Bluetooth Ad-hoc Collision Avoidance System

Research, Ad-hoc collision avoidance system for Industrial IoT by Dan Garcia-Carrillo, Xabiel G. Paneda, David Melendi, Roberto Garcia, Victor Corcoba, and David Martínez, presents a novel system for enhancing safety in industrial environments where heavy machinery operates near workers. The system, designed to prevent collisions, uses Bluetooth beacons to detect the presence of workers and alerts machinery drivers through visual and haptic signals.

In their methodology, the authors employed Bluetooth devices to detect workers nearby and used Raspberry Pi to manage the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). This system evaluates surrounding Bluetooth emitters and triggers feedback mechanisms such as LED strips and vibrating seatbelts. The study acknowledges the accuracy limitations of Bluetooth for precise location but emphasises its effectiveness in proximity detection. A real excavator and workers carrying Bluetooth emitters were used to implement and test this proof of concept.

The results showed that the system could successfully detect the presence of workers relative to heavy machinery. Drivers received simple yet effective feedback through visual and haptic alerts, based on the proximity of workers. Notably, the system was found to be affordable and less intrusive than camera-based solutions, with Bluetooth proving sufficient for this application.

The authors concluded that their proposed system significantly enhances safety in industrial settings with heavy machinery. It effectively alerts drivers of nearby workers, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.

Bluetooth Localisation for Large Industrial Areas with Limited Infrastructure

The recent study Bluetooth Low Energy Indoor Localization for Large Industrial Areas and Limited Infrastructure discusses the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in industrial applications, particularly in Smart Factory and Smart Farming settings. Bluetooth systems are beneficial for their low-power operation and are widely used for asset monitoring, management, tracking and localisation. The focus of this paper is on BLE-based localisation systems, which typically use radio propagation models and multi-lateration, or radio fingerprinting, to achieve high accuracy and precision. These methods rely on the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) measurements and its dependency on the distance between the transmitter and the receiver.

However, the paper highlights the challenges in achieving high localisation accuracy due to the inaccuracy of RSSI measurements and susceptibility to radio propagation phenomena. In industrial environments, where radio propagation is complex and the number of anchors (fixed reference points) is limited, achieving high accuracy is difficult. The paper proposes a set of localisation algorithms that require limited infrastructure, have low complexity, and can provide valuable location information at low costs. These algorithms were tested in a Smart Farming application for monitoring the well-being of farm animals, demonstrating reliable operation despite system-level constraints and varying propagation conditions.

The proposed algorithms are based on signal strength measurement. They allow for localising animals in a cowshed of 1600m² using only 10 anchors with an average positioning error below 8 meters.

The paper also discusses the applicability of RSSI-based localisation to different radio technologies and the limitations of these methods. The proposed approaches are designed to enable location-based services in existing systems at minimal additional costs, benefiting from the already available infrastructure, mechanisms and procedures.

Using Beacons for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the integration of digital technologies into the manufacturing process to create smart factories. These technologies include sensing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing to create more efficient, flexible and customisable manufacturing processes.

A new study by Institute of Technology and Business in České Budějovice, Czech Republic on Possibilities of Using Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon Technology to Locate Objects Internally: A Case Study describes and tests a system capable of locating objects inside buildings using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. The authors conducted a survey of available devices and proposed a low-cost combination of system elements, configured the system, programmed reading gates and web applications for data flow monitoring and finally tested the system in an industrial setting at a manufacturing company in Czechia​.

The testing included scenarios with beacon-equipped metal crates being moved around in three different sections of the industrial hall. The study evaluated the system’s ability to detect the beacons and determine their location.

System architecture

The results showed that in the case of direct visibility, the system was able to determine the distance with an accuracy of 94%. However, the measurements also showed that the signal strength was affected by shielding, resulting in worse measurement results in this case and only able to determine the exact distance only 22% of the time.

Crate with a beacon

During a load test, the system and all its sub-components were subjected to several hours of operation, during which the gateways sent requests and collected data about available beacons, processed the requests and stored them in the database. The web application allowed for real-time monitoring of data flow from the individual gateways and the number of beacons in the individual sections. No problems occurred during testing that would cause the measurements to be interrupted, demonstrating the functionality of all system components​​. The system was considered adequate for most use cases.

Tracking Work in Progress (WIP) with Bluetooth Beacons

Work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring is tracking the progress of production. It allows managers to make informed decisions about resource allocation and scheduling as well as determine the current status of a job or subassembly. Work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring is part of Industry 4.0, the term used to describe the fourth industrial revolution, which use digital technologies to create more efficient and automated production processes.

WIP monitoring saves costs by identifying bottlenecks in the production process, reduces the amount manual tracking and enables proactive decisions. Also, real-time data can be used to optimise production schedules and minimise downtime, reducing the overall cost of production.

