Achieving room-level accuracy tracking in a low power way
Indoor localisation and tracking of people and objects are an essential capability for many domains. Whilst there are many approaches for tracking objects, such as video imaging processing, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sniffing and bespoke wireless time of flight-based tracking technologies, there are no low power Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) based technologies capable of achieving useful (room-level) location accuracy on the tracked devices for long periods of time without significant mains-powered infrastructure.
The initial focus of the researchers prior to BLEAT, explored how GPS technology could be used to track animal movements every second over long periods of time (months to years). This evolved to thinking about how to extend the technology to track the location of things in the many locations where GPS is not available (indoors, undercover, underground, within dense forests etc).
An industrial placement student was tasked with exploring ideas of how to use Bluetooth beaconing technology (iBeacon/Eddystone) that is used by retail outlets to provide an alert to customers' phones that they are close to a store. The research team discovered a way to exploit everyday BLE packets to achieve room-level accuracy tracking in a low-power way. This algorithm, named BLEAT, enabled them to provide scalable, low cost, low maintenance and low power tracking of people and objects indoors.
BLEAT fuses location information broadcasted from low power infrastructure beacons
BLEAT employs a proprietary localisation algorithm on both custom and commercially available Bluetooth-Enabled Internet of Things (IoT) hardware.
The key function of BLEAT is that the tracking devices (BLEATags) localise themselves by fusing location information broadcast from low power infrastructure beacons (BLEAcons) distributed throughout the environment. Data from BLEATags is communicated from the tags to the BLEAcons via proprietary BLE encoded and encrypted packets. The BLEAcons relay this data to gateways via LoRaWAN (a Long-Range Wireless Area Network standard). Finally, the gateway forwards the packet to the cloud enabling near real-time location and state of the tracked object for analytics, alerting and reporting.
The research, in collaboration with the commercial partner Ynomia , deployed a 250+ device prototype system covering 25 floors of a live construction site to demonstrate it's real-world potential. BLEAT offers an easy to deploy, low cost, low maintenance, long term solution capable of room level accuracy tracking of people and objects throughout various workplaces and sites.
Dramatic opportunities for productivity improvement
The BLEAT technology allows the builder and contractors to have unprecedented information on where resources are, their state and their utilisation in real time and over time.
BLEAT offers dramatic opportunities for productivity improvement (time lost locating objects and people), advanced health and safety (knowledge of people remaining in evacuations, real time alerting to staff and customers of location specific hazards), manage waste, reduce costs and provide previously unattainable knowledge of infrastructure utilisation through analytics (which can be used for optimising, planning, maintenance, cleaning, building etc).
The following have been identified as some of the potential use cases for BLEAT technology;
- Site Managers (private and government organisations)
- Supermarkets (analytical data, asset tracking)
- Wildlife tracking and research
- Health and Safety firms
- Mining (underground, open cut)
- Army bases ( enhanced safety and logistics management)
The researchers have entered into a partnership with Ynomiato commercialise the technology with early adopter trials currently underway on several building sites in Australia and soon to be expanded into the UK and USA. The BLEAT technology is being used to help manage building productivity and safety work streams and also being employed to track High Value materials (facade panels) in the supply chain, from manufacture (in China), transport, off-site storage and through to final installation on high-rise buildings.
BLEAT is also being considered internally at CSIRO for HSE applications such as tracking and tracing of hazardous materials and equipment as well as improved safety management of vehicles and equipment.