In past few years, we have seen significant growth in technology allowing businesses to invest in automatic identification and data capture technologies that give them an edge over business next door.
I say growth because some of these now popular technologies came to be, a long time ago. I mean RFID (radio frequency identification) was first used in WWII by British forces for identifying enemy aircrafts. QR codes were also invented some 30 years ago (1994), at DENSO Wave, a Japanese automobile firm for tracking automobile parts during manufacturing.
Bluetooth, a short range communication tool, was first introduced in 1998, that was 24 years ago. Bluetooth 4.0 was launched in 2010 and now we have Bluetooth 5.0 which offers a communication range of 40m-400m at 2.45 GHz frequency.
All of these AIDC technologies have matured significantly now and the implementation prices have also come down. RFID tags that were 50 cents few years back are now 5 cents per tag. QR codes are basically free with internet generation and mobile phone scanning. Bluetooth is also, almost in every smartphone now.
Bluetooth Low Energy: Low Energy Consumption
Bluetooth low energy (Ble) technology is used to create BLE beacons and BLE tags that are capable of data transmission and tracking applications. BLE beacons and BLE tags, often used interchangeably, transmit data to nearby receiver using Bluetooth communication protocol offering a range of up to 90m at low energy consumption and significantly low latency than classic Bluetooth.
The reasons for low energy consumption and long life of BLE beacons are several.
1.A Bluetooth low energy enabled device is only active when it is sending RF signals (2.45GHz) to neighboring devices capable of reading the signal. The device is switched off after transmitting the necessary data. This feature of BLE allows the device to function over long years (up to 4-5 years).
2.BLE uses only 3 RF channels marked as RF37, 38, and 39 to advertise/ broadcast signals from available 40 RF ISM (radio wave band for industry, scientific and medical use) bands that are 2MHz wide each. This reduces the scanning timing and saves power.
3.BLE allows small data transfer (up to 2 Mbit/s) in less time than (classic) Bluetooth that saves power consumption.
BLE As a Cost Effective Tracking Tool:
While many advance tracking tools are available that businesses can employ for tracking needs, like RFID, BLE emerges as a cost effective one due to low implementation costs as it doesn’t need extensive set up.
A BLE set up employs BLE tags that transmit data to connected devices using a client server or it uses Bluetooth LE beacons that broadcast data to any receiver in its range. What makes it cost effective is that mobile devices can be used to access the data being transmitted.
BLE beacons, when used in short range (less than 100m) facilities like a retail store, a small railway platform, school, small Warehouse etc. cover a lot of ground making it a cost-saving option for broadcasting RF signals to any receiver in the vicinity. You don’t need to employ lots of beacon in such cases.
Applications of BLE:
Bluetooth Low Energy technology finds many applications where less power consumption or intermittent data transmission is required.
• Low power consumption makes it a better IoT (internet of things) tool that can be employed in cars and other vehicles.
• BLE can also be used in proximity sensors where data transmission is intermittent.
• In healthcare, various medical instruments use BLE technology. Blood pressure monitor, glucose monitor, health thermometer etc. can be equipped with BLE to transmit data on short intervals.
• In retail stores, BLE beacon can be used to broadcast hosts of store offers to customers while in vicinity. They can decode the data on their smartphone itself.
• On smart watches and gadgets that come with heart monitoring sensors, BLE can send the data on user’s mobile phone intermittently.
• BLE can now connect your many headphones to single audio source or vice versa.
• BLE when used with wearable like smart watch can act as a tracking tool and can send the users data on user smartphone.