Industry beacons: what are they and why use them?
ibeacon beacons are small electronic devices for wireless communication. These devices transmit a continuous radio signal of the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) type. They are usually common in places of great circulation such as:
- Hospitals and tourist spots
It is to trigger actions or send relevant information to the public.
What is the definition of ibeacon beacon?
The literal translation of beacon would be “beacon”. And, in a way, it is a part of what they do, giving signals about their location and identification.
ibeacon beacons are gaining more and more attention in Industry 4.0. They are achieving high accuracy in the placement of assets indoors. Moreover, it is a very difficult task given the complexity that such environments have.
That’s why, in companies that are implementing digitized processes and IoT technologies. Similarly, small beacons and BLE tags play an important role in ensuring that all areas of the company communicate and work in an integrated manner.
This post will explain how ibeacon beacons work, their applications, advantages of use in industrial environments. We shall also read Asset Management and Maintenance routines. Check it out below!
How do beacons work?
Beacons are unidirectional transmitters and are not capable of receiving data. In addition, Bluetooth Low Energy technology only allows the transmission of a few bytes of information. Therefore, most beacons only send their ID – a 20-byte character string consisting of three values:
A universally unique identifier (UUID) – 16 bytes
- A major value (major) – 2 bytes
- A minor value(minor) – 2 bytes
Taking an industry as an example, the unique identifier (UUID) would inform the company to which the beacon belongs. The primary value would indicate which shed it should be in and the secondary value. Moreover, which equipment (or room) it attaches to.
Typically all beacons within a company use the same UUID and use the major and minor values to segment and divide subspaces.
ibeacon beacon are capable of transmitting information
In addition to these three values, each ibeacon beacon also transmits information about its signal strength. This information is common to calculate how far away the worker is from it.
The average transmission range of a beacon is 50 meters, but some long ranges can reach up to 450 meters.
How does the beacon transmit data?
All this data receives via Bluetooth on mobile devices. They have an application prepared to read this data. This application usually sends the captured ID to a server. Moreover, it identifies the action it is associated with and returns this information to the device.
This action associated with each beacon (ID), which is reflected on the user’s device, is configurable: it can trigger a push notification, an indication of the proximity of certain equipment, or the unlocking of options within a maintenance management application, such as we’ll see soon.
Applications and possibilities of use
What are the practical applications and how can beacons be useful in my industry?
The use of the ibeacon beacon implies better monitoring of workers’ activities and equipment performance, in addition to the quick identification and location of assets and areas of your company. See below some practical examples of the application of this technology in industrial environments.
Monitoring of areas and machines
Some beacons have built-in temperature, lighting, and gas sensors. They monitor the condition of equipment or the areas in which they are located.
If a room gets too hot or if there are smoke signals, the beacon, through a gateway connected to the WiFi network, sends an alert to a server that informs the maintenance technician responsible for that sector.
In companies where privacy and security are the major concern, it is also possible to install presence sensor beacons that disable (if authorized) some features on mobile devices such as cameras or microphones to protect sensitive information.
ibeacon beacon Equipment location
Because they take care of large areas and a multitude of equipment distributed in different warehouses, maintenance technicians often find it difficult to locate an asset.
What is the range of beacons?
ibeacon beacon can go a long way in avoiding these problems. Just attach them to equipment or strategic areas of the plant and activate the Bluetooth connection for mobile devices so they can be located.
This directly contributes to the improvement of the MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) indicator, as quickly locating and identifying an asset obviously reduces its average repair time.
How to attach the ibeacon beacon to badges?
It is possible to attach beacons to badges or maintenance technicians’ helmets to know in real-time where each employee is and understand the movement of the entire team.
In inspection routes, for example, beacons can play a fundamental role, recording (or not) the technician’s passage through all the foreseen points. This raises the reliability levels not only of the information collected, but also of the plant in general.
It works like this: when the maintainer passes close to an ibeacon beacon, the application automatically crosses its signal and identifies which equipment (or location) it belongs to. With this information, he only unlocks the maintenance order related to this object and only then the technician can record his hours and activities.
Technician Qualification is vital
And that’s not all: in addition to guaranteeing physical presence, it is important to guarantee the technician’s qualification in certain activities. Identify whether the person involved in a specific task is a certified and properly trained worker.
We may also use beacons integrated into the company’s Human Resources system, for time recording, idle and productive hours. Knowing the time that a certain employee arrived, ended the shift, preventing him from staying in the company for longer than the time allowed.
Inventory Tracking of ibeacon beacon
We know how long it can take to locate an item in stock or in the warehouse, depending on the complexity of the industrial operation. And every second counts.
Imagine corrective maintenance with equipment idle waiting for a part to be located in stock.
Using an inventory management application with ibeacon beacons, the storekeeper receives the emitted signal and quickly locates the item as it passes close to him.
Using this technology in shipping goods also makes it more efficient. This is because, at the same time that it ensures greater flexibility in the material separation process, it prevents the supply of an incorrect component due to misidentification, preventing loss and rework.