Real-time location systems (RTLS) have become the foundation for applications that boost efficiency, productivity and safety in every industry you can think of. The ability to accurately locate and track assets and people allows processes to be optimized and helps employees to focus on activities that bring more value to the organization. This insight into how physical objects move, viewed through a digital prism, has made RTLS crucial to achieving next-level operational efficiencies.
Any operation that involves moving parts or assets needs a way to monitor and locate them. 


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RTLS provides the tools needed to do exactly that while making it possible to leverage that information into business intelligence. Manufacturing, warehousing, healthcare and logistics & transport, among others, provide a long list of RTLS-based applications that provide visibility into processes and flows that makes money-saving and safety-enhancing optimization possible. 
In keeping with this month’s celebration of Kontakt.io’s sixth year, today we’re looking at the six steps needed to create a successful RTLS project.

1 - Focus on ROI by defining the value the RTLS solution should bring

The mission of any RTLS deployment has to be aligned with the needs and objectives of the organization. Typically, that means applying RTLS capabilities to address areas already identified as problems in need of solutions or optimizing processes too complex to be analyzed through manual observation. 
This will mean different things in different environments and verticals. In some contexts, it could be tracking assets and cutting search times. In others, it may be identifying bottlenecks in workflows or reassigning people or assets during downtimes. Other situations might call for more accurate time clock management for a large workforce or setting up geofencing protection for sensitive or dangerous areas. 
Whatever the primary role of the RTLS, it’s important that a clear picture of how it should support the organization be established before proceeding to selecting technologies and hardware. If you don’t know exactly how an RTLS deployment is supposed to help you be more efficient or productive or safer, how can later measure how successful the deployment is?

2 - Gather information about your problem to better define the solution 

How do you know there’s room for improvement in an area where RTLS can help?
You need information, feedback and data to better understand the problems you’re trying to address with an RTLS solution. This can come in the form of raw numbers and analytics, feedback from employees on the front lines of production, comparisons with industry benchmarks and other sources. The more information you have, the more precisely you can focus the tracking and data-gathering capabilities of an RTLS deployment and ensure an acceptable ROI. 
This kind of analysis of the processes involved will not only help to shape the mission of the RTLS deployment, but its scope as well. You’ll get a clearer picture of what areas of your facility need to be covered in order to include all the relevant points in the movement of an asset. Maybe you need a localized deployment, maybe it has be facility-wide. One use case may require an end-to-end deployment while another calls for more limited and focused coverage. These different possibilities obviously come with different costs of ownership and ongoing management, which is also important to understand well before you get to advanced stages in the deployment process.

3 - Select the right technology

RTLS solutions can be powered by different technological standards, with the three most common being Active RFID, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE). In terms of accuracy and reliability, there’s very little difference between them but Bluetooth LE has emerged as the communication standard for IoT, and as the best choice for RTLS, for several compelling reasons. 
The first is cost. Bluetooth LE-based deployments are typically much less expensive than other technologies, with first-year costs for a 1,000-unit deployment at around a quarter of the cost of a similar Active RFID project. The widespread adoption of BLE as a standard has made it not only cheaper, but much more ready to integrate into other systems and devices. BLE-based deployments can be adapted to almost any industry, improving operations, safety, and inventory management, or any number of other use cases. 
This network effect is particularly evident as a result of the universal adoption of Bluetooth technology in smartphones. For use cases where smartphones can be used as part of the RTLS, Bluetooth greatly simplifies every step of the process.
Power efficiency is another metric that clearly sets BLE apart—something that should come as no surprise, since “low energy” is part of its name. This not only has obvious consequences for direct operating costs, but also lowers overall costs of ownership as devices and batteries need to be replaced less often. The larger the deployment, the greater the savings.

