Bluetooth Low Energy
What is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)?
Bluetooth Low Energy is a low power variant of Bluetooth personal area network (PAN) technology, designed for use by Internet-connected machines and appliances. With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), there are several applications that required a lower power communication protocol. With the release of the Bluetooth 4.0 + LE Specification and advanced iteratively since then, BLE has provided a way for IoT to grow and, in our case, for the use of beacons to really blossom.
Beacons you say?
Yes. Beacons. You may have heard about them being used in commercial applications to “push” a targeted advertisement to your phone or you might even realize that they are at the heart of some smart technology like the Disney MagicBand ™. The idea is that a beacon can emit or ping a signal and devices can respond to that signal. In the first case about, the device receiving the signal would be your smart phone. Imagine wandering through a great mall and as you browse, the stores being able to serve up content appropriate to your location. That was the plan and, in some cases, is the reality.
Next Level Location and Proximity
At DeCurtis, we rarely stop at the obvious. Our experience and clients have taught us that they need more out of this technology. We learned through our efforts at Be Our Guest® Restaurant and in our ground-breaking work in the cruise space around location and proximity that we needed to invert the traditional model. Beacons had, thus far, been the stationary object. Few in number, any basic readers could work. Furthermore, in the stationary model, the burden is put on the guest in that they must have a device, enable it and be engaged.
This burden is too great to create Transformational Experience Technology.
What to Do?
Well, when faced with a technical itch and no existing way to scratch it, we went into solution mode. We went out and worked with two great industry partners to architect, design, build and certify the premier high density BLE reader module on the market. When looking at the market, it made sense to make the solution easy to acquire. WE have seen too many projects that attempt the kind of experiential improvements we create fail due to prohibitive hardware and infrastructure change and associated costs. Clients were left with miles of special use cable and niche hardware that was hard to install, manage and support. We opted to build our module to interface with the leader in Enterprise connectivity, Cisco and one of their most pervasive access points, the 3800.
Our module (Technically the DC-BR3800-01 BLE Module) plugs right into the Cisco 3800 Series Access Point via its onboard accessory interface. This Cisco-certified 3rd party module is capable of processing hunderds of beacons simultaneously and intelligently forwarding “interesting” events to the location services platform for capture, singulation or eventing as the application requires.
Make the Client, Crew Member, Person or Item the Beacon
This is where the magic really happens. Instead of simply enabling your environment to shout more accurately, enable your environment to literally learn about the population within its boundaries. By tethering people to beacons (more on that later), your environment can respond intelligently to those people that are present, be they clients, team members or even visitors. By leveraging a reader model that truly allows high fidelity location in space (not geo-location, but close-range, meter-level or better accuracy) systems can (and have) been built that can create amazing experiences.
If we move past the human aspect, the simple task that never is, inventory, becomes a different experience when high value items can be tracked in real time.
I’m a Tech Person, Why is this Thing Worth It?
Thanks for asking! We would not have built it were it not necessary so here is a quick list of high points. Should you need or want more “technical meat” please reach out and we will get you whatever you require.
- Ability to read and process hundreds of beacons per second
- Ability to read and process and BLT v4 or v5 standard beacon, including iBeacon, Eddystone, or Proprietary
- External antenna connector allows for ideal placement and antenna type depending on use case
- External antennas capture a more accurate read
- Consumes less than 2W peak power from access point.
- Module network traffic can operate on completely segmented subnet/VLAN
- Module uses a push technology
- No need for new power or cable run, reduces total cost of implementation.
- Proprietary, advanced processing algorithm dramatically improves network bandwidth utilization and quality of reads which improves location detection accuracy and provides greater control over configurations for various use cases.
- No need to remove access point to install.
- Large scale deployments centrally managed, including group configuration and firmware updates
- Support for DHCP Option 43 and 60 for easier provisioning
- Management system can be local or cloud-based.
- System can run 100% independently from outside end user’s system.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who doesn’t want to be a VIP? Wouldn’t you love to get special treatment everywhere you go? Wouldn’t you like to not have to go through a ton of non-vegetarian items when you are vegetarian (or whatever your dietary preference happens to be).
Transformational Experience Technology is all about making every experience better, more efficient, more human, more informed, more enjoyable and more profitable. For the clients (oftentimes, guests), this technology allows them access to things faster, seamlessly and in a way that creates priceless memories. For team members, this empowers them to create those experiences, do their jobs more efficiently, with less stress, reduced chance of error and in a way that creates or enhances the truly human connection.
For the business investing in this technology, you are truly taking your ecosystem to a new level of evolution. You are limited only by your imagination…and platform partner.
Obviously, we spend a great deal of time in cruise and hospitality. From areas like core cruise to resorts, casinos to hotels, the need to rapidly create personal relationships and enhance interactions are usually clear. Those experiences rapidly expand to sporting events, concerts, schools and hospitals once you realize that each of those areas have needs met by the new ecosystem.
Areas that are not clear are ones where people are not involved. The ability to track high cost inventory and avoid cable runs for tethering (Think IV Pumps) are pretty obvious but we are only scratching the surface on the need side of this equation.
Built in readers to date were just designed to handle low volume, low fidelity reads. Beyond that, there was no intelligence planned in those readers. Our module leverages algorithms to reduce traffic, increase efficiency, improve fidelity and scale rapidly.
Some will tell you all you need is a smart phone. They are not wrong, per se, but there is more to a great experience than burdening your guests, clients or employees with a bunch of steps to enable an experience. We can help make that much easier by introducing the concept of a wearable (think wristband, pendant or keychain) that contains a small beacon. These items can be customized and serve as a source of revenue on their own while allowing your connection to your client, team member or items to be reliable, predictable and lightweight.
Absolutely. The module has been EMC98540-ETS489 Certified for the EU as well as Cisco certified to work with Cisco EU Access Points.
Ah, the typical “It Depends,” answer is correct but we will try and explain that in more detail for you here. The first variable is the choice of external antenna. Next is the intended use case. While the BLE Module can read transmissions from several dozen meters away, the accuracy and confidence levels of accuracy drop as distance increases. So, if the use case means that the reader only has to care that a beacon can be seen, the distance can be 100+ meters. However, if the use case dictates a need to determine location accurately, with high fidelity, then effective distance should be closer to 20 meters or less. Obviously the high fidelity case is also augmented with more than one reader.
Not necessary but advisable. You can scale BLE coverage out with your existing AP site survey. Your use case, fidelity requirements and design will dictate this course of action. General proximity is easy. Precise location is more complicated.
Yes, it is capable of 1-3m of accuracy, though many factors affect this. Distance affects accuracy, as well as line of site.
For example, if the wearable is in a pocket or purse as opposed to a badge or wristband, it can negatively affect accuracy.
The accuracy of a single reader is not really the magic here. The ability of high performance, intelligent readers to work together and produce a high-quality set of reads is the end goal. By knowing your application, we can help tune the plan for the environment.