Tracking work in progress (WIP) has several advantages for manufacturing and production operations:

  • Improved Production Planning: By tracking WIP, manufacturers can better understand how much inventory they have at each stage of production, which can help them plan for future production runs, adjust staffing levels, and optimise production schedules.
  • Better Resource Allocation: WIP tracking can help identify areas of the production process where resources are being over-utilised or under-utilised. This information can be used to allocate resources more efficiently, reducing waste and increasing productivity.
  • Quality Control: WIP tracking can help identify quality issues earlier in the production process, allowing manufacturers to take corrective action before the product reaches the final assembly stage. This can reduce the amount of rework required and improve overall product quality.
  • Reduced Lead Times: By tracking WIP, manufacturers can identify bottlenecks in the production process and take action to resolve them more quickly. This can help reduce lead times and improve on-time delivery to customers.
  • Cost Savings: By optimising production schedules and resource allocation, WIP tracking can help manufacturers reduce costs associated with over-production, inventory storage, and waste.

Bluetooth beacons can be used to track WIP by attaching a small, low-power Bluetooth device to each job or unit of production. These beacons transmit a unique signal that can be detected by Bluetooth-enabled gateways located throughout the production line. This allows for real-time tracking of the location and status of each job or unit of production.

Some legacy system use barcodes or RFID for WIP tracking. The problem with these is the information is only as up-to-date as the last scan. Bluetooth beacons transmit all the time allowing for real-time tracking of WIP with no manual scanning. Additionally, Bluetooth beacons can be easily integrated with existing IoT infrastructure, making them a cost-effective solution for WIP monitoring. RFID and barcodes, on the other hand, require specialised equipment to read the tags. Bluetooth beacons can transmit data up to 100 meters or more, also making them more suitable for large spaces such as warehouses and factories.

Bluetooth beacons


Inventory Management vs Asset Tracking Using RTLS

Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) can be used for both inventory management and asset tracking. Here, we explore the differences between inventory and assets and the respective benefits of using a RTLS.

Inventory is stock, parts, materials and products that move through the company while assets are equipment, fixtures and furniture the company needs to do work. Inventory tends to be sold quickly to customers and leave the company while assets tend to be be kept longer term. It’s not just companies that have inventory and stock. Organisations such as government and health agencies consume rather than sell inventory and use assets to provide services.

While there are many systems that can be used to track the quantities of inventory and assets, very few track location. Knowing you have something but not knowing where it is leads to significant inefficiencies, especially in large organisations.

Managing both inventory, assets levels and location is important to avoid shortages and the need to over-stock so as to mitigate not being able to find items. In some cases items can spoil, due to expiry dates, which makes locating them more time sensitive. RTLS provides an automatic real-time view of inventory and assets so that quantities are known when items get stolen, thrown away or otherwise leave the site.

Inventory management provides better accuracy as it’s known what is in stock so the correct quantity can be ordered to meet anticipated demand. It makes it less likely products will be oversold, when not in stock, preventing end-customer disappointment. Having optimal stock saves money. Excess stock costs money until sold that can include overheads such as storage, handling fees and insurance. Excess standing stock is also is also presents the risk of loss by theft, obsolescence and unexpected damage. A better, real-time view of stock allows demand to be analysed and optimised. Having the correct stock ultimately keeps end-customers loyal due to a better customer experience.

Asset management ensures that assets don’t have to be over-purchased to compensate for inefficiencies in finding items. Knowing you have item(s) prevents unnecessary duplicate purchases. As the RTLS is real-time there’s no need for manual audits. The automatic auditing of assets also highlights items that have become lost or stolen. Knowing where assets are ultimately reduces labour costs because employees spend less time searching.

Read about BeaconRTLS

Asset Tracking For Manufacturers

Today’s just-in-time and busy manufacturing processes means that manual tracking of pallets for inbound and outbound shipments often can’t keep pace with the speed of production. Production and assembly requires the quick locating of components. Delays and inaccuracies due to lost components lead to increased costs, employee frustration and ultimately customer disappointment.

Competitive pressures are also driving the need to reduce labour thus reducing the capacity to manually search for items. Customisation using configured options and demand-driven production is also increasing the degree of inbound component searching that exacerbates the problems.

Even those companies using legacy tracking solutions find that location is only as good as the last barcode or RFID scan. Humans get lazy, make mistakes and don’t scan, causing pallets, crates and boxes to get lost. Many RFID readers don’t work reliably near metal components. Relying on a system that can’t find just a few items can be worse that a manual system that works but is slower. Bluetooth asset tracking solves these problems because the location is automatically collected in real-time and is continually updated.

