The Bluetooth SIG, the organisation that produces Bluetooth standards, has a recent post The Myths & Facts About Bluetooth Technology as a Positioning Radio. It talks about the location services in general and how they have evolved over time. It explains how Bluetooth helps solve key enterprise pain points to save tens to hundreds of billions of dollars globally through enhanced operational efficiencies, increased worker safety, and loss prevention.
In manufacturing facilities, billions of dollars are lost through unplanned downtime thanks to being unable to locate assets, tools, and equipment. In warehouses, RTLS can help automate the tracking of assets, such as pallets, which is becoming more essential with the ever-increasing size, complexity, and amount of assets stored
Despite the gains thus far, this only represents as small proportion of the opportunity because only a very small percentage of the potential addressable market in the enterprise is using RTLS.
ABI Research expects that will be a 2.5x increase in total Bluetooth RTLS deployments over the next five years, with the fastest growing segments being healthcare, warehouse and logistics, manufacturing and smart building.
We have the new Minew P1 Plus in stock. It’s a sensor beacon designed for rough environments and is IP68 waterproof, IK09 shockproof and has a wider than normal temperature rating due to use of the included industrial ER14250H lithium battery.
This beacon has temperature and accelerometer sensors. It’s turned on and off via a magnetic switch. As with other Minew beacons it advertises up to 6 channels that can be iBeacon, Eddystone UID, Eddystone URL, Eddystone TLM and device info.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as 4IR and Industry 4.0, improves manufacturing through the use of technology. The end-aims are to significantly improve productivity, reduce production delays and, for example, avoid penalties or future lost orders due to delayed work.
A key part of The Fourth Industrial Revolution is asset tracking that provides faster and more accurate stock control, item picking, job tracking, capacity measurement, demand analysis and product protection through sensing and automatic auditing.
It’s important that asset tracking is continuous 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 is also important because it identifies blockages allowing processes to be refined.
When evaluating asset tracking systems consider:
Scalability and Performance – How many things do you need to track today and into the future?
Flexibility – Many of our customers initially buy an RTLS for one urgent purpose but later end up use the system system for additional needs.
Security – Where is your data stored and where does it go?
Look for a stand-alone solution rather than SAAS for greater performance, flexibility and longevity. While SAAS based systems can be a quick way into RTLS, they soon become limiting because you are sharing a platform with other customers. SAAS platforms usually don’t scale well technically and financially and don’t have efficient, direct access to the data for efficient ad-hoc reporting. They also pose potential security and reliability risks as you don’t own your data. The ultimate limitation comes when the SAAS provider, usually a startup, eventually increases costs, get’s bought out by its largest customer or goes out of business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a previous post we asked ‘What is Productivity?’ and shared how the first wave of IT productivity related to cloud computing, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) was only taken up by the top 5% frontier companies.
We explained how IoT, 4IR and AI machine learning will improve productivity but again, likely only for frontier companies. The difference this time is that the newer technologies will have more far reaching consequences. The frontier companies will further extend their reach over the laggards. The majority of the 5% are large companies with large budgets who are able to engage consultances such as IBM, Deloitte, Atos, PwC, WiPro, Accenture and KPMG. But what of the small to medium enterprises (SMEs)? Can they compete?
In most countries, a large proportion of companies are small to medium size. For example, in the UK, the Office for National Statistics says 98.6% of manufacturers are (SMEs). These organisations are more price sensitive and usually don’t have the luxury of significant financial resources for engaging the top consultancies and implementing their expensive solutions. Small and medium sized organisations have previously found it difficult to digitise due to the lack of availability of reasonably priced solutions.
However, solutions doesn’t have to be expensive. Low cost sensors such as Bluetoooth beacons, motion cameras, consumer AR can be combined with affordable cloud services to create solutions on a ‘shoestring’ budget. This is the aim of the University of Cambridge and University of Nottingham’s ‘Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring’ initiative. The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) is helping manufacturers benefit from digitalisation without excessive cost and risk. View the project’s latest news and communicate with them via Twitter.
There’s an informative video presentation on the Bluetooth SIG web site on Simplifying Multi-Vendor Mesh and Sensor Networks. It provides an introduction to Bluetooth mesh and explains the ways in which it can provide for Industrial IoT (IIoT).
To add to this, Bluetooth Mesh is suitable for use on the factory floor where the environment can be electrically noisy. Standard Bluetooth Mesh uses advertising on several channels rather than (GATT) connections so as to provide for more reliable communication in environments with wireless interference.