The Internet of Things (IoT) is integral in creating smart buildings and enabling building automation. By connecting devices – things – to the internet they can be controlled centrally and collect sensor data. Beacons are a subset of the IoT and are going to help shape the future workplace.
Beacons are low-cost, low-powered transmitters normally equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity that can be used to obtain location-aware, context-aware data and can run for a year-or-more on a small battery or even be powered indefinitely from ambient light. In the future office environment, they are ideal for internally pinpointing the location of smartphones or smart badges.
The Location of Things
Location of Things (LoT) technology spans the area of identifying where IoT devices are located in relation to their origins, destinations or other adjacent devices.
With Gartner predicting that there will be 20.8 billion connected “things” by 2020, it isn’t too hard to picture everything, people and objects, within a workplace being interconnected. Combining this with indoor positioning systems using proximity-aware BLE beacons and these “things” can be placed on an internal map.
What is the value of IoT sensors capturing identity, environmental data, and status if the consumer of this data doesn't have the contextual location information to give the data some meaning?
LoT has the ability to locate and monitor all types of things in real time. The advantages of this capability are immense. It’s not about becoming Big Brother checking up on your staff, nor is it about finding where you last left your keys or wallet - although this ability could come in handy. Organisations can improve their business practices by adding LoT technology to their existing systems.
Efficiency and safety in the workplace
The days of becoming lost in an unfamiliar workplace will be consigned to history. External visitors will no longer have to be guided to a meeting room, they will be guided by a three-dimensional indoor sat-nav to their destination.
A key drawback when implementing a hot desking system is that people can’t find their colleague as they sit in a different place everyday. But with beacons installed into an office space, employees will no longer need to roam the halls for a colleague because they are sitting on a different floor to usual – they will be able to locate them immediately.
By ensuring all employees and visitors wear a smart beacon-enabled security card, which exist today, their location could be automatically recorded through the beacons installed in the office building, enhancing existing security measures around restricted areas.
From a safety perspective, in the event of a fire alarm or evacuation employers will also be able to instantly know who has safely left the building and who is still inside. Most importantly, you will know exactly where inside that person is. Accelerometers, heat and vibration sensors in a smart badge could transmit information on whether an employee has stopped moving for a long period of time for example. This is particularly useful for lone workers out on site.
In large warehouses, knowing where all your stock is located is crucial. The LoT allows items to be located immediately and by placing beacons at the loading bay, the warehouse manager will know exactly when a particular shipment has entered or left the building. This is particularly useful for high value or time sensitive shipments.
By adding "context" to the billions of location-aware sensors and devices that will be part of the Internet of Things ecosystem it will open up huge opportunities to enhance the workplace, improve service quality, margins and reduce operational expenses across a wide range of industry verticals.
So get ready for a much wider usage of the term “Location of Things”. In the near future, LoT will help bring "context" to the "who" and "what" provided by the billions of IoT nodes and sensors that will populate workplaces around the world over the years to come.