Location systems based on beacon technology have proven themselves in countless applications in a wide range of environments. From hospitals to airports and industrial settings to museums, beacons form the backbone of location-based solutions. If you’re planning your own proximity-based solution, here’s why our Beacon Pro is your ideal starting point.
Beacon Pro is a beacon that is optimized for indoor wayfinding and proximity marketing. Each beacon has a five year battery life on standard settings and is equipped with replaceable batteries for long-term solutions, which can be extended further by measures such as turning the beacon off when your facility is closed or using the beacon's ambient light detector to put the beacon into power-saving mode when not in use. Beacon Pro supports both Bluetooth Low Energy and NFC, allowing all standard smartphones to access the system. Communication and ID shuffling is fully encrypted, and it supports iBeacon and Eddystone. Individual beacons have a 70m range, allowing full coverage with a relatively small number of units. The beacons are clip mounted and can be attached to any surface, and easily detached and moved when optimizing your solutions. Weighing just 2.5 ounces, they are discreet and can be placed where they will not be bumped or damaged. They have temperature and ambient light sensors as well as an accelerometer for mobile beacon purposes. The beacons can come with various pre configured profiles and settings to suit your project needs.
GPS-based systems require a line of sight to a satellite. Beacon-based systems allow indoor wayfinding with standard smartphones. Using an app you provide, visitors, customers, and employees can use their phone to effectively move through your space. For employees, working in large buildings, such solutions allow them to efficiently do their jobs if they need to move around unfamiliar spaces. Beacon Pro's telemetry lets you analyze where staff spend more time to eliminate bottlenecks and improve decision-making, especially in large warehouses. These beacons also have temperature alerts, making them useful for walk-in coolers and other places where temperatures need to be kept stable.
For visitors, it can be even more important. A large museum, store, or trade show floor can be intimidating, especially to people who might be visiting for the first time. Indoor wayfinding can also allow users to locate things that change in real-time. For example, some airports are now providing apps which locate and direct passengers to the shortest security line, spreading passengers out and reducing wait times for everyone. Trade shows are using them to help people find a particular booth. Museums can update the map as temporary exhibits change without a lot of effort or the cost associated with replacing signage.
Beacon Pro is ideally optimized for wayfinding purposes. The beacons are low in cost and can be positioned wherever they are needed, and easily provide wayfinding coverage for your entire building. With a 70m range, you only need to install one beacon in a room, and then allow the associated app to tell the user where they are. For most indoor wayfinding purposes, this is more than sufficient. Beacons can be located where users will not even see them (ideally, higher up on the walls or on the ceiling where they will not be walked into).
The app can then hook into the cloud to give users turn-by-turn directions to their destination, whether that's a room in the hospital, a new museum exhibit, or the nearest bathroom. Beacon Pro is compatible with both Bluetooth 4.2 and Bluetooth 5, which future proofs the system while supporting current budget smartphones. It also supports iBeacon for users on iOS. This means there is no need for expensive devices, energy demands are low, and the system remains reliable over time. The system provides excellent coverage for accurate wayfinding.
Beacon Pro is a great, affordable way to move from passive wayfinding such as maps and QR codes, to an active system that is smooth and nearly invisible to your users. Using our device management software, you can also generate a map of beacon locations that helps you identify beacons that are not working or need new batteries.
Think about a museum. Exhibits have signs next to them, and these days they often have QR codes to allow people to use their smartphone to get more information about the exhibit or artifact.
With beacon-based systems, your visitors don't have to gather around signs or sign a QR code. Rather, the location system will tell their phone to automatically download the information, reducing crowding and improving the visitor experience.
This is not the only use for the technology. Proximity marketing can push ads or deals to a smartphone based on where somebody is. For example, you might use proximity marketing to inform customers about things often bought with the item(s) they are looking at. Highly-specific marketing tends to cause less resentment than general announcements. Proximity marketing is also useful at trade shows, where booth holders can be given the opportunity to provide marketing information that can be pushed to attendees as they enter that person's booth. You can also use it to give visitors and employees safety information, share important notices, remind people when the store is closing without loud announcements, etc. Proximity-based notifications allow for a much more specific and granular way of providing information, without anyone needing to take action.
