Using Beacons in Healthcare

Russ Sharer, Vice-President of Global Marketing for Fulham, a manufacturer of energy-efficient lighting sub-systems has written an article in Health Estate Journal (pdf) on the use of iBeacons in healthcare.

Russ says it’s often difficult to find life saving equipment in hospitals and many organisations have to compensate by purchasing more equipment than they need. However, in use, equipment still gets misplaced, usually just at the critical time it is needed. He explains how the use of Bluetooth beacons and mesh can solve this problem. The article provides a great introduction to iBeacons and some issues such as the affect of frequency of transmission on battery life.

While the article mentions Bluetooth Mesh and iBeacons, these specific technologies don’t always have to be used. Gateways can be used instead of mesh to allow greater throughput of data. Also, any beacons, not just iBeacons, can be used as it’s usually the MAC address of the beacon that’s used for identification purposes. Using sensor beacons allows further scenarios, for example, monitoring the temperature of expensive medicines.

There are also many more scenarios for the use of beacons in healthcare than are mentioned in the article. Our beacons are being using to track hundreds of dementia patients. We have also been involved in a project to use beacons for navigation in large hospitals. Once there’s a network of beacons in a hospital, it’s possible to add lots of widely varying solutions.

Read About Beacons in Life Sciences

Fitness Bands are Beacons

Fitness bands send out the same standard Bluetooth 4 advertising as beacons. They are essentially sensor beacons in a watch form factor with extra functionality and apps pertaining to record fitness.

The main things to look out for with fitness bands are the physical range and openness of the raw data. Many fitness bands only need to transmit a short distance of a few metres to the users’ phone/app so as to reduce the power of the Bluetooth 4 signal. Most fitness band manufacturers are also over-secretive about data access as they think their products might be copied.

Late last year we received a new Smartband fitness band into stock that has a transmit range far enough (30m) for tracking purposes.

We have negotiated with the manufacturer for access to the programming API through which we can access the pedometer (steps, calories), heart rate monitor, sleep recorder (deep sleep, light sleep, awake), clock, alarm clock, phone notification reminder and also real-time xyz acceleration. The API is under NDA so we can’t re-publish this information as we do our other beacons. Nevertheless, it allows us to take on more life science client projects.