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The Future of Beacons Isn’t Just Retail

This is a guest contribution by Szymon Niemczura, the co-founder and CEO of Kontakt.io. To help navigate the constantly evolving landscape of the location and proximity industry, we invited our friends at Kontakt.io to discuss a case study where proximity technology is used in the healthcare industry.

Guest Contributor

Jun

27

2017

Guest Contributor
Jun 27, 2017

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Despite being incredibly expensive and valuable, healthcare equipment is often misplaced or worse--lost. One great example comes from the Bay Area, where a recent investigation uncovered that a major medical center was taking a huge financial hit simply because they were “unable to locate” 383 assets.

The story included one of my favorite headlines as well as an incredible argument for better asset tracking in hospitals:

"More than $11 million in taxpayer money was used to purchase hospital equipment that has since gone missing from a Bay Area medical center."

Beacon Use Cases Push Boundaries

Most people know Bluetooth beacons as hip marketing tools. You walk into your favorite cafe--boom, a promotion made just for you pops up on your phone. Make a purchase at your local grocery store but forgot your loyalty card--the system automatically adds the purchase and points to your account. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Retail was the first industry to really adopt beacons, but now there are several other industries who want in. More importantly, beacon and Bluetooth experts are by and large expecting huge changes to the way we use beacons. The technology is no longer a marketing nice-to-have but rather a powerhouse for a number of industry use cases. When Kontakt.io’s Head of Sales visited the US and met with dozens of businesses and startups, he found interest in beacons growing in some surprising spaces,  especially one in particular: the healthcare industry.

 “With the sheer size of hospitals and an incredible need to achieve optimal efficiency as well as security and insight into data, the healthcare industry takes the cake for Hot New Vertical in terms of beacon technology.” - Filip Karwala, Kontakt.io

How Bluetooth works in asset tracking

Bluetooth beacons can be attached to assets or employees in a hospital to create a Real Time Location System (RTLS). It sounds dry, but it’s actually incredibly cool and futuristic. While Bluetooth is new to the equation, these “RTLS” systems are not. In fact, hugely established companies have been working with RTLS for decades, adding new layers every time new technologies come along.

RTLS enables managers and others to see where their tools and equipment are in real time, powering the analysis of both legacy and real-time data. It symbolizes the opportunity to optimize each moment and even improve security at every step of every process.

On top of wayfinding and proximity notifications, beacons in hospitals enable:

  • Faster service: give doctors and nurses a beacon so they can be located or directed to nearby patients
  • Better security: affix beacons to at-risk patients and monitor their movements or locate them at a specific moment
  • Increased asset utilization: attach beacons to equipment to find assets, reducing wait times and over-purchasing
  • Enhanced visitor experience: use beacons to transfer patient files to the relevant doctor the moment they step through the door
  • Increased security: let your beacons act as real-time keys and keep the hospital premises safe

Real-world stories can already be found all over the web. THINaër, for example, has been tagging items in hospitals ranging from a 500-tag deployment in a single hospital wing to thousands of tagged assets spanning an entire facility.

Why are hospitals turning to Bluetooth?

The bottom line. Bluetooth Low Energy is, as the name gives away, low energy. Compared to it's competitors, it’s highly efficient which allows it to simply cost less. In fact, it’s estimated that the total first-year costs for a 1000-unit active RFID RTLS, including software and hardware, can easily reach up to $39,100. The cost of implementing that same system with Bluetooth tags hovers around $10,890.

In reality, all beacon use cases, from promotional messaging to asset tracking, are about one final goal: seamless interaction between the physical and digital worlds. While the general public watches the retail industry, beacons continue to scale in other verticals like healthcare and manufacturing. They’re breaking into highly established industries and verticals. The result will--eventually--be seamless digitalization not just in user experience but in everything we do.

If you enjoyed this post, keep an eye out for the next Prox.Report coming in Q3 2017! We will explore the interesting ways various industries are using location and proximity technology for asset tracking.

Szymon Niemczura is the co-founder and CEO of Kontakt.io. A believer in the transformative power of technology, he hopes not only to digitalize the physical world with Bluetooth beacons but to establish strong relationships with inspired thinkers in the IoT space. He is proud to empower Kontakt.io customers with the real-world, contextual information they need to make thoughtful decisions every day.