4 - Select the right hardware

Turning from software to hardware, there are a number of things to consider when choosing the right type of equipment for an RTLS deployment. RTLS systems based on any technology use tags or beacons to send out signals to a device that detects and processes that signal. Those tags and beacons can take a number of form factors, with some designed especially for certain use cases and environments. 
For example, for personnel tracking, you can’t expect employees to somehow carry around the same type of device that you would mount on a wall as part of a wayfinding application. That’s what smaller, thinner tags in the form of cards or wristbands are for. Tags have to do their job without interfering in the performance of the people and assets they help track. This isn’t an issue when they’re passively broadcasting a signal from a ceiling as things move around them, but when they’re on the thing that moves, using the right hardware is essential. 
The form factor for devices can also be important in environments where things like temperature, motion or moisture have to be considered. There are use cases that demand higher degrees of toughness and resistance to environmental pressures and failing to make the right choice can fatally compromise the effectiveness of the RTLS. Outdoor asset tracking can involve a combination of multiple factors that will influence the hardware choices available.
Be very aware that hardware is not a one-size-fits-all situation and getting this part of an RTLS deployment wrong can ruin all the other planning you do.

5 - Start small

You don’t have to try to solve all of your problems or apply an RTLS to everything right away. Start small, with parameters that are easier to track and manage. Use a limited rollout as a simpler way to understand how everything works and how to act on the information you get. 
Focusing on one problem, issue or area at a time will let you learn how to manage the system starting at a manageable scale. Also, it’s easier to experiment, learn from your mistakes, identify what you could be doing differently and reconfigure settings before expanding to the full-scale deployment. As with any technical deployment, there are likely to be issues and problems that will require your time and attention to straighten out. Better to deal with those problems in their limited version before scaling your RTLS to full activation. 
Starting with a limited rollout, easing into the management the RTLS and learning how to fix problems on a small scale help to create a smooth transition from the planning stages to going live. They also give you another chance to be sure that the focus, design and physical deployment are all aligned with your needs.

6  - Start an ecosystem that’s open to change

The level of investment required for RTLS solutions means you need to be sure that it will be capable of delivering value for some time going forward. We’ve already made the case for why Bluetooth Low Energy is the best option for the technology that drives RTLS solutions, but this final step in the process highlights another advantage it has. 
The use of Bluetooth LE comes with a kind of technological insurance policy in the form of future-proofing. With the introduction of Bluetooth 5.1, the protocol has solidified its position as the dominant industry standard and the backbone of wireless communication across verticals and industries. By deploying a Bluetooth LE-based RTLS ecosystem, you’re setting up a physical and digital infrastructure that leaves the door open to future integrations with devices and applications that you haven’t even thought of yet. As for the here and now, there are billions of Bluetooth-enabled devices already and billions more on the way. That means leveraging the common language shared among them is that much easier if the need arises. 

If you’re considering beacons as part of your Bluetooth LE-based RTLS solution, click here to schedule a call with us.
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At Kontakt.io, we recognize the need for an open and flexible platform as part of a scalable location technology solution.
That is why we are opening to third-party Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth LE) and other devices and launching the Kontakt.io Firmware Kit
Additionally, today we launched three new Bluetooth products!


The Problem: the location technology stack is fragmented, proprietary and solution siloed - increasing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is preventing growth for all parties involved.

Many in the IoT community would agree to the following statements:

To address this, Kontakt.io is further opening its platform to third-party devices after having successfully integrated with third-party gateways throughout the year 2018.

Moore’s law, AI and growing smartphone adoption are driving down complexity and costs of the location technology stack and are laying the ground for mass adoption. This hasn’t always been the case. Five years ago, the first generation of BLE beacons was used for proximity marketing. At the same time, RFID Tags were used in intralogistics, Zigbee powered thermostats for building automation and WIFI tags used in RTLS applications in healthcare.

