“Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology is an effective tool in inventory management applications providing asset localization and stock management with the help of mobile smartphones and BLE beacons.”
Inventory management plays a pivotal role in supply chain and logistics operations. An effective inventory control weeds out inaccuracy in stock management and prevents out-of-stock scenarios which further benefits business-customer relations. With changing business landscape and high competition in business world, order fulfillment and customer satisfaction become key factors affecting business growth and profit. Customers don’t like out-of-stock scenarios and they need real-time updates on their order. In this case, use of Bluetooth Low Energy beacons can be used to achieve better accuracy in locating objects in indoor spaces such as warehouses in a cost-effective manner. It also improves the slow process of taking stock count and picking the orders which leads to faster order delivery to the customers.
Apart from BLE, other IoT technologies such as Wi-Fi and RFID can also be used for the same but BLE provides better results at low deployment costs, cutting operational costs and increasing productivity in a warehouse. Use of GPS (Global Positioning System) doesn’t fetch the required results as most of inventory management is indoors and the GPS signals cannot penetrate the walls of the warehouse.
What is a BLE Beacon and How it Works?
A Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon is a smart Bluetooth device/tag that is capable of bidirectional communication with a smartphone receiver while keeping the energy consumption to minimum.
BLE as a technology was developed by Nokia in 2006 with the name Wibree. The story behind BLE is that Nokia wanted to develop a wireless standard that was just as capable as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but with low energy consumption. Later in 2010 when Bluetooth 4.0 standard was released, Wibree became Bluetooth Low Energy. The Bluetooth low energy 5.4 specifications were launched recently in February 2023.
Like Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy also works between the Ultra High Frequency 2.4 GHz and 2.483 GHz and uses the Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum technique that includes dividing the frequency band between 39 channels with 1MHz width each.
Unlike Bluetooth, the BLE standard only uses three radio frequency (RF) channels RF37, RF38 and RF39 for beacon purposes. This leads to quick scan for devices in the vicinity and quick connection set-up, leading to low energy consumption. Apart from that, the PAwR (Periodic Advertisement with Response) feature requires only low data transmission periodically minimizing the energy consumption even further.
BLE Beacons in Inventory Management Applications
In Inventory management BLE beacons find many applications with respect to item localization and stock count and accurate inventory management. The key advantages of this technology are power saving and light weight BLE beacons and low cost deployment costs.
In warehouses, the BLE beacons are attached to the target objects/assets and act as the signal emitters. The user smartphones using mobile apps act as receivers. The technology is not meant for large from data transmission but only small location data at low power consumption, low latency and fast transactions.
Let’s see some of Inventory management applications of BLE beacons:
Smart inventory management
BLE beacons can be used to track and manage inventory in real time, providing accurate information about the location and status of items.
You can attach BLE beacons to assets such as equipment, tools, and vehicles to track their location and usage, enabling efficient inventory management.
In Kanban system (used in just-in-time manufacturing), BLE beacons can be used to track the status and movement of inventory, ensuring timely replenishment and reducing stockouts.
Remote asset monitoring
BLE enables remote monitoring of assets, allowing inventory managers to track assets in real time and receive alerts for any anomalies or issues.
BLE beacons can help optimize warehouse layout and organization by providing real-time location data, enabling efficient inventory storage and retrieval.
You can also automate inventory replenishment processes by monitoring stock levels and triggering automatic reordering when inventory falls below a certain threshold using BLE beacons.
BLE beacons can be placed on shelves to track the movement of inventory, ensuring accurate stock counts and efficient shelf replenishment.
BLE beacons can be attached to individual products to track their movement and location within a warehouse or distribution center, enabling efficient order fulfillment and reducing errors.
Temperature and humidity monitoring
BLE beacons with built-in sensors can be employed to monitor temperature and humidity levels in storage areas, ensuring optimal conditions for inventory management.
Security and loss prevention
BLE beacons can help prevent theft and loss of inventory by providing real-time tracking and alerts for any unauthorized movement or tampering.
The versatility and flexibility of BLE technology make it a valuable tool for improving efficiency and accuracy in inventory management processes. The low power consumption ensures low cost operations throughout the warehouse which is a deal breaker for small and medium size businesses.
- Last updated on Aug 16, 2023