Factories can greatly benefit from Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology as it gives you the ability to track assets over a large area at a low cost.
This helps factories reduce bottlenecks in a production line, enhance personnel safety and reduce inefficiencies in locating assets.
What is Bluetooth location?
Bluetooth location services have existed for over a decade and there have been some major improvements over that period of time.
First introduced in 2010 using the RSSI methodology, Bluetooth location services were significantly enhanced in 2019 when Bluetooth introduced Bluetooth Direction Finding, which uses Angle of Arrival (AoA) or Angle of Departure (AoD).
Over the decade of evolution, Bluetooth has become more reliable, more accurate, and with better real-time reporting capabilities.
What is Bluetooth AoA?
Bluetooth Angle of Arrival (AoA) is one of the two methods to get accurate data on where something is located.
It works by having a Bluetooth tag transmit a special direction-finding signal. The receiving device, a Bluetooth gateway that has multiple antennas arranged in an array, receives the signal from the tag.
Location is determined by calculating the phase difference of the transmitted signal between the antennas in the antenna array.
The location data is therefore established on the location engine that interprets the data from the receivers.
What is Bluetooth AoD?
Bluetooth Angle of Departure (AoD) is very similar to AoA, but in reverse.
In an AoD scenario, transmitters with multiple antennas transmit direction-finding signals to a receiver that has a location engine.
The receiver then uses the signals to calculate its own position. Hence, location data is determined on the receiver.
What is RSSI and how does it work?
RSSI stands for received signal strength indicator which establishes the proximity of a beacon based on the power or signal strength.
The closer you are, the better the signal, and vice versa. This signal strength is used to establish your proximity to a beacon.
When it was first introduced, it was a huge leap for Bluetooth, even though its accuracy was only between two to 10 meters.
RSSI would take you close to where the asset is, but not as close to AoA or AoD methods. It was also susceptible to interference.
Comparison between RSSI VS AoA VS AoD
AoA is generally preferred for manufacturing environments. It’s easy to see why when comparing AoA with RSSI.
For one, AoA is newer technology capable of providing far more accurate and reliable data at similar costs as compared to RSSI.
Bluetooth AoA has an average accuracy that gets down to 30 to 50 centimeters in accuracy. To put that into context, 50 centimeters is shorter than an average adult’s arm’s length.
This is a lot better than RSSI, which has a low refresh rate and a 5 to 10-meter accuracy, which is the equivalent of one to two cars’ length.
This accuracy is key to creating a highly-efficient, smart manufacturing process. While your machines might be integrated into an IoT system that enhances their output, the moving parts of your system might still be untracked.
Lightweight, long-lasting AoA beacons make tracking these items much simpler so that you can collect data to boost your process, reduce idleness and enhance efficiency.
|BLE AOA||BLE RSSI|
|Protocol||Locator: BLE 5.1||Locator: BLE 4.1|
|Tag: BLE 5.1||Tag: BLE 4.1|
|Accuracy||0.3-0.5 m||5 m|
|Compatibility||Mobile phone, bracelet, beacon, all kinds of tags||Mobile phone, bracelet, beacon, all kinds of tags|
|Price of locator||Normal||Low|
|Price of tag||Low||Low|
|IoT networking capability||Yes||No|
AoD provides similar benefits, so why is it not preferred?
AoD signals require IQ sampling by the receiver and data processing is more complicated which makes an AoD system more expensive and technically more complex. One of AoD’s benefits is privacy, which isn’t a priority in a factory.
|AoA and AoD Transmitter and Receiver Comparison|
|AoA||Positioning Terminal, Single Antenna||Locating Base Stations, IQ sampling|
|AoD||Locating Base Stations, Antenna Arrays||Positioning Terminal, IQ sampling|
How to choose Bluetooth technology to power your positioning system?
Building a smart manufacturing factory starts with equipping your assets, staff, and buildings with the right Bluetooth technology.
A simple kit that will allow you to create an AoA location service is Dusun’s AoA Location Starter Kit. With three beacons and two gateways, it’s perfect for home, agriculture and industrial use cases. In fact, we have a guide on how you can implement it yourself.
An AoA beacon can be in the form of a watch, card, waterproof fob or even in a smartphone. Depending on the use case in your factory, there will be a device that’s well suited to the environment you need it to be in.
Just like all radio transmissions, a single locator can provide coverage over a limited area, which is why most AoA solutions tend to involve multiple gateways that can cover the area of a warehouse, factory or other buildings.
