IoT, Bluetooth and Manufacturing

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, and it is all over the news. Take the New York Times, for example - In the last 3 weeks, there have been 2 major articles in the business section detailing how new technologies are changing the landscape.

First, there was the article on iBeacons and how they will change the way that smartphone users interact with their environment -

Then this morning, more coverage on how BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) implementation is becoming a standard in mobile devices -

Here at GSDware, we're working on some ideas that will allow these emerging technologies to enable a connected manufacturing environment. Using Bluetooth beacons (either under the Apple iBeacon standard or the emerging non-proprietary AltBeacon spec) allows for passive tracking of any company asset.

Manufacturing requires tracking of WIP, assets and staff in order to trace who did what, and where. Technologies that have been used to do accomplish this include bar codes and NFC. It would be a challenge to find a modern manufacturing floor that did not use one or both of these technologies.

Bluetooth beacons are a new technology that offers some interesting features that neither bar codes nor NFC can match. Both bar codes and NFC require the physical presentation of the item in order to track it. Beacons, however, can be tracked passively.

A single receiver in a room is capable of tracking multiple Bluetooth beacons. This makes tracking any asset a possibility. With this technology, you can map the physical flow of your WIP through the factory. You can track staffing bottlenecks. You can even track tool carts, ladders and other physial assets.

Beacons can be purchased for under $10 per unit, and battery life can exceed 2 years. Batteries are replaceable, which allows the investment in beacons to be spread over a long period of time.

The beacons are coming. GSDware is coming with them.