Bluetooth LE Shift

Today, this landscape has been transformed, if not even disrupted, by the Bluetooth LE protocol and fueled by above-outlined technology trends.
Due to its low-cost, low-power and vast ecosystem, today’s indoor-centric asset tracking applications run on Bluetooth LE. Building automation runs on Bluetooth LE. Connected temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors use Bluetooth LE. With the proliferation of Bluetooth LE, digitally transformed buildings will soon support dozens of IoT use-cases. With this insight, all parties are facing the same challenges that are limiting their growth:

The Challenges

To give you a better idea of the magnitude of the challenges, take a look at the number of devices that will directly, or indirectly connect to the WLAN network using one of the most common device protocols.

Figure 1. Number of devices on WLAN network (Kontakt.io Estimation)
Looking at beacons or Bluetooth LE based technologies alone shows that billions of devices will require network connectivity and consistent management over the next five years. So how to manage location applications with millions of devices consistently from the API to the firmware?

The Solution: The Kontakt.io Firmware Kit that allows anyone to tap into the Kontakt.io Software Ecosystem

The Kontakt.io Firmware Kit turns any Bluetooth LE device into a Kontakt.io ecosystem ready device. Once ready, a unified device-to-API management and location and sensor stream layer provide seamless communication between the device and the user.
Over the past 6 years, we have developed the industry's most robust and power efficient Bluetooth LE firmware and the most advanced beacon or IoT device management platform built for developers and IT professionals. Together, both enable secure and easy two-way communication between any device and the cloud while unifying sensor and location data from any device to any application.
This firmware and management platform further empower a seamless creation of unique cloud-stored device IDs, frictionless device onboarding, and end-to-end security including rotating IDs. Moreover, it supports device fleet management, multi-tenant ownership rights of venues, devices and applications. All features and tools that are essential for enterprise IT departments approaching post-POC scale. Today, we are taking this part of Kontakt.io’s unique value proposition to the next level and allowing third party devices of all kinds to become part of our ecosystem.

The next 100 million

With more than 1 million BLE beacons and tags deployed, today’s announcement lays the groundwork for the next 100 million devices to come. Let’s get there together. We at Kontakt.io believe in a modular, open and interoperable IoT infrastructure – from the device layer to the use-case application. All that you need to get started is the Kontakt.io firmware ported to your device.

2018 for the beacon industry is about new use cases, big-scale deployments, and long-term planning.

As the beacon market is getting more mature, so are becoming the beacon projects we’ve seen our customers tackle with. Not only are the beacons entering new spaces and applications, we’re also observing that new rollouts are being planned with long terms in mind. Long lifetime is becoming substantial to such deployments.

2017 brought us two insights.

First, the beacon market mature resulting in deployments planned not for a demo or a short proof of concept but the roll out of more permanent infrastructure. This requires a beacon that lasts more than 5 years and is ready for Bluetooth 5.
Second, Bluetooth beacons move into applications beyond indoor navigation and proximity marketing - industrial applications like the navigation of luggage vehicles on a airport runway come into focus. These applications require a product that is able to withstand large temperature ranges, the impact of rain and now plus mechanical stresses while last long. These needs we address with the Bluetooth Beacon HD18-3 today.

Meet our first waterproof, Bluetooth-5-ready, accelerometer-equipped Bluetooth Beacon HD18-3 with a 10 year battery life.

Discover Bluetooth Beacon HD18-3

Did you miss the Kontakt.io + Bluetooth SIG webinar?
We've got the webinar slides and recording to get you up to speed!
On August 17th, Kontakt.io’s Steffen von Bünau joined Martin Woolley of Bluetooth SIG to discuss the future of beacons and Bluetooth. In our Bluetooth, Beacons and What’s Next: An Actual Location Systems Disruption? webinar, the two talked location systems, use cases, and future possibilities in the space.
As Bünau explains, though beacons were originally used for less sophisticated use cases like those found in marketing and loyalty programs, we’re now seeing a big shift. With Bluetooth 5 and Mesh, beacons can begin moving into more advanced uses. Here are the key takeaways on how the beacon space is changing.
Two triggers driving changes in beacon usage: cost of Gateway (reader) and capabilities of tags.
Not to mention, the ubiquity of Gateways when using mobile phones!

