LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

LPWAN and Bluetooth

BehrTech Blog

LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

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Given its significant benefits in terms of reliability, minimal latency and security, wired communications has been the backbone of industrial control and automation systems. Nevertheless, as the new wave of IoT applications arises, we quickly see wired solutions reaching their limits.

Trenching cables is inherently cumbersome, capital- and labor-intensive, not to mention the fact that damage to wiring brings the risk of production downtime. Due to the plethora of proprietary wiring protocols, any additions or modifications to the architecture is deemed costly and could even entail a “rip-and-replace” of cables and conduits. The bulky and expensive wired infrastructure thus limits the number of connected endpoints and is highly constrained in terms of range and network capacity.

In direct comparison, wireless networks require far fewer hardware components, and less installation and maintenance costs. As there aren’t any physical cables involved, sensors can be easily attached to mobile assets to tap into a new host of operational data. On top of that, wireless networks make data collection in hard-to-access and hazardous environments possible and can flexibly expand to meet your changing business needs.

The central value around IoT is the unprecedented visibility into existing processes, equipment and production environment that empowers strategic decision-making. Think of applications used for asset maintenance, facility management and worker safety. As opposed to high-bandwidth, time-sensitive communications, many IoT sensor networks send small-sized telemetry data periodically or only when abnormalities are identified. Of even greater importance is their ability to connect vast numbers of distributed field assets and devices to bring granular business insights. With this in mind, wireless connectivity is often the better option to bring your physical “things” online.

Given the bewildering range of wireless solutions available in the market today, choosing the right technology is no easy task. Not all wireless technologies are created equal and not all can manage every use case. For this reason, there is a growing demand in multiprotocol support. Devices that combine the complementary strengths of different wireless standards and frequencies in one design, such as LPWAN and Bluetooth, makes it feasible for more complex sensor networks to exist.

LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

Bluetooth’s ubiquity and global, multi-vendor interoperability has made it the core short-range technology for industrial and commercial IoT projects. Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) enabled devices are often used in conjunction with electronic devices, typically smartphones that serve as a hub for transferring data to the cloud. Nowadays, BLE is widely integrated into fitness and medical wearables (e.g. smartwatches, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, etc.) as well as Smart Home devices (e.g. door locks), where data is conveniently communicated to and visualized on smartphones. The release of the Bluetooth Mesh specification in 2017 aimed to enable a more scalable deployment of BLE devices, particularly in retail contexts. Providing versatile indoor localization features, BLE beacon networks have been used to unlock new service innovations like in-store navigation, personalized promotions, and content delivery.

The challenge with BLE-enabled devices is that they must have a way to reliably transmit data over a distance. The reliance on traditional telecommunications infrastructure like Wi-Fi or cellular has put growth limitations on these sensor networks. Long range communication is often a significant obstacle in industrial settings because Wi-Fi and cellular networks are not always available or reliable where industrial facilitates or equipment are located. This is why a complementary, long-range technology is so important.

Geared for low-bandwidth, low computing end nodes, the newer LPWAN solutions offer highly power-efficient and affordable IoT connectivity in vast, structurally dense environments. No current wireless classes can beat LPWAN when it comes to battery life, device and connectivity costs, and ease of implementation. As the name implies, LPWAN nodes are designed to operate on independent batteries for years, rather than days as with other wireless solutions. They can also transmit over many miles while providing deep penetration capability to connect devices at hard-to-reach indoor and underground locations.

In this context, LPWAN extends the power efficient and high data rate capabilities of BLE devices by serving as a reliable and robust backhaul for long range communication in both complex indoor environments and remote locations. This increases deployment flexibility, reduces the need for costly and complex network infrastructure requirements and makes it more feasible for massive-scale sensor networks to exist.

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For example, LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy together, enable the deployment of IoT networks in a significantly broader geographic area. This flexibility is increasingly important as more IoT sensor networks are deployed in far flung, industrial locations like remote mining, oil and gas and manufacturing facilities.

Together, they also cost-effectively enable critical indoor applications like asset tracking and consumables monitoring that require reliable connectivity for a vast number of end-nodes. The physical barriers and obstructions as well as co-channel interference with other systems often present in indoor environments can create challenges for reliable data communication. However, the long-range, deep indoor penetration and high interference immunity offered by next-gen LPWAN technologies ensures reliable data connection in any large industrial campuses or smart buildings.

Wrapping Up

The success of any IoT deployment is dependent on reliable connectivity, which remains a huge obstacle for numerous industries like mining, manufacturing, oil gas and smart buildings. These industries are faced with complex and often remote environments where traditional wired and wireless connectivity options are not possible as standalone technologies. That’s why combining different technologies that cover each other’s drawbacks while also adding on top their individual advantages is critical for building a reliable and robust IoT network. The combination of LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy in one design, increases flexibility and integration and opens up a new world of exciting industrial and commercial applications. 