Again, Beacon Pro is optimized for this use case. It's compatible with iOS or Android apps, as long as your customers or visitors have downloaded your recommended app, it can communicate the information needed. The information is not stored on the beacons, but in the Cloud, with the app making the downloads based on location data from multiple beacons. Much like indoor wayfinding, this allows your visitor's location to be pinpointed, but the purpose here is to provide them with useful information or appropriate marketing materials. - UPDATES on the sanitation or reminders about covid stuff etc
This makes for a better visitor experience. For employees, there are other use cases. For example, an employee can use an app to check when the next scheduled meeting is in the room they are in, so they know how much time they have before they need to vacate. Warehouse employees can get information about inventory levels (which can also be automatically flagged for restock) and where there might be backup inventory, as well as the location of equipment. Employees can even leave each other virtual notes that show up only in the relevant location, reducing clutter and saving paper that might otherwise be wasted on "sticky notes." This can be integrated into preventive real time maintenance systems or time keeping.
Beacon Pro offers reliable and secure performance with an extended battery life and a good range, and can provide proximity-based content and notifications to all visitors using their own devices. All you need is a customer-facing app that allows your visitors to get the appropriate information from the Cloud.
Whether you are implementing a new indoor wayfinding and proximity-based notification system or replacing an older Wi-Fi-based system, Beacon Pro is your go-to hardware. By switching to Bluetooth from Wi-Fi, you free up your users' Wi-Fi bandwidth for other purposes and reduce the amount of energy the system uses. Bluetooth is a universal protocol and as Beacon Pro supports Bluetooth 5, it is likely to be a long time before you need to worry about hardware updates to support newer devices.
Using Beacon Pro allows you to improve the accuracy of your indoor wayfinding systems without using expensive readers or having to hand out tags and badges to visitors. Instead, it works smoothly with your customers' and employees' existing devices, integrating with outdoor wayfinding solutions as necessary (for example, zoos might have a GPS-based system for the grounds and then switch to beacon-based when entering an aquarium or animal house). Users will not notice the system, only the information they are able to get to support their experience.
The paired device management software allows you to onboard devices automatically, detect low batteries and reorder as needed, receive notification about infrastructure issues, etc. While no solution is set and forget, Kontakt.io's software allows you to focus on things other than your RLTS, such as updating the content and continuing to improve the customer experience. It also comes with a smartphone app that can be used to configure beacons, ensure firmware updates go through, and check usage right from an Android or iOS smartphone. This makes updates easy to do on the fly and helps maintenance personnel keep the system running smoothly.
By switching to Beacon Pro and Kontakt.io, you can improve the experience of both customers and employees, attract customers and save money by improving employee efficiency. To find out more, check out Beacon Pro today, and talk to us about custom solutions and assistance with installation.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) do exactly what the name says, they let you see where tracked things and people are right now. They have any number of obvious business applications in any sector you care to name and form the basis of a long list of business-critical operations.
Equipment, personnel, industrial assets, elements in a shipping process—all that and more can be efficiently tracked and inventoried with RTLS far more efficiently than, for example, old school processes involving logs and registers that are prone to human error and require constant manual updates. As an integral component of Industry 4.0, such indoor positioning tools drive many of the key benefits of IoT applications.
Still, there is no standard fit for all RTLS use cases and the required precision for asset tracking varies greatly from one case to another. We’re talking about the degree of accuracy here, not the overall reliability of the results. Tracking by zone- or room-level location is perfectly sufficient for the overwhelming majority of use cases. There are some contexts where one or two-meter accuracy might be desirable, like in a warehouse where all pallets or boxes look the same and being able to locate a particular one is important, but those are the minority of use cases.
Where your needs fall on the spectrum of required accuracy will determine what kind of RTLS deployment you need.
Do you need to track things that are in constant motion, like people or certain manufacturing assets, or do you need to track something that it mostly stationary after it’s put into place, like the contents of a warehouse? In a recent post about choosing the right hardware for your beacon deployment, we advised anyone in the planning stage to start by answering the basic question of what job you want to accomplish. When it comes to determining how much accuracy you need your RTLS to deliver, we suggest you start with a similar question:
What level of accuracy will get the job done?