One tool, two uses

We’re not only seeing more use cases these days, we’re seeing a fundamentally different kind of use case emerge. Bünau breaks these uses down into two types.


In short, we can use location data to locate equipment, confirming that assets are there and increasing asset usage. We can also step back and use location data to understand how assets are being used over time.

Some questions, answered:

How much information (or “characters”) can be used on beacons and Beacon Pro?
The amount of information sent depends on the Bluetooth version, protocol, and sensors on the beacon. But, for example, before Bluetooth 5, beacons could only send 31 bytes of information at a time. Bluetooth 5 now supports the possibility to send a total of 248 bytes.
What’s a Gateway?
A Gateway picks up a signal of a tag and estimates the distance of a tag to the Gateway itself. It then sends that data to the cloud for further processing.
What’s a tag?
The tag in this case is a Bluetooth tag, which is basically another way to describe the beacon. "Tag” is a more appropriate term to describe beacons moving around a space and being located by a fixed device (for example, Gateway). "Beacons," on the other hand, generally stay in a fixed location and send out information to the readers passing by.
Can tags only be registered by one Gateway at a time?
Thought tags do have limited range, they can communicate with multiple scanning devices at the same time.
How accurately can we calculate distance between Gateway and tag?
The first step in any location system is either deriving the distance between Gateway and tag or the Angle of Arrival (AoA) of a signal or the time of flight between a signal being broadcasted and being received. Both the distance determined via received signal strength (RSSI) and time of flight work as key inputs in trilateration to derive X and Y coordinates. Thus, the results here will be as reliable as the inputs. Expect an accuracy of 3-4 meters at line of sight, declining with range.

Beacon Pro is one of the best selling products in our portfolio, and now it’s also the first Bluetooth 5 ready beacon on the market.
Within hours of Bluetooth 5.0’s launch, we were receiving calls from excited customers talking about the next chapter for beacons. Now, all Kontakt.io Beacon Pros bought after May 26 are Bluetooth 5 compatible. That means you can enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth’s 5 higher speed and greater messaging capacity.
What’s more: All future Kontakt.io products will support Bluetooth 5, too.

Bluetooth 5 is driving the beacon revolution

Bluetooth 5 is Bluetooth’s answer to an increasingly complex global IoT environment. With 4x the range, 2x the speed, and 8x the broadcasting message capacity, Bluetooth 5 is a clear step to enhance functionality of Bluetooth for the IoT devices and beacons.
*Note that the Nordic chip used in Beacon Pro is not currently able to support the increased range associated with Bluetooth 5. That means the usual range will still apply.
We talked to Martin Woolley of Bluetooth SIG about their latest developments. He put it this way:

“Bluetooth was already much faster than other low power wireless communications technologies, so why did we bother making it even faster? It’s about use cases. At the end of the day we will see use cases where even faster data transmission would be useful. Sometimes this is just for user experience, but that’s very important. If users don’t like the speed, they won’t use it, and you’ve already failed.”

Big winners: Real-time Location Systems, Industrial IoT

As discussed in detail in our Bluetooth 5 Means Better Asset Tracking blog post, it is Bluetooth-based asset tracking and Real-Time Location Systems that will be the biggest winners with Bluetooth 5.
Buy The First Bluetooth 5-ready beacon 

Applications of Bluetooth 5

Exactly how Bluetooth 5 will affect your business depends largely on your use case. For some, Bluetooth 5 isn’t a huge game changer. But for others, it will mean brand new possibilities and cheaper solutions to age-old problems.
We can start by separating Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy. While Bluetooth itself was designed for high data transfer—for example, which is required to transfer audio from a phone to headphones—BLE was designed maximize the battery life of battery powered devices like beacons, location tags, and telemetry tags.
There are three major applications for Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy:

  1. Stationary beacons
  2. Location tags
  3. Telemetry tags

Each of these are similar in terms of technology but they support very different use cases. For example, stationary beacons hang in a store and are registered by passers by. Location tags move through a space, creating a digital image of physical movements via gateway or router. Lastly, telemetry tags add sensor data to the mix. Temperature, humidity, and other data can now be used to monitor state and changes of state.

