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Open and Say “BLE”

April 14, 2017 | Dr. Dave Dawson, Research Scientist

Picture of cell phone

Imagine passing by a clearance rack in a department store and an app on your phone alerting you to the presence on that rack of a shirt that is your size and of a color and style similar to shirts you have purchased in the past.  

Now, imagine arriving on the 10th floor of a large office building for the first time and your phone shows you a list of the offices on that floor and if you select one, the app displays a floor plan and path for you to follow to the office you are seeking.  

Next, imagine walking up to the faucet parts bay in the plumbing fixtures section of a home improvement store and getting a step-by-step video on your phone about how to repair or replace a faucet.

Finally, imagine that technology applied in learning environments of all types.

Location Based Services (LBS), the technology underlying mobile apps that tells users about things that are near them, like restaurants, gas stations, or retail stores is a relatively mature technology, mostly based on the Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS) satellite network.

 

Next Exit History TM is an example of such an application which Dave Dawson, Research Scientist at the UWF Innovation Institute has direct experience with as one of the principals in its implementation. Dr. Dawson found one major drawback to applications dependent on GPS technology is that the device hosting the application must be able to capture signals from at least 3 satellites to get an accurate triangulation of the device’s location. This is especially problematic if the user happens to be in a deep valley, in the downtown area of a large city with many tall buildings, or are indoors.

One solution to this problem is the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacon technology.

Beacons are usually very small, consume very little power (they are usually powered by a Quarter-sized battery that lasts up to a year), and are extremely simple because all they do is broadcast their unique identification data. Beacons can be placed outdoors or indoors, and adjusted in transmit range to as little as two meters or as much as 100 meters.

An Application that is listening for Bluetooth beacons and knows who you are has a powerful combination of data that can be used to customize information, images, video maps, forms or any other digital resource that can be delivered to the user via cellular data services, messaging services, wifi, and even bluetooth itself.

Recent developments in standards, architecture and application platforms have made the integration of BLE beacons into applications and the development of content that can be associated with locations and personal identities a natural extension of content management systems, but with greatly enhanced conditions for delivery.

This is a very exciting field that the UWF Innovation Institute is exploring in a number of ways to leverage BLE beacon technology to improve performance and increase the effectiveness of training.