Using BLE Technology and Location Data to Enhance Efficiency in Postal Carriers and Cages Tracking
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:
- improve the efficiency of your parcel operation,
- optimize your truck capacity and monitoring,
- help you understand how many cages trucks carry per route,
- and reduce labor costs by automating data collection.
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.
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:
- Temperature: collecting data of on-device temperature (you can calibrate it to specify temperature offset)
- Humidity: collecting data on humidity
- Accelerometer: collecting data on acceleration of the device. In stationary deployments, it can be useful to detect beacon falls or thefts; in tag-based deployments, the acceleration data is crucial for detecting if assets are moving or not. The accelerometer can also be used to detect vibrations and verify if a machine or vehicle is working.
- Light: measuring the level of light striking the device
- Buttons: sending any predefined real-time feedback and alerts from users to the cloud when pressed.
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:
- flat surface: in this case, the only way to attach devices to objects is with adhesive tape, which is easy but not always lasting
- mounting holes: usually on the back or sides or a device, they allow for firm fixture to objects and walls (look at Anchor Beacon or Heavy Duty as an example)
- thin holes: allow for use of a zipper tie, which is a reliable mounting method for attaching beacons to pipes or smaller assets. In some cases, the holes can be also used to fit in a keyfob or a wristband (look at Asset Tag as examples)
- mounting clips: as far as we know, this solution is used exclusively in Beacon Pro. The clip is attached to a wall with a screw, and the beacon can be quickly attached to and detached from the clip.
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:
- Transmission (broadcasting) power, defining how strong the signal is and therefore how far it can spread. The higher the power, the longer the range, but this comes at the cost of energy use.
- Advertising interval, defining in milliseconds how frequently the device broadcasts the signal. The shorter the interval, the faster a device broadcasts but the more power it uses.
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.
- Device Onboarding and Provisioning
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.
- Device Management
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.
- Device Monitoring
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.
- Device Security
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.
Kontakt.io provides a full solution for tracking your postal carriers and cages. We are a global leader of location technology, which gives us the experience to provide dependable BLE hardware. Our devices come in a diverse set of form factors and operate under both the iBeacon and Eddystone protocols. The hardware is only the start, though. We also provide infrastructure management software to control the devices. This important part of the equation is what brings everything together. With our Simon AI solution, you’ll be able to gather key insights into how your operation works and improve any bottlenecks that may arise. Contact us to discuss your projects today.