Each of these use cases will be affected differently by Bluetooth 5. First, we have to break down the three major qualities of Bluetooth 5.
Bluetooth 5 boasts:

1. Data
Perhaps most impactful will be the increase of the messaging broadcast capacity. For comparison, Bluetooth Low Energy was able to send 32 bytes—a byte being a character. Bluetooth 5 can send 251 bytes.
But for stationary beacons this impact is minimal. Beacons only need to send a very small amount of data. That data can be managed by Bluetooth Low Energy without issue. Similarly, the location tags do not generally require more data than Bluetooth Low Energy can support. This leaves us with telemetry tags.
For telemetry tags, more data means more possibilities. More sensors and options in terms of what can be monitored enables businesses of different kinds to build all new use cases or finance infrastructures that weren’t affordable before.
2. Range
Then there’s range where Bluetooth 5, again, brings an increase. While Bluetooth Low Energy reaches 70 meters, Bluetooth 5 can reach 140 meters. Of course, it still is hindered by walls and crowds as is typical of the 2.4GHz frequency range.
Here, the impact is a bit more complicated but similar to the above.
For stationary beacons, the impact is not huge simply because of the most common use cases. Businesses like retailers and museum managers don’t necessarily want their one beacon to reach users at such great distance. In the case of the increasingly hot use case of indoor navigation, solution providers will likely use distances under 30 meters rather than over 100.
For location tags, there is a benefit of increased range. Longer reach simply means fewer receivers are required. This is hugely useful in asset tracking which we discuss at length over here. This is also true of telemetry tags, which can now be read at a greater distance.
3. Throughput
The last factor: throughput. This is expressed:
(data per packet x number of packets) / time.
The first thing to note is that Bluetooth Low Energy isn’t about maximizing throughput. It’s about lasting battery at a reasonable data rate. This makes the increase on throughput less relevant to the above applications. There is, however, a mild impact on telemetry where the amount of data transmitted/second can matter.
The clear winner with Bluetooth 5 is telemetry which is both interesting and exciting. It’s interesting in that we are seeing more and more companies across industries putting forward technology that is useful for such use cases, and it’s exciting because it means we can finally make solutions like asset tracking more practical, affordable, and even more complex.
Buy The First Bluetooth 5-ready beacon

Just like RFID or WiFi tags, Bluetooth beacons, alone, do not provide asset monitoring, analysis or tracking services. They’re just small connectors sending radio waves to passing smart devices. They can, however, be leveraged to create tracking, analyzing, and monitoring opportunities. More importantly, beacon technology just got one major addition in the form of the “gateway.” This new tool promises to bring a new possibility, automation, to businesses and connected infrastructures at 1/5th the cost of other technologies. But how does it look in the field? How can verticals take full advantage of the latest technological developments to better utilize assets and resources?
What difference does a gateway make?
Now, there’s a gateway that connects ordinary beacons in the field to the cloud without the need for an intermediary program like an app. Beacons used in conjunction with the cutting edge beacon gateway technology power a system that automatically and digitally collects beacon information without the need for a user to physically use their phone or interact with beacons. The result is a far more reliable system for creating data sets as well as automating triggers and instant alerts.