The answer you give will have a strong influence on the design, performance and cost of your Real-Time Location System deployment. This happens to be an especially easy question to answer since there are basically only two options—”enough” and “very high”.
In 99% of cases, it’s enough to know that, for example, a particular person or machine is in, say, Room 5. Unless Room 5 is incredibly huge, finding the person or machine shouldn’t be a problem. Do you really need to know that the precise location is in the northwest corner of Room 5, forty-eight centimeters from the wall on the west side and seventy-three centimeters from the wall on the north side? If you want that kind of precision, you can get it (and pay for it), but is it really necessary?
If your tracking needs change after your initial deployment, you can always match the granularity that you need by expanding the physical network of sensors you use or by making it more dense. There’s no point in starting out with an RTLS that delivers super-accurate results unless you’re sure that’s what you need right from the beginning.
“Too much accuracy” sounds like a good problem to have, but in fact it’s just a way to generate unnecessary costs and headaches.
Those costs mostly come from the extra sensors and hardware needed to broadcast a signal from more places, allowing tracked people or things to respond more often, thus creating more precise positioning. Again, if you don’t need it, what’s the point?
But the costs go beyond excess hardware. You can also create additional, and completely avoidable, problems by using the wrong settings on the hardware that you do need. Beacons have something called an advertising interval. It’s the frequency with which they broadcast their “I’m here!” message to the world. The more often they send the signal out, the more feedback they get, which translates into greater accuracy in tracking applications.
The problem is that sending that signal out more frequently takes more battery power. In use cases involving locating things that stay put for extended periods, you don’t need to ping their location every two seconds. Adjusting the settings of your RTLS hardware to fit your needs means getting longer battery life and reducing the costs in time and money of replacing the batteries earlier than you need to.
Remember that we’re not trying to discourage anyone from using a Real-Time Location System for a very high level of accuracy, just to make sure that the requirements of your use case justify it. Otherwise, you’re using (and paying for) much more tech than you need.
The costs of the infrastructure and computing power required to supply a very high degree of accuracy need to be offset by business benefits delivered by that precision. This could be time saved in searching, faster selection from warehouse shelves or any number of other advantages. If a highly-precise RTLS pays for itself in terms of the benefits it brings, great, but be sure you’re only spending as much as you need to.
It’s important to remember that the degree of accuracy needed for a particular RTLS deployment can vary and, beyond a certain point, more accuracy doesn’t always make technical or financial sense. There’s no need to pay for the hardware necessary to deliver pinpoint accuracy when room- or area-level location is enough. When the efficiency of a location system is measured in terms of ROI, like any other capital investment, spending beyond requirements simply distorts the math and obscures the real value gained from the installation.
Excess capacity might sometimes be useful in other contexts but when you have surplus RTLS hardware for an application that doesn’t need it, it remains just that—surplus.
Don’t have time to read it now?
Due to their high reliability, user-friendliness and cost-effectiveness, Beacon-based technologies for Indoor Positioning and Navigation have emerged as the most popular among the vast variety of methods currently on the market.
Putting up Beacons at the venue is one of the key processes of an Indoor Positioning project. However, “putting up Beacons” may sound simple, though, there is more to it than just that and you will have to consider one thing or the other. The way you go about your Beacon infrastructure setup can either make or break your project’s success.
Therefore, we’d like to share our top 10 most important tips for your Beacon installation.
1. Beacon calculation
As a first step, before ordering Beacons, you should calculate the amount you will need for your installation. Ordering excess hardware is an unnecessary strain on your expenses. Installing more Beacons than are needed may even cause disruptions in your accuracy.
On the other hand, less isn’t always more either. Insufficient coverage of Beacons will also lead to inaccurate positioning results.
One of our latest developments, AGENT, allows you to simulate your installation, providing you with an accurate assessment of the number of Beacons you require.
2. Secure permission
In order to be able to install the Beacons inside the respective building, you will need a permit as well as IDs for all your on-site engineers. Make sure you get permission from the facility management or the security department well before the actual installation to avoid any potential security issues or being denied access to critical areas, causing delays of your project.
