Using Beacons in Clinical Trials

There’s recent research by Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED), Switzerland on a Beacon-Based Remote Measurement of Social Behaviour in ASD Clinical Trials: A Technical Feasibility Assessment.

Beacons were used to determine the location of participants in an observational Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) clinical trial designed to assess social behaviour. Beacons were placed by the participants or caregivers in separate rooms in the household and a smartwatch used to detect the beacons as the participant moved from room to room. A smartphone app was used to map each beacon with each room.

A key aspect of the study is that it was conducted with no participant training and without the supervision of a technical person.

The study also provides a comparison with prior work and a comparison of locating technologies:

The researchers provide some good practice guidelines for using beacons for indoor locating:

  • Set the beacons to have the same transmission power to allow the signals to be comparable
  • Beacons should be placed in an open area in each room that is close to the activity centre of the room to minimize interference
  • Beacons should ideally have line of sight and face toward the participant and not considerably higher than the receiving smartwatch

The study achieved an accuracy of 97.2% proving that beacons have the potential to provide deep insights into in-home behaviour. This provides more objective data than would be the case with commonly used questionnaire-based studies.

A Beacon-Based Mobility Aid for People with Dementia

James Bayliss, a final year industrial design student at Loughborough University, has designed a smart mobility aid that uses beacons. It’s allows people with dementia to live safely in their own home for longer.

The system, called ‘AIDE’, comprises of a walking stick that works with Bluetooth beacons situated around the home.

It tracks the person’s movement and uses machine learning software to detect behaviours and actions that are out of the ordinary. The system also provides reminders to the person to help re-orient them if they have a confused episode.

Using Bluetooth Beacons to Measure Gait Speed

There’s recent research into using Bluetooth beacons to measure human gait speed. The ability to walk can be used as a core indicator of health in aging and disease. For example, it can enable early detection of cognitive diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at Universitat Jaume I and University of Extremadura, Spain, have created a new dataset. In their paper BLE-GSpeed: A New BLE-Based Dataset to Estimate User Gait Speed (pdf) they describe how they collected the data.

The database is freely available and includes:

  • mac: The MAC address of the detected beacon.
  • rssi: The RSSI value obtained for the beacon.
  • device: A four-character descriptor for the smartwatch that performed the scan.
  • timestamp: The time stamp at which the scan was received.
  • user: The id of the user that was performing the experiment.
  • direction: A number (0 or 1) indicating the direction of the walk.
  • walk_id: A number that identifies each walk.
  • speed: The actual speed of the user, in $m/s$.

It database contains RSSI measurements from different wearable devices and different BLE beacons, corresponding to 382 walks performed by 13 actors. The open source code used is available on GitHub.

Using Bluetooth Beacons for Epidemic Risk Mitigation

There’s innovative new research by Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy on Listening to Bluetooth Beacons for Epidemic Risk Mitigation.

Solutions usually detect and store contact events between Bluetooth devices that has poor interoperability when applied to smartphones. Adoption rates are also low due to privacy concerns and resultant systems depend on subsequent manual contact tracing.

Instead, a new architecture is used that comprises standard beacons carried by users and detectors placed in strategic locations where infection clusters are most likely to originate. [This is similar to the architecture used for IoT sensing using gateways.]

The system helps control disease spread at lower adoption rates. It also provides significantly higher sensitivity and specificity than existing app-based systems.

Read about Beacons for Workplace Social Distancing and Contact Tracing

Dementia Anti-Wandering Using Beacons

The Hong Kong Multimedia Technology Research Center (MTREC) has an interesting project that implements a dementia anti-wandering system using iBeacons.

A paper (pdf) explains how it uses a novel multi-hop system to track targets using mobile sensors. The multi-hop approach extends the sensing area and reduces the deployment cost.

iBeacon Cooperative Tracking

The system uses a particle filter which analyses the temporal and spatial information of the targets to achieve 4.37m and 9.46m tracking error in a campus and a shopping mall respectively.