Three real world Gateway use cases for three top verticals

Kontakt.io has pioneered the Gateway, a new IoT tool that represents the hardware of a mobile-free connected infrastructure and works in conjunction with the Location Engine software. This platform takes data and information gathered from the beacons (funneled through the Gateway) and keeps it safe in the cloud. Moreover, this technology is easily implemented in other apps, allowing solution providers the chance to quickly and effectively add asset monitoring and other beacon capabilities to their existing offerings.
Why Bluetooth? Bluetooth costs up to 90% less than similar WiFi systems
WiFi-based apps and softwares offer the chance to follow a user or asset’s path. WiFi systems, however, are also very costly to maintain. This’s why Bluetooth beacons, an energy-efficient, low-cost technology, offer something unique to event planners.
Read more about other methods of tracking and infrastructure in our extensive RTLS white paper.

Download the white paper

Healthcare Asset Monitoring

Healthcare professionals and administrators are tasked with not only caring for patients and being on call but saving money and increasing efficiency.

Hospital costs continue to rise including the cost per hospital bed which has risen 90% to $3,144 in the past 15 years. Hospital assets and equipment have incredibly high monetary value.

Furthermore, their overall usefulness increases the faster they are used. In emergency or high-stress scenarios, healthcare professionals need access to the right equipment fast. That’s why technology firms are developing more accurate and affordable tracking technologies.
Asset monitoring fosters a sense of transparency that helps employees work faster and with greater success.
Proper asset monitoring can aid hospitals by:

How does asset monitoring work in healthcare?
For example, a nurse needs access to a particular piece of equipment. There are only a handful available in the entire hospital, and none are located in the office in which the patient is staying. The nurse leaves their patient to seek out the most likely storage location. The equipment, however, is not there, and there is no indication of where it is. The nurse must continue looking elsewhere. Meanwhile, the patient continues to wait, and all following patients must wait.
With an efficient RTLS system, this equipment would be found in a matter of seconds.
How does the Gateway-based system work in asset monitoring?
A Gateway-based system can be easily planned, tested, and installed. In the above scenario, the nurse could simply use an app connected to the Gateway through the Kontakt.io API. The platform quickly accesses historical asset location data sent by Gateways to tell the nurse exactly in which room the equipment is located. Depending on the infrastructure, it can also be leveraged to tell the nurse where any other equipment, staff member or even particular patient is. The Location Engine collects data on beacon presence, location and dwell time as well as battery level and data from sensors. Each entry has a timestamp assigned to it, so there is almost an unlimited number of ways a developer can build up their solution.

Event Analytics Technology

Events are much more than just a series of booths and networking opportunities. Planners must begin by considering the physical layout of a venue, optimizing space, price, and the rental of different areas. There are two very distinct goals: pleasing visitors and increasing revenue. Existing beacon-based solutions for the event industry are already helping aid visitors with wayfinding and personalized promotions. Now, brand new beacon technology is helping solution providers equip event managers with data collection and conference and event analytics.
Data collection and event analytics enable planners to better organize venues, set rates, and drive returns.
Data collection enables event planners to:

Why do planners need data?
For example, by understanding what areas are the most popular in a conference, a planner is able to determine which zones should be considered prime real estate. This gives managers quantifiable evidence to support why a given area is more expensive while also ensuring those vendors who choose to set up in popular areas receive appropriate returns. Managers can even move food and beverage suppliers to more practical areas to keep visitors awake and engaged.
How does the Gateway-based system work in data analysis?
Instead of printing and handing out surveys, an event planner need only install beacons on their premises in order to collect meaningful data. This can be done either independently or through contractors specializing in beacon infrastructures and apps for event purposes. These solution providers install beacons in a venue and then use their own app or platform to analyze and use data. This platform can be easily created by leveraging the Location Engine API, which will directly link beacon data to your program.
Visitors equipped with beacons, likely a small, thin, model like the Kontakt.io Card Beacon, generate data just by moving through the space. As a result, dwell times and other metrics can be easily analyzed. This data can be visualized through heatmaps, viewed over time, or any other method imagined by the provider.