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2021 IoT Trends: 5 Industries Expecting Big Gains from IoT Sensor Networks

2021 IoT Trends

2021 IoT Trends

5 Industries Expecting Big Gains from IoT Sensor Networks

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2021 IoT Trends  

The heart of innovation and maintaining a competitive edge is reliable and accessible data. IoT has made it possible for companies to acquire vast amounts of critical data from their assets, people and processes. This data is the lifeblood of reducing costs, improving efficiencies and providing a safer environment for workers. While IoT isn’t a new concept, deploying massive sensor networks has become more urgent than ever for certain industries. Here are the top 5 industries that can expect big gains from IoT in 2021.   

1. Smart Buildings

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the focus on tenant comfort and wellbeing had taken the spotlight in the commercial real estate (CRE) sector in recent years. Realizing that people are the greatest asset in the built environment, companies and owners have turned to IoT and smart building technology to enable a healthy, comfortable and engaging environment. Now, the pandemic is rapidly expediting this trend on a global scale. Smart building technology, especially IoT and wireless sensor solutions, are allowing owners and operators to effectively enforce new building guidelines and protocols, ensuring optimal ventilation, hygiene, distancing and tenants’ wellbeing.

For example, we’ll see a surge in office, retail and hospitality deployments of occupancy sensors that can track the number of people entering, exiting and using specific areas like line ups, waiting rooms, bathrooms, boardrooms, office kitchens etc. This data will be used to pinpoint over and under-utilized areas to streamline janitorial services, ensure safe distancing practices and encourage regular sanitation.

The adoption of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) monitoring solutions will also rise as companies look to measure critical indoor climate factors like air, thermal, acoustic and lighting quality with the goal of enhancing occupant health, improving the quality of life, and reducing stress and potential injuries.

2. Healthcare

Never before is the worldwide healthcare sector under such an enormous strain. Hospitals are fighting to improve the quality of care while essential medical supplies and resources quickly dwindle. COVID-19 pandemic has spurred conversations around the future of IoT in healthcare and how it can safely connect healthcare professionals and patients. But, if we look back before all this happened, the healthcare industry has always been looking for new ways to combat challenges around inefficiencies, supply chain management and operational costs.

There are various IoT technologies delivering unprecedented value in the healthcare industry. Wireless tracking solutions and real-time location systems have stepped in to tackle asset management problems by establishing a real-time map of all critical mobile assets across their facilities – from patient beds and wheelchairs to defibrillators, infusion pumps, ventilators and portable endoscopy equipment. IoT devices assist patients with their medication adherence at home. Sleep monitoring devices can track heart rate, oxygen levels and movements for high-risk patients. Continuous glucose monitoring sensors connect to mobile devices and alert patients and clinicians to changing blood sugar levels.

IoT has opened up a world of possibilities in healthcare, providing invaluable data on patients, staff, facilities and assets. This critical insight not only gives patients more control over their lives and treatment, but improves operational efficiencies so that healthcare professionals can focus more on patient care.

3. Manufacturing

From lowering maintenance costs and enabling new lines of business to improving overall productivity, IoT has become pivotal to maintaining a competitive edge in manufacturing. With new business insights promised from massive-scale sensor networks, it’s no surprise, the Global IoT in Manufacturing market is expected to reach $994 billion by 2023.

In 2020, we saw most companies pivot to remote operations and manufacturing is no different. In addition to ensuring safe, reliable and efficient facilities, companies must contemplate new ways to run their sites. With the loss of onsite workers due to the pandemic crisis— it has become clear the operating model of having everyone in-house needs to change. IoT sensor networks and reliable connected assets are enabling the success of remote operations, like monitoring and maintenance. With real-time data, businesses can better monitor how assets, products and machinery are performing so that they can optimize their use, better anticipate impending failures and identify root causes of issues. Predictive, condition-based maintenance can therefore reduce costly downtime and repairs. With the ability to reduce outages, speed up resolution time and improve uptime, business can also improve customer service, and create new business opportunities and service-level agreements.

4. Oil and Gas

Operating an asset-intensive industry, oil and gas companies are constantly striving to maximize equipment performance and output. As such, it’s no surprise that around 65% of businesses cite optimization and predictive maintenance as the top focus on their IoT radar. Advanced wireless connectivity and low-cost sensors are helping to digitize and enhance assets and processes that used to be disconnected, creating positive impacts on the bottom line.

For example, wireless IoT sensors can monitor field equipment in remote, far flung locations. Any off-spec conditions can be immediately spotted, so informed decisions can be made on when and how maintenance should be executed; increasing equipment uptime and contributing to higher production output.

Moreover, many processes that used to require inefficient manual labor like level monitoring of reservoirs can also benefit from the deployment of wireless IoT sensors to enable effective coordination of task logistics. IoT can also automate on-site supervision and asset monitoring to enhance workers’ health and safety. As fewer field trips are required, employees are less exposed to potential dangers. And even when they need to be onsite, risk can be mitigated as useful insights from IoT sensors allow technicians to better prepare themselves in advance.