3. Safety first
Installing Beacons may not sound like risky work. Nevertheless, it is important to take precautions and be prepared, should anything go wrong or an emergency situation occurs.
Especially when doing the installation in buildings that are still under construction, you always have to wear gear such as safety vests and helmets. Also don’t forget to organize a ladder beforehand to reach high enough to mount the Beacons and wear comfortable footwear to ensure stable footing.
4. Location determination
When mounting the Beacons on the walls inside the building, you should carefully consider where to put them. In general, Beacons should be placed in the field of vision of mobile devices. Here are some simple rules you should follow:
Don’t put the Beacons on objects that could potentially block their signal
Leave enough space between the Beacons, approximately one every 8-10 meters
Place the Beacons in close proximity to the smartphone users. Don’t put them up too high on the wall, ideally 3-4 meters from the ground.
5. Adjust installation according to building type
On top of that, you will also have to take, what kind of building you are working with, into consideration. The one-size-fits-all approach, unfortunately, won’t work here.
Bigger, open spaces (e.g. exhibition halls or the central square of a shopping mall) often require more adjustments and fine tuning when it comes to Beacon positioning and signal strength. On the other hand, venues with clearly differentiated pathways (e.g. hospitals or office spaces) will usually be more straightforward. Therefore, keep in mind you need to plan your on-site activities accordingly.
6. Avoid signal disturbances
Certain materials and objects should be avoided in your Beacon installation, as they may cause a Bluetooth signal interference. Some of these signal-blocking materials are metal, concrete, but also objects such as microwaves or poorly shielded cables. Apple has created a list of potential sources of Bluetooth interferences for you to check.
7. Surface check
Always make sure the surface you are going to mount the Beacons on is clean, so they will stick to it well. If there’s dust or dirt on the wall, they won’t adhere properly and sooner or later the Beacons will come off, causing the whole Indoor Positioning System to fail. Therefore, simply use a towel to wipe the dust off before placing the Beacon. Also, definitely use high quality adhesive tape for the same reason.
8. Beacon Maintenance
Beacon batteries usually last around three years, before they need to be replaced. Depending on your industry and use case, the amount of Beacons installed may range from 50 for smaller installations to 1,500 Beacons for large event exhibitions.
Especially in the latter case, you will wish for a system to inform you exactly which Beacon needs to be replaced.
In order to avoid a situation where too many Beacons fail at once, risking a system crash, you should always keep track of your Beacons and know which ones are low on battery beforehand to make according arrangements proactively, i.e. order new Beacons.
Both indoo.rs and Kontakt.io provide Beacon Infrastructure Management systems, which allows you to keep track of each Beacon, including battery status and location inside the building, making it easy to maintain the setup.
9. Communication is key
From start to finish, one of the most essential aspects of a successful Beacon installation is communication. Continued consultation and feedback both internally and with external partners involved in the project is important to keep everyone up to date and avoid any potential unpleasant surprises upon arriving on site.
10. Let a professional help you
Setting up Beacons in and of itself may not be considered dangerous or difficult work. However, getting the setup right is crucial for the output quality you will get, e.g. for your Indoor Positioning solution, afterwards. So if you are new to this technology and don’t feel confident enough doing it on your own, you might want to consider having a professional do the complete setup for you efficiently and with top quality results.
What makes an indoor navigation project or partnership successful? We talked to 10 top solution providers in the space to find out.
This list is particularly helpful for solution providers looking to make sure their next project is a hit. However, it can also help business owners and managers looking into indoor navigation projects better understand what to expect.
Download a free Indoor Navigation Solutions white paper and understand Bluetooth beacons and their real-world wayfinding use cases.
“Thinking of accessibility from day one was our main priority. The main lesson is to design with all users in mind and get the UX right from the get-go."
"In our deployments such as with Harrods, we have multiple routing options. For example, the ability to choose only pathways that use elevators instead of staircases or escalators. In addition to that, we believe in partnerships and have been investing in merging our tech with binaural audio systems to help visually impaired passengers independently navigate train stations and airports.”