Read about Beacons in Life Sciences

Fitness Band with Heart Rate and Body Temperature

We have a new beacon, the 1810G in stock that monitors both heart rate and body temperature.

Heart Rate and Temperature

This fitness band can provide real time steps, heart rate or temperature. It also stores the historical data. Data is obtained by connecting programmatically to the device, via Bluetooth GATT, from Android, iOS or other Bluetooth LE device.

Can be set up to provide for social distancing reminders, tested every minute, when two bands of this type come close together (2m).

Being programmable it allows for new usecases such as monitoring groups of people. This might be used, for example, to identify those with an elevated body temperature.

There’s also an iOS and Android app for normal consumer use.

View all sensor beacons

Bluetooth Sensors for Analysing Sports

Nordic Semiconductor has a recent article by Petter Myhre Jun on Wireless Solutions Take Sports Tracking to New Level.

Bluetooth Sports Sensor
SpoSeNs 2.0 Professional Wearable

Petter talks about how location and movement sensors can be used to take athletic measurements for monitoring, analysis and performance improvement. He describes the SpoSeNs 2.0 Professional Wearable built round Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 SoC.

However, many types of sports measurement can be implemented using off the shelf sensors. Standard beacons can be used for locating and Bluetooth sensors with accelerometers used for finer measurement of movement.

It’s also possible to measure heart rate that can lead into health related applications. We previously worked on Ultimate Sport Service’s heart rate tracking project. Ultimate Sport provide running race timing solutions. The heart rate tracking project allows Ultimate Sport to collect and display the real-time heart rates of a group of runners.

BeaconZone was a key part in succeeding with our custom heart rate tracking project. From assessing potential challenges in the Bluetooth framework on iOS and Android to evaluating hardware possibilities, we got valuable and accurate advice. The project was delivered on time and we are confident we will be working together again in the future.

Ultimate Sport Service Aps, Denmark

Read about Beaconzone Solutions

Bluetooth in Healthcare

The Bluetooth blog has a recent post on 4 Reasons to Use Bluetooth in Your Healthcare Facility. It explains some advantages of Bluetooth and mentions some uses within healthcare.

Bluetooth can be used as a way of connecting wearables and equipment to other devices. When equipment and people are Bluetooth-enabled, asset tracking and wayfinding become possible. Staff can quickly locate valuable hospital assets and patients in need for urgent care.

Another reason for using Bluetooth is reliability. The article mentions Bluetooth’s adaptive frequency hopping (AFH) that makes communication more reliable in noisy wireless environments. You can read more about the technical aspects in our post on Bluetooth LE on the Factory Floor.

A further reason for using Bluetooth, particularly Bluetooth LE, is low power. Stand-alone devices can work on coin-cell batteries for many years.

The final reason given for using Bluetooth is the ability to create larger site-wide networks using Bluetooth mesh. Mesh can be used for control, monitoring and automation systems without the need for WiFi that can be unreliable and congested in hospitals.

For a further look at usecases, see the post on RTLS in Healthcare.

RTLS in Healthcare

There’s a new Mr Beacon video interview with HT Snowday, VP of Innovation and Technology Development at Midmark RTLS. Midmark and HT are formerly of Versus Technology who were acquired by Midmark in Aug 2018.

Midmark RTLS uses a combination of infra-red, 433Mhhz RF, WiFi and Bluetooth to provide tracking of healthcare assets, care givers and patients. It allows medical equipment to be located quickly, key things such as IV pumps to be effectively distributed (par levelling) and the location of care staff and patients to be controlled and monitored. The Bluetooth part of Midmark RTLS is used more for wayfinding using powered, static beacons to mark locations. Systems also allow for health workflow processes including self-rooming to reduce waiting and queuing for care.

Healthcare is increasingly being provided at outpatient rather than inpatient treatment. This is leading to more clinics and treatments centres and the need for technical sophistication to efficiently process patients.

No mention was given to other crucial healthcare usecases we have come across at BeaconZone such as tracking (and temperature) of valuable medicines, tracking porters, wheelchairs and wayfinding from the hospital limits to reception areas.

Read about Beacons For Life Sciences