These AoA gateways then combine processed location data to help locate the Bluetooth beacon relative to these locators.
This relative location can be mapped onto a floor plan, allowing managers the ability to visualize the asset’s real-time location.
How can AoA benefit your smart manufacturing factory?
If you already have a smart factory with cameras and monitoring technology, integrating Bluetooth AoA into your factory can further optimize your processes.
This can bring greater safety, reduction of energy and networking costs, logistical optimization, staff safety and discipline, and lowered labor costs.
Bluetooth AoA can reduce inefficiency
Moving parts used to be difficult to analyze before Bluetooth 5.1 because you could never get the same accuracy with older location services.
With AoA’s sub-meter accuracy, you can now understand the pathing of your assets including staff and tools.
For example, you might have a forklift in your warehouse. However, you notice that the forklift is always taking a big roundabout route in order to get to its destination. Seeing this allows you to start an investigation to find out what is causing this inefficiency.
Having wayfinding data can help you locate the bottlenecks in your floor plan or equipment allocation, allowing you to cut inefficiencies.
Or let’s say you have a fleet of vehicles parked in a yard that is difficult to distinguish from each other. For example, some vehicles have automatic snow chains and others don’t. By tagging these vehicles with individual beacons, you can avoid going to each vehicle and checking if they have the required equipment.
Bluetooth AoA data can reduce pain points
In creating an efficient process, one needs to know where the bottlenecks are.
With AoA technology, you can track the trends in resource allocation, staffing allocation and production time through each step of the production line.
This can help factories know where their pain points are and how to resolve them.
Bluetooth AoA can enhance staff safety
When there is an emergency, you need to find people quickly. For example, you might want to find the injured member of staff and link them up to a first aider.
In a large industrial complex, this might take up valuable time to search for the two key personnel.
With Bluetooth AoA, you will be able to find these two members of staff much more quicker and be able to tell the first aider where to go.
Having a Bluetooth AoA system can also alert you when people who are not allowed in specific, high-risk areas, enter them. Geofencing your factory or warehouse can help you avoid unnecessary dangers.
Bluetooth AoA can help with indoor asset tracking
There are many ways to use Bluetooth AoA to keep track of your assets in order to increase utilization, reduce theft, or to ensure that things are left in a specific location.
In a manufacturing scenario, you might have tools that are expensive and hence you’d want them to be highly utilized. This usually involves sharing some tools among staff. By ensuring your tool’s location is always known, you will be able to reduce the time staff takes to find it and hence increase its utilization.
On the same token, these expensive tools might become targets of theft. With Bluetooth AoA locators, you can ensure that these tools are always in a specific area.
Lastly, some items need to be placed in specific temperature or humidity environments when stored. For example, photosensitive materials or medication. By tagging them with a Bluetooth AoA beacon, you can be sure that these items are stored in a specific place when they are not being worked on.
Dusun has partnered with Navigine for its software expertise that ensures an excellent and efficient user experience.
Use case: Bluetooth AoA brings forklift manufacturers a 90 percent increase in efficiency
In Bluetooth’s blog, they mention a forklift manufacturer where Bluetooth location reporting has saved them a lot of time every day.
The warehouse of company is huge – 20,000 square meters and with an average inventory of 3,000 forklifts.
Forklifts get built and get parked randomly in the warehouse.
When an order comes in, staff spend 10-15 minutes on average to find the appropriate model.
After they implemented a Bluetooth AoA tagging of every forklift that comes off the production line, they saw a 90 percent increase in efficiency as staff only spent an average of one minute to find the appropriate forklift.
In countries with high labor costs, this represents a huge saving, especially considering that Bluetooth AoA tags cost very little money and last up to five years.
A tagging system will also allow virtual tracking of inventories. For example, if a forklift left the warehouse, you could reduce the inventory count of that specific forklift model.
Can Bluetooth AoA help your business?
Bluetooth AoA is one of the many components of Industry 4.0, which focuses on using Internet of Things components to enhance efficiency, output, and safety.
There comes a point where most manufacturing processes hit a stonewall. Implementing technology to capture data to draw out trends is a reasonable next step in order to find out where the bottlenecks are.
In doing so, you will need to seek out an IoT specialist that can supply you with the right sensors, equipment, and advice.
Dusun is ready to help you with our wide range of IoT devices and can advise you on how you can build a system that enhances your manufacturing processes.
Contact us or leave a comment and we will be happy to assist.