"Ximity's first major beacon deployment was at a 70,000 square meter convention center in Manila, Philippines. With a feature set that includes proximity marketing, indoor navigation, and gamification, one would think that software development would be the most challenging aspect of the project."
“However, we realized that beacon deployment strategy — figuring out the correct placement and configuration for each beacon — was equally time-consuming and required careful planning. Conveniently, Kontakt provides a great starting point through their knowledge base, and their online dashboard and mobile application were the perfect tools to calibrate our beacons on-site.”
"It isn’t always enough to create a great product. Implementing it in a way that drives results requires foresight and understanding. Consider making the following part of your core work:
"The less accuracy is required, the more reliably the system will work and you can do so with fewer beacons."
“For example, sometimes room-level detection is enough for the concept to work. One of our main challenges is that in museums, you can’t just place beacons anywhere you like, but often must be placed out of sight. To be able to create an infrastructure that still works within these constraints, it's really important you know how a beacon signal works. Often you'll encounter situations where the beacon infrastructure still has some issues, to solve them the right tooling is really important.
“The right tooling gives insight in how strong all signals are actually measured, and based on this information you can accurately fine-tune your infrastructure, whereas without this information you'd be only guessing and hoping your changes will work.”
"There is great importance in laying out a concrete deployment plan in advance and agreeing on the responsibilities of each party before the actual installation day. We have seen some bad situations occur because of a lack of communication."
"Also, an uneven distribution of beacons in the venue could be another source of problems including serious issues for some types of positioning algorithms. This is why we focused so hard on our fingerprinting methods."
"One of our biggest learnings is that projects can only be realized when a real Return on Investment is identified. Otherwise, even though it may be an interesting use case, chances are high that the project won’t be funded."
"In cases such as our High Point Market project deployment, indoor positioning is able to add significant value to the venue and event for all involved parties - visitors are easily able to find their way around, buyers can increase traffic to their booth, and event managers are able to obtain valuable analytical location data. Lots of time and money can be saved, experiences improved, and data analyzed for future optimizations. Use cases like this are clearly backed by a substantial ROI."
"Installing an IPS can be difficult in certain settings. For example, at trade fairs, you have to deal with short set-up periods which requires precise planning and consultations beforehand. When installing beacons in a space with lots of Wi-Fi signals, you have to pay attention to avoid interferences by not using the same channels which is tricky, as exhibitors are often configuring networks as they like."
"Also, you have to take attenuation properties of different materials into account during installation and parameterization (e.g. wood or glass with low attenuation properties as opposed to metal or water with high attenuation properties)."
"First of all, educating clients is our first aim. The knowledge of beacon technology is still not fully understood. Before any deployment, we take time with our clients and explain beacon technology to them and how it will affect their business."
"The bigger the venues are, the bigger navigation becomes a major problem. High numbers of points of interest creates an increased need for a deeply professional solution. At such a point, we rely heavily on the experience of our team."
"Due to the many annexes and departments being built over the years, hospitals can become real labyrinths."
"When we developed our technology at the Monthey Hospital, the hospital decided to use our technology to remove concerns about patients getting lost. We had to make specific modifications to our solution in order to meet the expectations and constraints of the hospital world. For example, we needed to add pictures of places to help navigate and reassure patients as they move. This is just one example of the many ways you must always be ready to adapt."
"Adoption takes time."
"This comes down to two factors. Firstly, there is often a long bureaucratic process in large companies. Secondly, there is a willingness to innovate, but there is also hesitation due to misconceptions about indoor navigation technology. We must work to shift this perception."
GPS changed the way we think about moving. Now, with navigation available on our smartphones, we’re able to take maps with us almost everywhere we go. This is a welcome change as modern users are often very busy, constantly running from one place to the other. However, for all the good GPS does in outdoor navigation, it does little for users indoors in a smaller space. That’s why companies are turning to beacons to change indoor navigation.
The numbers: real world wayfinding stats
Of course, it's not just a vague interest in wayfinding that's driving change--it's real investments. Solution providers and businesses know that navigation will benefit their users. That's why we'll be seeing more investment in the field as well as more results. In fact, analysts expect the global Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation (IPIN) market to grow at a CAGR of 58.90% from 2017 to 2021. Or, as this study from Technavio puts it: the global indoor positioning and indoor navigation market will grow to USD 7.8 billion by 2021.
