The Green Sheet Online Edition
March 14, 2016 • Issue 16:03:01
Locate, manage, monitor BLE devices
Fathom, a new business unit of Vancouver, Canada-based Rx Networks Inc., created a hardware and software solution designed to manage large scale Bluetooth beacon deployments. For the past decade, Rx Networks has provided hybrid positioning solutions, leveraging Global Navigation Satellite System, Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and sensor technologies in indoor, outdoor and 3D applications. Fathom draws from its mobile positioning heritage to address challenges facing indoor location, proximity and Internet of Things markets.
"With 10 years' experience and a billion mobile devices relying on our core positioning technologies, we understand location," said Guylain Roy-MacHabée, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rx Networks. "And after three years of research and development, we are proud to launch our new business unit, Fathom. We are confident Fathom will solve a very real and very painful problem for a lot of companies deploying beacons: ease of operation and location-context integrity."
Bluetooth beacon device populations can be challenging to manage, especially when hundreds and thousands of devices are deployed. Roy-MacHabée additionally noted that the lifetime of beacons is not always as advertised. "Previously, owners had to rely on feet on the ground to determine if a beacon device had failed," he said. "Imagine how challenging it would be for retailers to manage 400 of these devices over a long-term deployment."
The Fathom hub is designed to transform each individual beacon into a self-tracking device, enabling owners to locate, manage and continuously monitor stand-alone BLE beacons within a managed proximity network. The cloud-based Fathom Control Panel displays alerts when an individual beacon is moved, lost or runs low on battery power. Fathom also captures location data from nearby BLE devices that can be used for marketing, resource monitoring and data analytics.
Expanding BLE network
Battery-operated Bluetooth devices are typically used to trigger an event on a mobile device, such as notifying users when they are within a beacon's range. ABI Research predicted BLE beacon shipments will exceed 400 million by 2020. "[This] year there have been significant advances around network management, meshing, technology hybridization and software-based beacon upgrades," said ABI Principal Analyst Patrick Connolly. "All of these advances are creating confidence with huge shipments into unexpected areas like asset tracking and industrial."
Fathom identified further examples of how industries are using its BLE technology to manage enterprises remotely:
- Retail: BLE can detect the number of customers in departments and checkout lanes, enabling retailers to direct staff to high traffic areas. Customers who opt in to loyalty programs can receive targeted promotions on mobile devices. Vendors can use smart planograms to track shelf positioning. Smart displays catering to connected consumers help retailers monetize their investment in BLE technology.
- Transportation: In a bus terminal with hundreds of identical vehicles, a mechanic can be directed to "Bus 57" with ease.
- Healthcare: Expensive medical equipment can quickly be located as it's moved around the hospital. No time is wasted searching for it.
- Entertainment: In a museum, employees no longer need to walk around daily to check that the beacons are where they should be and the batteries work; they can simply look on the Fathom Control dashboard.
Channel partnerships available
Fathom has completed pilot tests in the retail and transportation industries and plans to make the Fathom family of products available for purchase worldwide to select channel partners in the second quarter of 2016.
The company noted that Fathom can be fully integrated into wide-scale enterprise networks through its data and service application programming interfaces, enabling custom data analytics and integration with other software applications. In addition to its ongoing locating, managing and monitoring of beacon device populations, Fathom offers data analytics, which can provide insights on product positioning and consumer behavior.
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