With restaurants and pubs here in the UK scrambling to reopen this weekend, they need to find ways to provide self-service and minimise contact with staff. It’s interesting to see what was considered a ‘future restaurant’ in 2014 makes much more sense today:
The concept restaurant at Eggcellent in Tokyo used iBeacons for the location aspects together with smartglasses, augmented reality and gesture interfaces. An Engadget article covered the restaurant in more detail.
Beacons are often placed in shops, offices and other buildings for detection in smartphone apps. Battery powered beacons last from months to years depending on the size of the battery and the transmission power (adjustable). The compromise between battery life and physical range can be avoided if USB beacons are used instead.
USB beacons are powered from an available wallsocket, laptop, desktop or other standard USB socket. Alternatively, they can be powered using an inexpensive mains charger used to charge a smartphone or other device. Powering from the mains allows the beacon to be permanently set to full power with no worry about checking or changing the battery.
The use of mains power also allows for use of specialist beacons that output the maximium legally allowed (Class 1) power that wouldn’t be feasible using battery power.
The FSC-BP109 can be received up to 1000m on Android and 4000m on iOS.
Governments are increasingly mandating workplace indoor occupancy limits due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This is especially so in education where the risk of reduced social distancing is being mitigated with occupancy limits.
Occupancy is the number of people that are currently inside a building, room or zone. Measuring occupancy manually requires significant effort, additional staff, is error prone and is difficult to achieve, especially when there are multiple entrances and exits.
It’s for this reason, we are seeing organisations starting to use automated approaches. Real time locating systems (RTLS) such as our BeaconRTLS™ use Bluetooth beacons on people and gateways in rooms/zones to track who is where. The resultant data provides for accurate current and historical occupancy.
Once you have a system in place it has lots of other uses:
Locating staff for safety and evacuation
Finding expensive assets shared amongst staff
Providing alerts if things move when they shouldn’t
Detecting when collisions occur between vehicles/racking
Tracing of parts, sub-assemblies and physical orders
Supporting IoT sensing including light, temperature, humidity, water leak, gas
Creating big data for use with AI to provide insights using patterns the data
When working with Bluetooth beacons and/or gateways and looking at raw Bluetooth data it can often become confusing which device is which. When setting up beacons using manufacturers’ apps, it’s a common occurrence for our customers to mistakenly connect to smartphones or fitness trackers rather than a beacon and wonder why the connection doesn’t work.
RaMBLE is a useful Android app that helps decode the Bluetooth devices around you. It attempts to classify devices so you can identify them:
The scanning runs in background and also logs advertising so that the data can be exported for analysis.
It never been easier to collect Bluetooth sensor information and store it in the cloud. The INGICS gateways come with step-by-step instructions how to set up AWS IoT Core, Azure IoT Hub and Google IoT Core.
The UK NHS has just released the Android and iOS source code for the UK NHS Covid-19 contact tracking app. This is the code used before the recent switch to the Google/Apple mechanism.
The iOS readme explains how it works:
Our unique identifier is also known as our service characteristic. In the Bluetooth spec, devices can broadcast the availability of services. Each service can have multiple characteristics. We use a characteristic to uniquely identify our service and distinguish from all other sorts of Bluetooth devices. For every device we find with a matching characteristic, we record an identifier for the device we saw, the timestamp, and the RSSI of the Bluetooth signal, which will allow a team later on to determine who was in close proximity to individuals infected with the novel coronavirus
They started using beacon instead of RFID because RFID cards they were using were becoming more expensive than iBeacons and becoming scarce. They wanted tags they could second source, have a long battery life, long range and easy setup.
They have found the Indigo/piBeacon combination reliable, fast and have told us it works with all the Axaet, AnkhMaway and Minew beacons purchased from us.
We now have the M52-SA Plus in stock. This is a slightly taller variant of the M52-SA with a larger CR2477 battery.
The M52-SA range are highly capable ‘third generation’ sensor beacons. This beacon has temperature, humidity and acceleration sensors and offers two configurable channels and a sensor data channel. It can advertise iBeacon, Eddystone UID, Eddystone URL or custom data in each channel simultaneously. Use of the Nordic nRF52 ensures a long battery life.
WiFi access points are increasingly supporting the broadcast of Bluetooth beacon signals. The main usecase is to allow for smartphone apps to detect the Bluetooth advertising and provide for location based information and navigation.
As visitor spaces start to open up again, beacons can help protect against the virus. Sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy are providing social distancing wearables to remind visitors to maintain social distance.
Now is a good time to think about introducing app-based tour guides. These allow visitors to take tours without a human tour guide, without a close group and without touching an audio guide. Visitors can view expanded exhibit information in an app rather than interacting with an exhibit such as pressing a button. Additional safety information can be provided to visitors as they tour rather than at the site entrance where it might be ignored.