venue will have a certain level of expectations before they even step foot inside of the building. In fact, we are living in a world where a large number of children and teenagers have had technology at their disposal for their entire lives. Because of this, the majority of guests that visit any public space expect there to be some sort of technological component set up to make their visit more convenient. This includes the ability to navigate their way through a public building with ease.
By creating smart buildings and implementing Bluetooth beacons into a public venue, you will be able to easily provide your guests with a clear and efficient route to their destination with a familiar and convenient form of technology.

The Benefits of Smart Buildings

With Bluetooth technology in smart buildings, your visitors will no longer have to stand in long lines or create entrance-blocking crowds. Beacons that are placed near the entrance detect when a visitor is approaching the venue. It can then use the visitor's smartphone to check them into the venue and the guests can even pay for the visit without ever having to take their wallet out. This helps to eliminate long lines at the entrance and can even eliminate manual ticketing completely. The same system can also be used at certain events within the establishments and other areas like the gift shop or cafeteria. 
When Bluetooth beacons are used in an indoor venue, they are able to help visitors to become better acquainted with the facility at their own pace. Beacons can be used to send information to the visitor's phone to give them a more personalized experience. For example, many museums use these beacons to notify their guests of any upcoming lectures or events. They can also detect where the visitor is in the museum and send them information about the specific exhibit that they are currently looking at. This allows every guest to receive a personalized tour of the venue at the same time, which allows them the freedom to explore the museum in their own way.
Click here to download our ‘Indoor Navigation with Bluetooth Beacons’ white paper >

Give Visitors a Personalized Experience

When Bluetooth beacons are used in an indoor venue, they are able to help visitors to become better acquainted with the facility at their own pace. Beacons can be used to send information to the visitor's phone to give them a more personalized experience. For example, many museums use these beacons to notify their guests of any upcoming lectures or events. They can also detect where the visitor is in the museum and send them information about the specific exhibit that they are currently looking at. This allows every guest to receive a personalized tour of the venue at the same time, which allows them the freedom to explore the museum in their own way.

Increase Revenue

Enhancing the customer experience in smart building goes beyond providing conveniences to boosting the bottom line of many operations. The return on experience (ROX) is directly connected to an increase in ROI. Having beacons in your venue/building has the ability to increase your ROI. Beacons can sense when a patron is in the area at a nearby restaurant or store. Once known users have been recognized, the system can automatically send push notifications to their phone to notify them of upcoming events or special offers. But over the longer term, better customer or visitor relationships mean more return visits and a greater likelihood of being recommended to others. In today’s marketplace, it’s the experience that drives value for both guest and host. 
Another way to increase revenue is by sending the visitor information or offers based on where they spent the largest amount of time at the venue. For example, some museums will use their Bluetooth solutions to see which exhibit their guests spend the most time at. Then, they will send a notification to the visitor's phone to let them know about any upcoming events that are related to the exhibit or any related items that they sell in the gift shop. Again, the better the experience, the deeper the relationship can go.

Real-time visibility into staff and visitor location

Public places that have deployed beacons are not only able to improve efficiency, but they can also improve the safety of visitors and the staff.
Nobody likes to get lost in a crowded venue. Trying to find your way through a large building can be both confusing and a waste of time. Because of this, places like large shopping malls and airports use geofencing systems to help guide their visitors to their destination with turn-by-turn instructions. This helps them to stay on the right path to where they are going without having to stop and ask for directions.
Bluetooth also lets you monitor the well-being and safety of employees. In case of an emergency, employers can easily locate staff and see who is in the safety zones and who is not. This will help increase efficiency and decrease the amount of time it takes to ensure that everyone is protected and safe. 

Employee Productivity

BLE helps management to oversee production on a broader scale. With Bluetooth, employers can easily monitor aspects of the business that need to be improved upon, which can help the venue's overall operations run more efficiently.
Not only is this technology for smart buildings great for improving the customer experience, but it can also help the business side of your venue as well. When you use a BLE system for your company, you will be able to:

Bluetooth technology can use beacons to help simplify asset tracking. Instead of spending time on searching for an asset, that time can be directed towards productive activities. Wasting valuable time on anything that doesn’t contribute to the efficient operation of the organization negatively impacts the bottom line. Asset tracking capabilities help you to keep wasted time to a minimum. Also, this technology can help you to better monitor productivity within the company and use real-time data to see in what areas of production are the slowest. By identifying the problem areas, you will be better able to see how your facility and equipment is being used productively and what equipment may be causing bottlenecks.

Improve Efficiency

When public areas provide indoor navigation through Bluetooth technologies to create smart buildings, they are able to increase efficiency for their guests and their staff. With this technology, visitors are able to simply look at their phone, see all of the points of interest that the building has, pick which one they want to go to, and then find the easiest and quickest way to get there. This not only helps the guest to have a more enjoyable and efficient visit, but it also allows the staff to focus on more important aspects of the business instead of having to give directions to several different visitors.

Control Asset Management 

With Bluetooth, management will also be able to look at both real-time and historical data to come up with better asset control solutions. By seeing what assets are used regularly and what assets are not used very much, management will then be able to purchase those assets based on how much they are needed, which will lower the overall asset costs by ensuring that money is well spent.

Eliminate Job-Clocking Mistakes

Beacons can also be used to monitor your employees when they are at work. No longer will they have to fill out an old-fashioned timesheet or worry about whether they properly clocked in or clocked out. With beacons, the system will automatically get an update when the employee comes and goes, which will also help employees keep better track of how many hours they have worked in a week. 

Reduce Emergency Response Times

BLE can also use geofencing technology to ensure that there are no security breaches within the establishment. With this type of technology, the beacons are able to detect when someone has entered a restricted area. The geofence is able to alert employees and management when someone has entered or exited an unauthorized area, which helps the employees ensure that only authorized personnel have entered these areas. If there is a security breach, many employees can be alerted simultaneously, which will allow the closest employee to investigate the breach, which could help to reduce the response time.
 
We are here to help your business run more efficiently. By implementing Bluetooth technologies to create smart buildings, your business will flourish. Whether you are looking for a complete solution, or a reliable beacon and infrastructure vendor, kontakt.io is your expert to help.
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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.

Why Tracking Parcels Or Cages is Important

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.

Reduced operating costs by better workflow optimization

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.
Asset Tracking Guide

Always find what you need

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.

How Does BLE Tracking Work

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.

What is BLE?

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.

How is it Used for Tracking?

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.

What Form Factors are Available?

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:

How Long Do These Beacons Last?

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.

How Kontakt.io can Help with BLE Tracking

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.

How is BLE Tracking Infrastructure Managed?

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.

Data Collection with BLE Gateways

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.

Start Tracking with Kontakt.io BLE Infrastructure and Simon AI Location IoT Analytics Platform

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.
Simon AI - The IoT Location Analytics PlatformKontakt.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.

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[Updated for 2020]
[Updated for 2020]