The Evolution of Bluetooth Beacons and Their Growing Role in IoT

Bluetooth beacons represent a significant and evolving technology due to their integration into the Internet of Things (IoT). These small, wireless transmitters have become increasingly integral to various industries, leveraging the power of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with and locate nearby smart devices.

Bluetooth beacons emerged in the early 2010s, with Apple’s iBeacon being one of the pioneering technologies in 2013. These initial beacons were primarily used for proximity-based advertising and retail applications. They operated by broadcasting a unique identifier to nearby devices, typically smartphones, which could then trigger specific actions or notifications when within range.

As the technology matured, so did the capabilities of Bluetooth beacons. Beacons gained sensors that detect movement (accelerometer), movement (started/stopped moving), button press, temperature, humidity, air pressure, light level, open/closed (magnetic hall effect), proximity (PIR), proximity (cm range), fall detection and smoke. This evolution expanded the potential use cases for beacons, moving beyond simple proximity notifications to more complex location-based services and data collection.

In the retail sector, beacons continue to enhance customer experiences. They facilitate personalised promotions, guide in-store navigation and provide valuable insights into shopper behaviour. By analysing the data collected from beacon interactions, retailers can optimise store layouts and tailor marketing strategies.

Bluetooth beacons have made inroads into healthcare. In hospitals, they assist in tracking equipment, monitoring medicine temperature, monitoring patients and managing staff workflow. This technology has been particularly useful in enhancing patient care and optimising resource allocation.

In urban environments, beacons contribute to the development of smart cities. They support wayfinding solutions, sense environmental quantities, help manage public transportation systems and aid in monitoring urban infrastructure. By integrating with other IoT devices, they play a crucial role in creating interconnected and efficient urban spaces.

In warehouses, Bluetooth beacons play a pivotal role in streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency. By strategically placing these beacons throughout the facility, warehouse managers can achieve real-time location tracking of both inventory and equipment. This setup enables monitoring of stock levels, swift location of items for order fulfilment and effective management of warehouse space. Additionally, beacons can be used to track the movements of workers, helping to optimise workflows and reduce the time spent searching for items. This level of tracking not only improves operational efficiency but also contributes to enhanced safety by monitoring the flow of foot and vehicle traffic, thus reducing the likelihood of accidents.

In industrial settings and factories, Bluetooth beacons have become instrumental in advancing the concept of the smart factory. They are employed for a variety of purposes, including asset tracking, workflow optimisation and safety enhancements. By attaching beacons to machinery, tools and raw materials, factories can achieve real-time visibility into the location and usage of these assets. This tracking capability is crucial for efficient inventory management and quick response to maintenance needs, reducing downtime. They also enhance worker safety by establishing geofences that alert when personnel enter hazardous areas or when equipment operates in close proximity to workers. Sensor beacons represent a leap forward in monitoring and managing complex operations. These beacons, equipped with various sensors, collect critical data such as temperature, humidity, vibration and light levels. In machinery-heavy sectors, vibration-sensing beacons help predict maintenance needs, detecting early signs of equipment wear or malfunction. This proactive approach to maintenance not only prevents costly downtime but also extends the lifespan of machinery. Furthermore, integrating these sensor beacons with an IoT platform allows for the aggregation and analysis of data, leading to insights that drive operational efficiency and continuous improvement in factory settings.

In summary, As the IoT ecosystem expands, Bluetooth beacons are becoming more intertwined with other technologies. Their ability to bridge the physical and digital worlds makes them essential in creating comprehensive IoT networks. Together with Bluetooth gateways, they facilitate seamless interactions between various smart devices, enhancing data collection and automation.

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Process Control in Manufacturing and Logistics with Bluetooth Beacons

In sectors such as aerospace, automotive, logistics, transit management and process-driven manufacturing, the quest for efficiency and precision is unending. The integration of Bluetooth beacons into monitoring process control provides a significant leap in addressing these challenges. Traditionally, manual processes suffer from a range of issues. Bluetooth beacons offer a compelling solution to these age-old problems.

Firstly, there’s the matter of process visibility and optimisation. In complex environments like aerospace or automotive manufacturing, keeping track of components and processes is critical. Bluetooth beacons enable real-time tracking and provide data-driven insights, allowing for better decision-making and process optimisation. This technology ensures that every aspect of the manufacturing process is visible and under control, leading to enhanced efficiency and productivity.