The benefits of indoor navigation are huge and diverse. First, it enhances customer experience. Never again should a customer be forced to wander around a huge mall looking for a particular store. Users shouldn’t waste time just finding a place. That part should be easy!
Second, better wayfinding increases efficiency for both employees and businesses. With more users able to find the desired location there could be an opportunity for increased sales and more interactions. Of course, by giving employees indoor navigation abilities (especially real-time based indoor navigation), businesses can optimize every step of their employee's day. Employees can now know the shortest route from their far-off, random location to a specific container in a warehouse. A doctor can find their next patient in a snap without having to think twice. In short, there will be no more guesswork and much more efficiency.
When it comes to indoor navigation, there are multiple ways to find your way around a space. However, what first comes to mind are tools like QR and NFC. With these technologies, it’s easy: you scan the code and then immediately know where you are. But there’s also a problem. This is passive technology. Users have to actively interact with each and every code (not to mention, find the codes in the first place).
Imagine having to locate and scan a new barcode every time you wanted to know your location. That's passive wayfinding. It's a very affordable solution--but not a very practical one for most users.
So what about active solutions? Active solutions are able to communicate with phones at a greater distance. This means, when you walk into a room, your phone already knows exactly where you are—no scanning required. Sounds useful, doesn’t it? So why don't you have this in your local cafe, favorite store, or nearest airport?
There’s a very good reason that these solutions aren’t yet common practice. In short, the technology wasn’t readily available until recently. WiFi-based indoor navigation systems, or other, more precise systems, come with a large price tag. This high cost has deterred most businesses from ever investing. Beacon navigation, on the other hand, is notably affordable, and, since it's introduction in 2013, it's only getting stronger.
Most commonly, the space owner (whether it's a hospital operator or your office manager) will install a relatively small number of beacons. For example, one for each room or general area. These are small devices roughly the size of a golf ball. When you walk into or approach a room, an associated app will use the broadcasted beacon information to find your location on the map.
That all happens in real-time. That means, instead of simply showing you a static map, the app can give you a blue dot location describing exactly where you are. It could even be programmed to give you turn-by-turn directions to your destination. If you're looking for a specific room in a large hospital or searching for the bathrooms in a big mall, that blue dot means instant and actionable location data.
But it doesn't stop there. This "real-time" capability is a big deal for managers. Depending on the particular situation, there are a number of actions managers can take to use navigation. They can create new revenue streams, analyze visitor movements and needs, or offer new options.
Here are just a few examples.
What about your data?
Maybe it all sounds great to you. You're sold on active navigation. But isn't that a lot of personal information? It's important that modern mobile users fully understand that Bluetooth beacons do not store any data on anyone. They couldn't even if they tried. However, those apps that use beacons may be storing movement data.
Most often, this data is used to optimize processes. That means, just because you use an app to find your way around a cruise ship, doesn't mean you should be receiving any messages outside of that app and the company shouldn't be storing any sensitive information. What managers want to know is how their users move. Do people your age and demographic tend toward a certain path? How can managers make your experience better? In the end, data is generally stripped of anything unique or defining. Thus, your search for the hospital bathroom at 2AM won't be forever recorded as a valuable data point. The movement may be part of one bundle of vague data points in a sea of millions that tells managers a little about their visitors overall movements.
Indoor navigation is one of the more popular uses of beacon technology available—likely because of how many people and verticals that can benefit from it. That’s why we wrote up a complete report on it. Including dozens of real-world use cases and interviews with top names in the field, this white paper should be a solid introduction for anyone interested in indoor navigation with beacons.
Here are some of our favorite indoor navigation use cases
Ribera del Duero
The entire tourism industry relies on visitors being able to find the right location with ease, yet one key pain points for tourists is simply finding their way on a daily basis. In 2015, a project was implemented at the famous Spanish wine route, Ribera del Duero, to help tourists get around the area. Beacons helped users answer questions like “where am I?” or “what am I looking at?”