5. Agriculture

Faced with tough challenges of exploding world population, dwindling arable lands and natural resources, alongside growing extreme climate events, the agriculture sector is under undue pressure. In a quest to improve yields while minimizing resource usage, global farmers are turning to IoT and precision agriculture practices

The worldwide AgTech market is growing dynamically at 12.8% CAGR and expected to reach around $ 5.5 billion by 2021. Farm activities could produce around 100,000 data points per hectare by merging data sources and using new technologies such as IoT. This data is being translated into actionable knowledge for farmers to enable stable and respectively higher yields with fewer resources like fertilizer, water and energy per ha. Ultimately, this will results in higher profitability and long-term sustainability amidst the growing pressure from climate change.

2021 IoT trends will see massive adoption across numerous industries.

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3 Great Benefits of IoT for Healthcare Asset Management

healthcare asset management

BehrTech Blog

IoT for Healthcare: 3 Great Benefits of Asset Management

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Never before is the worldwide healthcare sector under such an enormous strain. Hospitals are in a fight for essential medical supplies as resources quickly dwindles. The global pandemic has surely triggered an unprecedented crisis. But, if we look back on shortly before all this happened, the healthcare industry had long been struggling with effective asset management and resource utilization.

The Challenge of Healthcare Asset Management in Numbers

According to GE Healthcare, hospitals own 35000 inventory SKU, but the utilization rate hovers between 32 and 38 percent. Large amounts of assets routinely get “lost in inventory” due to misplacement and misuse and simply couldn’t be found when they are needed. The lack of resource visibility is also a major underlying cause of dampened productivity among healthcare workers. Typically, a nurse spends 20 minutes per shift only trying to search for the required equipment, which causes a $500,000 loss in non-productive work. What’s more, failing to know where the assets are, could result in poor maintenance of tools and equipment, and delay responses when emergencies arise.

Medical instrument theft is another issue that’s just as pressing. In England alone, a staggering £13 million worth of hospital equipment at the National Health Service (NHS) facilities goes missing annually. In Germany, one of the latest incidents involved almost 50,000 stolen protective face masks from the logistics center for Cologne’s medical clinics. Beyond the high costs of asset replacement, these theft incidents are conducive to a much more dreadful consequence: Patients may not be able to get timely treatment, given the absence of lifesaving equipment.

The current situation has urged global healthcare providers to rethink the way they manage their assets in the long run. Manual record-keeping approaches with Excel and electronic databases have proved to fall short as they are labor-intensive while leaving plenty of room for errors. Without the knowledge of where the assets are and how they are being used/stored, hospitals risk not only losing and wasting their critical resources but also impairing care quality. In times of crisis, these challenges can quickly escalate.

[bctt tweet=”Global healthcare providers are under pressure to rethink how they manage their assets to improve patient care.”]

How Could IoT Help in Healthcare Asset Management?

With the Internet of Things (IoT), wireless tracking solutions and real-time location systems have stepped in to tackle asset management problems across industries. In healthcare, the potential impact is tremendous. By implementing an IoT-enabled wireless tracking system, hospitals can establish a real-time map of all critical mobile assets across their facilities – from patient beds and wheelchairs to defibrillators, infusion pumps, ventilators and portable endoscopy equipment. Having location data of medical instruments at their fingertips, staff can swiftly mobilize tools and equipment as required. At the same time, underutilized assets that have been idle for a long time could be effectively pinpointed.

In parallel to location tracking, IoT environmental sensors could also be deployed to ensure optimal storage conditions of medical supplies. For example, they can continuously monitor the temperature and humidity of pharmaceutical products or air quality at sterile storage rooms for clean instruments. This way, any failures of HVAC equipment could be timely detected for immediate counteractions.

By rendering illuminating insights into existing assets and their conditions, IoT empowers healthcare service providers to enhance operations and resource efficiency in multiple ways.

1. Accelerate Response Time and Improve Patient Care 

To keep up with the influx of patients, medical equipment must be readily available and can function properly and safely. Being able to locate assets within seconds, front-line nurses can eliminate wasted search time to improve productivity, shorten patients’ waiting time and accelerate responses in emergencies. Effective tracking also means that equipment and tools can be timely sanitized, serviced or re-ordered to be immediately ready when they are needed most.

2. Improve Asset Utilization

Knowing exactly which assets have sat unused for a while, hospital staff can reassess their demand and consider transferring them to other locations and facilities that are in higher need. With location data, misplacement and theft attempts can also be detected to circumvent inventory shrinkage and increase utilization rate.

3. Reduce costs

Complete asset visibility allows for accurate inventory calculation and usage forecast, so hospital managers can make informed purchasing decisions to minimize redundant orders. This, in turn, eliminates surplus inventory of low-usage assets and associated maintenance costs, so financial resources can be diverted to high-demand vital equipment.

Final Thoughts

As medical treatments become increasingly sophisticated, the amount of dispersed equipment, tools and instruments used in hospital operations has drastically grown. In this context, effective asset management is crucial to ensure patients could have immediate access to medical supplies and capital investment is successfully allocated to good use. Having a system in place to optimize resource usage and workflow execution not only augments healthcare quality, but also facilitates quick and agile responses when emergencies arise.

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