Asset tracking can be applied to items such as components, pallets, cases, tools, returnable assets such as racks and cages as well as items on loan to ensure they are returned on time. It can improve worker safety and provide alerts in cases of congestion, perimeter deviation and lone worker distress. It can ensure forklifts are being fully utilised, are taking an optimum route, haven’t crashed into racking and haven’t gone out of an area.

The real-time visibility allows connected systems to generate confirmation and exception alerts and automatically trigger shipping processes, replacing costly manual workflows. Tracking outputs also allows confirmation that the correct things are loaded on the correct transport.

A Bluetooth-based real time location system (RTLS) increases visibility and allows the manufacturing process to adapt in real-time to short term business needs. It provides cost savings, greater efficiency and business intelligence that can be used to derive larger scale changes based on data rather than gut instinct. Overall reporting of input and outputs provides input to management reporting to monitor the business.

Read about BeaconRTLS™
Read about PrecisionRTLS™

Factory Asset Tracking

It’s interesting how many of our clients come to us with a problem to solve and in talking through possible solutions they often suddenly have the thought, ‘That’s IoT isn’t it?’. They weren’t looking for an IoT or Industry 4.0 solution but they got there by a different route. Indeed, it’s always best to start by solving problems rather than trying to fit technology into existing processes.

So what are the typical problems in factories? While companies usually have systems to take orders and invoice for them, what goes on in between is often a manual paper process. Knowing where an order is physically and hence how far it has been completed often requires lots of ringing round. Similarly, there are usually problems finding parts for jobs. Parts arrive in boxes or in pallets and are stored somewhere pending jobs. Finding the right pallet or box on a large site can be a challenge. It might be in storage, already on the factory floor somewhere or in transit between areas. Sometimes, delicate parts might be left in the wrong places and spoil due to excess humidity or in some cases incorrect temperature. Expensive tools and equipment tends to be shared between work areas and this can also get mislaid, lost or stolen.

All these problems cause delays in production, reduced productivity, incur penalties or future lost orders due to delayed work and cause employee frustration.

The solution is to better track jobs, parts, sub-assemblies and shared valuable tools so that they can be located on factory plans. This tracking needs to be continuous and real-time because merely scanning things in/out using barcodes is open to human error and location is otherwise only as good as the last scan. Historical data shows where things have been in the past. Analysis of this data allows blockages to be identified so that the process as a whole can be refined to improve efficiency and production.

The result is reduced downtime, less time re-ordering or re-making things that have been lost, optimum productivity and better use of skilled staff doing their job rather than searching for things.

Read about Beacons in Industry and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Learn about Asset and Pallet Tracking for Manufacturers



Improving Factory Productivity in the Age of Covid-19

Beaconzone founder, Simon Judge, has posted a new article on Linked on Improving Factory Productivity in the Age of Covid-19. It takes a look at how factories are needing to scale up (or down) while, at the same time, maintaining social distancing.

Digitising manual production lines provides visibility through the use of contact-less measurement that can be used to improve productivity. The article explains how to get started.

System for Searching Factory Stock

A common problem in factories is manual searching for stock for input to manufacturing. Stock is usually stored in boxes or pallets and can be in one of many rooms, warehouses or might already be somewhere on the factory floor. A large amount of stock arrives and leaves every day leading to logistical challenges keeping up with the whereabouts of goods. Timely delivery of components or sub-assemblies is critical to ensure smooth flowing of production and making best use of factory resources.

Manual paper-based processes are extremely inefficient and prone to human error. Old fashioned RFID or barcodes are also susceptible to error because data is only as up to date as the last scan and a recent scan might not have occurred.

Bluetooth is an ideal technology for solving this problem because it provides real-time location. We previously wrote about the advantages of using beacons in industry and how Bluetooth is suitable for use on the electrically noisy factory floor.

We offer multiple solutions for tracking stock and can adapt them to your exact needs, for example integrating with your existing systems. Once you have a tracking system in place you can use it for extra purposes such as locating jobs/work orders, monitoring machine/people capacity and providing for location based instruction/tasks. Sensing open/closed, on/off and quantities such as temperature and vibration enables diagnostics, monitoring and prognostics.

Read about Asset and Pallet Tracking for Manufacturers

Ignition Supports Bluetooth Beacons

Ignition is a HMI/SCADA system used for factory machine control and monitoring. It uses web-based technology running on an on-site server. It’s configured using a drag and drop user interface to provide HMI/SCADA controls, dashboards, historical trending, database access, reporting, alarming, security, sequential function charts, redundancy and failover control.

Ignition 8.0 has support for Bluetooth in the Perspective App running on mobile devices. It reads iBeacon and Eddystone formats. This allows for functionality based on location.

Read more about Beacons in Industry and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)