This new communication campaign helped grow the number of visitors from 83,000 visitors in 2010 to 269,000 in 2015. Not to mention, this also meant millions of euros in extra annual revenue and the creation of several jobs in Ribera del Duero.
City of Wellington
Sometimes, it’s not enough to have just a few shops here and there beaconized. For the city of Wellington, wayfinding with beacons meant giving new opportunities to vision-impaired residents. In a great case of “go big or go home,” the city decided to set beacons all over town. Backed by the Wellington City Council, the project deployed 200 beacons in the central business district.
The deployment was praised by the city’s mayor as “a first for New Zealand and will build Wellington’s reputation as a smart and accessible destination” and “will welcome people with visual impairments to participate fully in the life of the city.”
University of Lodz
The University of Lodz installed beacons across 38 buildings and dormitories to help 1,200 international students find their way around. the spring semester of 2015. When a student passes a beacon, they trigger information about where they are, what they can do there, and how to get to common destinations. Though international students were the initial driver of this campaign, wayfinding around university areas, libraries, and facilities benefits parents and ordinary students as well.
We talked to a dozen solution providers to get their best tips on building an indoor navigation solution. Interestingly, the problems they faced were seldom related to the technology. Beacons and algorithms largely function as expected. The biggest problems were related to business models and implementations.
You can get the complete breakdown in our white paper below.
Learn more about indoor navigation with Bluetooth beacons. Click here to download a free white paper.
Don’t have time to read it now?
New solutions using Bluetooth Tags claim to be far cheaper than their Active RFID counterpart. Here’s why it makes sense.
Manufacturers, healthcare administrators, and all kinds of other businesses use technology to track assets. More importantly, this has been going on for decades. Those companies with a long history in the business of tracking have likely tried several different kinds of real-time location systems. These days, the most common competing technologies include active RFID, Wi-Fi, UWB, BLE, and Zigbee.
Check out an extensive overview of RTLS and their applications in manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and workplaces.
Chances are, if you’re looking into asset tracking tags, you aren’t seriously considering all of the above technologies. If you want the features and cost of RFID tags, a ZigBee system probably isn’t going to fit the bill. Or if you want extreme accuracy and have a huge budget, you won't be using RFID.
Let's see an example. A given solution requires room-level or 3-5 meter accuracy. The business could choose to invest in a highly accurate system using Zigbee. The results would be highly granular which is ideal...for some situations. Here, extreme granularity would only mean more data to manage and sift through as well as far larger costs.
That's why, for these solutions requiring room level or 3-5 meter accuracy, Bluetooth tags and RFID tags are among the most commonly used tools. Wi-Fi tags are also a viable solution.
It’s easy to get excited by the price of an affordable tag. Here’s another place we need to differentiate: are you looking for the cheapest, flimsiest tag humanly possible or do you intend to use it in a business setting where reliability and longevity are important?
This small question will determine how much you’ll be paying for your tags. It’s worth noting that, for some RTLS systems, gateways/readers will only work with certain tags. This means, a user may not be able to buy a knockoff tag and pair it with a standard reader. You’ll have to check the specifics of your chosen tools.
If you’re looking for reliable hardware to be used with a reader, here are prices you can expect:
Apart from the basic protocol, whether your tags use Bluetooth, RFID, or something else, there are plenty of differentiating factors to keep in mind when purchasing tags for tracking purposes. For more detail on the difference between Bluetooth and RFID, check out our in-depth study here: Real Time Location System [RTLS] Study: How do RFID and BLE differ?
There are RFID tags that are far cheaper than all of the numbers listed above; however, this is because they are an entirely different technology. These ultra-cheap solutions are generally passive technologies, acting only when the tag is brought in very very close proximity to the reader. This means, for example, an employee with a passive RFID tag for access and entry will have to scan their ID. An employee using active RFID would be able to simply walk in the rough vicinity of a reader, and they would be automatically registered.
Of course, it’s difficult to say exactly how much a tag will cost you as there are several different kinds, and--more importantly--different features will mean different returns. However, one thing remains true for all: readers are also a major cost consideration.