A common issue in logistics and transit management is the misplacement of items; things can’t be located or are found in the wrong place. Bluetooth beacons counteract this by offering precise location tracking. This ensures that items are always where they need to be, thereby reducing the time and resources spent on locating misplaced items. In transit management, this translates to smoother operations and reduced delays.

Interaction, or the lack thereof, between components or processes, is another challenge that Bluetooth beacons can handle. In scenarios where two or more things are (or are not) interacting as they should, beacons provide real-time interaction data. This information is crucial in environments where the interplay between different components or processes is key to successful operations.

When it comes to counting, the issue often lies in having too many or too few items in a certain place. Bluetooth beacons facilitate accurate inventory management, ensuring that the right quantity of materials or products is always available where needed. This precision is particularly vital in just-in-time manufacturing processes, where inventory accuracy is paramount.

Time management is another critical factor in process control. A task taking too long or not long enough can significantly impact overall productivity. Beacons can track the time spent on specific tasks, providing insights into potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies. This data is invaluable for optimising workflow and ensuring that time is utilized effectively.

Lastly, sequence plays a pivotal role in manufacturing and logistics. When things happen in the wrong order, it can lead to a cascade of issues. Bluetooth beacons, with their ability to track and record sequences of events, ensure that processes follow the correct order, thereby avoiding costly mistakes and delays.

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.

Smart Business

In today’s competitive business environment, companies are constantly seeking ways to improve their operations, increase their efficiency and reduce costs. One way to achieve these goals is by implementing smart sensing technology to save energy costs and improve business processes.

Smart sensing technology allows businesses to monitor their operations in real-time, enabling them to identify areas where energy can be saved and process improvements can be made. By using sensors to measure factors such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, light level, and movement, businesses can gain valuable insights into their operations and make informed decisions to improve efficiency.

One of the key advantages of smart sensing technology is the ability to save energy costs. By using sensors to monitor energy usage, businesses can identify areas where energy is being wasted and take steps to reduce consumption. For example, by monitoring temperature levels, a business can adjust heating and cooling systems to maintain optimal levels while minimizing energy usage. This can lead to significant cost savings over time, as well as a more environmentally friendly business.

In addition to saving energy costs, smart sensing technology also helps businesses improve their processes. By monitoring operations in real-time, businesses can identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and take steps to improve them. For example, by using sensors to monitor the movement of goods within a warehouse, a business can identify areas where processes can be streamlined, reducing the time and effort required to move goods and improving overall efficiency.

Starting small with low-cost sensors in areas where the most significant gains can be made is a smart approach to implementing smart sensing technology. Bluetooth beacons are an example of such sensors that can detect movement (accelerometer), movement (started/stopped moving), button press, temperature, humidity, air pressure, light level, open/closed (magnetic hall effect), proximity (PIR), proximity (cm range), fall detection, smoke, natural gas, and water leak. These beacons can be placed in strategic locations to monitor and collect data about operations, which can then be used to make informed decisions.

Bluetooth gateways detect the beacons and send data for subsequent processing. Starting simple using simple server-side scripts and triggered events can be an effective way to begin implementing smart sensing technology. Avoiding SAAS and subscription-based systems, instead preferring simple stand-alone solutions can help keep costs down and ensure that businesses have financial control over these innovations.

Implementing smart sensing technology provides numerous benefits for businesses, including cost savings, improved efficiency, and enhanced process control. While these technologies are sometimes labelled as IoT or Industry 4.0, it’s best to ignore the hype and instead concentrate on practical matters. By starting small and using low-cost sensors in strategic locations, businesses can gain valuable insights into their operations and make informed decisions to improve their processes and reduce costs.

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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


Reducing Bluetooth WiFi Gateway Connections

When a Bluetooth WiFi Gateway sends data to a server via HTTP, the gateway has to connect to the server to start a connection and then use that connection to send the data. The connection part starts a new TCP connection with handshaking. Starting a new connection every time data needs to be sent to the server uses network data and creates work for the server.


Some gateways such as the IGS01s have a ‘keep-alive’ setting that allows the connection to be re-used across HTTP requests. This reduces the amount of data used on metered networks such as cellular, reduces possibly metered data throughput at the server and also reduces server loading thus improving performance.

Having said all this, you should consider MQTT if you are really concerned about efficiency and performance.

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Bluetooth for Locating

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.

The article continues with a summary of the myths we covered in a previous post.

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.

New P1 Plus Industrial Beacon

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. 

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Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) for The Fourth Industrial Revolution

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.


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

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