Active Alerts for Logistics

Historically, the logistics industry has been quick to test and adapt new tracking technologies. RFID, barcodes, and QR have led to new opportunities for better tracking and record keeping—two key components for a reliable logistics operation. Efficient asset monitoring requires managers to be able to locate packages at any point in the supply chain and be quickly informed when changes occur. The aforementioned technologies excel at tracking when assets enter or exit an area; beyond this capability, however, they leave a series of information gaps. Creating a simultaneously thorough, affordable, and active overview of logistics operations is not quite possible with these technologies.
Knowing instantly that a package has been misplaced enables managers to fix problems before more develop.
How can BLE-based solutions fill that gap?
Bluetooth beacons are now bringing a much greater level of transparency to the industry through better tracking and automated alert capabilities.
[Tweet "Bluetooth technology is revolutionizing the IoT, and these changes will affect all industries."]
Initial Bluetooth beacon use cases have been in asset tracking, but, with the introduction of more developed hardware and systems, their new alert capabilities have the capacity to:

Why do logistics operations need automated alert systems?
For example, a package is scanned as it travels through the supply chain, exiting one space and entering another. A manager logs into the relevant computer program and views exactly where the package is. Then, however, the package is accidentally transported to the wrong location and about to ship on the wrong truck. The manager and employees in the area receive an immediate alert indicating that the package has been registered in an area different than its appropriate destination. They have the time and information to correct the mistake before it leaves.
How does the Gateway-based system generate alerts?
Beacons send out their signals on a very regular basis. The nearby Gateway is alerted as to their location and will send that information to the cloud. What happens next depends on how you or your solution provider choose to leverage the Location Engine. For example, you can combine location and dwell time data to create heat maps of moving assets in a factory. Or, you can create an application that checks stock levels in real time. You can develop a timeline that shows where a particular object or person was at any time in the past. However, they can also be used on a “trigger” system. Here, when a Gateway detects or loses sight of a particular beacon, it will send that information immediately to the Location Engine. This triggers a predetermined action, like an instant notification to a manager’s smartphone. This means, instead of constantly checking every asset and generating unnecessary amounts of data, a trigger-based system can be used to register specific movements.
Want to test the Gateway in your software? It's time to get started.

Bluetooth 5.0 has been touted as the future of the IoT. Now that Bluetooth 5.0 is finally released, we can begin the countdown to a better, more connected world!
IoT fans and connected businesses have been eagerly awaiting the release of Bluetooth 5.0 for much of this year. The standard connectivity mode for more than 8 billion devices around the world and the cornerstone of the IoT has been promising a major upgrade--and it is finally delivering:
Bluetooth SIG just released the Bluetooth 5.0 documentation.
This new protocol will redefine the way machines communicate, and even Bluetooth knows this is a big deal for beacon technology.

"We are taking beacons to the next level, so you can have a much richer, deeper, and much more involved experience with beacons, compared to what what was possible before,” Steve Hegenderfer, director of developer programs at Bluetooth SIG told IoT Podcast.

Want to learn more about Bluetooth? Check out our Industry 4.0 report and find out why your business should care about wireless communication

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“[Beacons are] actually one of the things that excites me most about Bluetooth 5.0. Beacons today provide really interesting, rich, and immersive experiences for people to connect the physical and digital worlds together," Hegenderfer continued.

What’s new

As with advances in previous versions, every aspect of Bluetooth performance is getting a boost, but Bluetooth 5.0 will open the door to entirely new applications driven by the IoT. The new technical specs are impressive and a significant improvement on current standards. Compared to its predecessor, Bluetooth 5.0 boasts:

