FaciliTracks started with a dream of making it possible to manage location of employees, equipments and facilities easy to manage with new technologies available. Hospitals, factories and warehouses are expanding in size and complexity, the existing systems which are at work are still old and expensive to implement. There is an immense opportunity to give all the use cases like security guards walking with walkie talkies to people looking for advertisements in front of the stores a technology facelift.
Current technologies like walkie talkies are not only bulky and noisy but are also expensive and hard to maintain and carry. The other technologies available like RFID help in tracking but the infrastructure layout and wiring the whole facility is difficult and expensive.
NFC, iBeacons and other new technologies deserve a serious look as they are not only light on infrastructure but also link and communicate well to the omnipresent smartphones. With BYOD initiatives becoming more and more popular and cost of smartphones on a downward spiral, we think smartphones along with the new technologies have a big case for replacing older technologies and make use cases like location tracking and tasking, equipment and asset tracking etc. simpler and more effective.
WHAT IS AN IBEACON?
IBeacon is a brand name created by Apple for a specific technology that allows mobile apps to recognise when a smartphone is near a small wireless sensor called a beacon (or iBeacons, as well). The beacon can transmit data to a smartphone - and vice versa - using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). IBeacon is a feature in iOS 7 and android 4.3, thus Apple's new iPhones and other new smartphones (android 5.0) will have iBeacon.
NAVIGATION AND TRACKING
IBeacons also features micro-location geofencing. This is ideal for indoor mapping. For instance, GPS signals have trouble penetrating the steel and glass of buildings. This prevents many mapping apps from offering indoor navigation, but iBeacon’s micro-location feature hopes to solve the problem. An iPhone with iBeacon can connect to a nearby beacon to determine a GPS location. You could then navigate through an airport, casino or museum just by using a mapping app.
REAL WORLD APPLICATIONS
iBeacons have numerous use cases for different types of businesses, some of the interesting cases we have seen during interactions with our customers range from retail to dealing with challenges of large facilities like Museums, hospitals and airports. The use cases vary from communicating with employees, to removing the omnipresent “You are here” sign on a map in the middle of large shopping centers. Some of the specific use cases for use of iBeacons are given below:
- Check-in: patients can schedule appointments and check-in when they are in the clinic lobby. Receptionists can see a full list of those who’ve checked in and how long they’ve been waiting.
- Auto-display data: When a doctor or nurse enters a patient’s room, the patient’s records will automatically be displayed on a smartphone or a device supporting such services.
- Equipment Tracking: Small wearable iBeacon tags tied to an equipment can be used to track the equipments in your facility. It will be easy to find the total count of equipments, location of medical equipments etc. making it a cost saving for healthcare.
- Walker-by discounts: As a customer walks by your front door; a message will appear on their screen, encouraging them to stop in for offers. “Hey, stop on in today to check out our 20% off everything special.”
- Tracking customers: Retailers can track where users are using their smartphone application while in-store. This data can be used to adjust merchandise locations and optimize customer-walking patterns for purchases.
LOCATION TRACKING USING FACILITRACKS
As of the various uses specified in the above section, ibeacon technology can also be used for locating employees in an office or hospital and sending specific tasks based on their location. This reduces the time taken to travel from where the employee is present to where the task is located. Even though the use case is not relevant for many companies with small offices and few employees, it has huge implications and generates a large ROI when we talk about large facilities with hundreds of employees.
When the manager wants to allocate a job, it instructs all the ibeacons in the floor to locate employee with the help of the employee’s smartphone which acts as an ibeacon transceiver. The manager finds all the employees close to the location and sends them a task, its that simple. The application has many features which help the manager take a look at the status (busy or available), qualification etc. in real time on the map.
EQUIPMENT TRACKING USING FACILITRACKS
Small wearable iBeacon tags tied to an equipment can be used to track the equipments in your facility. It will be easy to find the total count of equipments, location of medical equipments etc. making it a cost saving for healthcare. With advent of cloud beacons which are capable of directly communicating to the cloud through wi-fi the case for using heavy NFC based infrastructure is fast disappearing. Cloud beacons send their location on the facility to the cloud server and application can track the location of the equipments, its that simple and it does not need any wiring or large devices for tracking equipments.
NFC are mostly used for data transfer in short range where accuracy is the key criteria. Speed is very high but its range is very low and requires tapping for connecting 2 devices. It is a 1to1 type of communication.
RF-ID is widely used in present world for retail, payments, check-ins, tracking etc. RF-ID has a better range. It is useful when speed is not the key criteria. Active RF-ID uses tags and readers for communicating and doesn’t require physical contact. One key problem with RF-ID, interference is highest and speed is somewhat low.
iBeacon is in its evolution stage but sometimes in near future is going to be widely used due to its speed and range. Also power consumption is very low and accuracy is good. Though in the present stages it needs a lot of developments but it can be widely used as stated in the context above.
COMPARISON OF TECHNOLOGIES
Comparison of iBeacon and NFC with other technologies in the next generation applications is unavoidable. The ease of use, cost of tracking units and ease of implementation is forcing enterprises to compare these technologies to find a solution to their problem and the best way to solve it.
|Cost||$50 per piece (Approx.)||50 cents - 50$||$1 per tag|
|Range||50 Meters||20 feet to 100 metres||20 cm (needs contact)|
|Speed||1 MB/Second||4Kb/Second - 640Kb/Second||424 Kb/Second|
|Accuracy||NFC > iBeacon > RFID|
|Availability & Usage||New technology fast adaptation||Widely used||Widely available|
It is important to be well ahead of our competitors and provide our customers with the best technologies available. Better ROI and cost savings are important factors and adopting iBeacon technology for FaciliTracks will help achieve the goal of the project. Healthcare industry is humongous and the need for a better facility management system is the need of the hour. FaciliTracks serves the need and thus will be the best facility management application in the decade to come.