Once you have your assets tagged, you’ll need a device to read them. Wi-Fi and RFID readers tell a powerful story: asset tracking is a solution for massive companies with massive budgets.
Here's the big difference: active RFID readers will cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000.
This a standard price tag for such readers. This is because of the inherent nature of the two technologies. Bluetooth has a very long range, yet it’s also low energy (hence, Bluetooth Low Energy). Bluetooth SIG specifically planned it to be efficient, and their future updates will likely add to its strengths and capabilities. Wi-Fi and RFID, on the other hand, weren’t made with the explicit plan to be low energy. The result is the need for more hardware and higher price tags to achieve the same result.
If your requirements can be met by Bluetooth tags, then it can save money. So, when we do the math, these are the results we get:
A BLE tag-based RTLS solution can cost you 1/5th the price of the Wi-Fi or RFID equivalent.
Despite this being a basic fact, every system is different. The exact cost of your RTLS will depend on what points you value. Though costs will fluctuate as technologies develop, these numbers reflect the fundamentals of each. Of course, don’t forget, Bluetooth 5 has been released and Bluetooth tags will soon be more powerful than ever before.
What's more, BLE is supported by a growing number of WiFi access point vendors. This means that you can run a BLE-based RTLS on a WiFi network, without the need to install additional gateways, saving on hardware, installation, and maintenance costs.
Read more: Integrating WiFi and BLE to drive rapid growth
Tracking tags come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. For general purposes, it might not matter whether your BLE tag is long, short, or anything else. However, for some, it will matter greatly. For example, some packages will be difficult to affix a tag to. Here, you may be able to use a Card Beacon or other thin or specially-designed tag. Similarly, the external shell on Bluetooth tags can differ. While most are durable enough for the daily grind, they generally won’t be ready for very cold weather or physical stress. That’s why tags like Tough Beacon were made.
RFID and Bluetooth tag hardware differ. Some may be:
Then, there are sensors. Accelerometers, light, temperature, humidity, and other types of sensors are able to add more capabilities to your existing infrastructure. This can also add to the initial cost of your infrastructure. However, by leveraging these sensors to increase energy saving initiatives, they may also help your infrastructure last months or years longer. Don’t forget about Bluetooth 5, which will be making future tags infinitely more competitive.
The Bluetooth 5 update will bring:
This means 800% more rich, contextual data and metadata from sources like sensors!
Lost your phone? Your keys? A new industry has popped up promising to track your valuables so you never lose them. Their primary use is for items in short- or medium-range from the owner. They work like this: the user will generally attach their personal Bluetooth tag to their asset—a computer, keyring, or even cat. These tags send out their ID information at regular intervals. The related app is able to register the location of these tags when within a distance of around 30 feet but can also reach up to 100.
These end-user trackers are generally the same as any other Bluetooth tag. The real difference is the app and how the company has decided to leverage them. It’s likely that, as these solutions become more popular, you’ll be seeing more options and greater capabilities.
Also check out an extensive overview of RTLS and their applications in manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and workplaces.
The real cost of a tracking system implies much more than just tags. These hardware tags are merely the final node, the piece a user may see on a daily basis. Beneath these tags is a complete infrastructure constantly crunching numbers.
In all, there’s three important components of an IoT infrastructure:
Each of them is a separate layer of the IoT cost structure. Some additional costs associated with starting and maintaining infrastructure are:
Seldom will the hardware be the only tool businesses need to get started. Managers will likely have to find an existing IoT application or platform or partner with a solution provider to create the right solution for their business.
So to sum up, all you need to do is find a sensor vendor, then find a gateway vendor, then find an IoT platform provider, then find an integrator to put all these elements together and plug them into your existing infrastructure. If this sounds complex, it's because it is complex. Don't worry, there's a better way. Contact our team, schedule a demo of our end-to-end IoT platform Simon, and see what it can do without all this usual complexity.
Similarly, the upfront hardware cost marks only the beginning of a physical infrastructure’s lifetime. Deployment costs and any future updates (hardware or software) will also have to be considered. This is why proper planning, as well as foresight, can help save a lot of headache in the long run. Infrastructures should be built to support the future and future use cases of the company, not just the current goal