That’s four times the current reach as well as faster and bigger data transfers. The power to send and receive much more data, more quickly, and over a greater distance has obvious implications for proximity technology. Each one of these parameters will make existing apps better and new apps possible. You think beacons are amazing now? Just wait until they’re powered by Bluetooth 5.0.
Even though you can’t hold a 5.0 device in your hand right now, this release is yet another reminder that the IoT is gradually acquiring the support and infrastructure it needs to dramatically expand its functionality. Bluetooth 5.0 means that the gap between drawing board ideas and actual implementation has narrowed considerably. Now that products can finally be implemented with Bluetooth 5.0, the race is on, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next.
What does this update mean? Bluetooth 5.0 is promising more than enough excitement for one day:

  1. Quadruple range to will deliver more robust, reliable connections.
  2. Doubled speed alongside low-power consumption will provide faster data transfers.
  3. Increased message capacity will let Bluetooth transmit richer, more intelligent data.

With the growth of overlapping wireless technologies, it's also important that standards don't interrupt one another. That's why the new Bluetooth 5.0 standard has been refined to reduce interference. The IoT is incredibly complex and filled with different technologies all talking at once--so it will be vital that modern standards are created that minimize interference.

Commonly asked questions about Bluetooth 5.0

With such a big change, Bluetooth SIG realized there would be lots of questions. Head over here to find their FAQ or find some of the most important tidbits below:

  • Bluetooth 5.0 is NOT replacing Bluetooth 4.2, 4.1 or 4.0. It is extending the functionality provided by previous versions of the Bluetooth Core Specification.
  • Bluetooth 5.0 WILL include Bluetooth with low energy functionality.
  • There are NO mandatory features that need to be implemented to claim compliance to Bluetooth 5.0 (just like Bluetooth 4.2).

 
What fields will this impact?
Many sources suggest that this new standard will expand possibilities within the smart home market. But that's not all. While that is the use case many consumers will be excited by, businesses have much more to get excited about. This extended functionality, greater range, speed, and capacity will redefine expectations about Bluetooth-based RTLS systems.
We expect to see Bluetooth 5.0 make a difference in every vertical in which it's implemented including:

  • manufacturing
  • healthcare
  • logistics
  • and even retail!

Hegenderfer also notes the importance of Bluetooth 5.0 to use cases beyond the typical retail store push notification:

"Think of asset tracking in process management and transportation and logistics: where you want to be able to track an asset from place A to place B in relation to other things on your shop floor, or in your office building or in your factory. Beacons are a perfect solution for these types of problems and these types of scenarios, so I really believe beacons will absolutely explode.“

What's next?

47 team members from 22 companies came together to power up this incredible new standard, but the work is far from done. Devices aren't using Bluetooth 5.0--yet (at least, we assume). It will take time for businesses to turn this standard into real-world products and solutions. But, it shouldn't be long...
Within hours of Bluetooth 5.0's launch, we were already receiving mail from excited customers talking about the next chapter for beacons. This is because the real winners with Bluetooth 5.0 will be everyone interested in IoT, and that includes enterprise.
Bluetooth continues to grow
ABI predicts that Bluetooth will be featured in one-third of all internet-enabled devices around the globe by 2020. For business, this is a huge opportunity. Bluetooth 5.0 will continue to work with existing technologies like WiFi and LTE to deliver unprecedented capabilities to the enterprise sector. That is something to get excited about.
"Bluetooth 5.0 brings the most successful consumer standard to enterprise," explains Szymon Niemczura, Kontakt.io CEO. "The cost, range, and universal adoption rates create vast possibilities for people and asset positioning." 

Bluetooth 5.0 will be the foundation of the IoT

A wireless connection that’s twice as fast, carries eight times the data and reaches four times further than current capabilities is precisely what IoT environments need to flourish and grow. The better the Bluetooth, the better the proximity solutions that depend on it.
We can’t wait to see what the new combination of speed, range and capacity will do to make the list of amazing applications for beacons even longer. Bring on Bluetooth 5.0!
Find the Bluetooth 5.0 release information here!
Are you excited about Bluetooth 5.0? Let us know what you think it means for beacons and the IoT!

[Updated for 2020]
[Updated for 2020]