Bluetooth Beacons are rapidly evolving from their traditional role in retail settings to become indispensable tools in inventory and supply chain use cases. In this article, we’ll delve into the inner workings of Bluetooth Beacons, shedding light on their pivotal role and their relationship with gateways.
Understanding the Basics
First, let’s start with some essential definitions:
Bluetooth: This term refers to a technology for transmitting information over mid to short-range distances using radio waves.
Bluetooth Beacon: Often referred to as a tag, Bluetooth beacons come in various form factors such as plastic squares, tags, or labels. These battery-powered devices transmit radio waves, including their unique identifiers and data from attached sensors like temperature and humidity. Some beacons have memory chips for storing sensor data. Unlike devices like Bluetooth speakers or activity trackers that engage in bidirectional communication, Bluetooth beacons primarily transmit data.
Gateway: Also known as an access point, data gateway, or reader, a gateway’s role is to detect Bluetooth beacons, gather their data, and relay it to the cloud. Gateways can be stationary devices, mobile GPS trackers, or even your smartphone. They vary in reading capabilities, including the ability to determine distance and the volume of beacons within their range. They encompass data processing, known as edge computing, and connect to the cloud via ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular networks.
Making It Operational
Now, let’s explore how Bluetooth beacons and gateways work together:
Beacon Location: Bluetooth beacons are unaware of their location, and this information is provided by their respective gateway. When a beacon enters the proximity of a gateway, it is considered to have “entered” the zone. Conversely, when the gateway no longer detects a beacon, it is deemed to have “exited” the zone.
So, how does this translate into real-world applications?
Elevating Supply Chain and Inventory Visibility
Traditionally, Bluetooth beacons have found their niche in temperature logging and monitoring for high-value or high-risk items, such as food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
Enter the Reelables Bluetooth label solution. It offers a cost-effective way to track a broader range of items, including pallets in shipments, cartons within pallets, products on store shelves, equipment transitioning between rooms, and supplies during storage and use. With Reelables’ Bluetooth temperature label, ambient temperature can be monitored throughout a product’s lifecycle.
In supply chain scenarios, visibility can extend to piece-level point-to-point tracking with stationary gateways positioned at key locations within facilities and zones where products move. These gateways can trigger alerts when items do not depart or arrive as expected. Furthermore, mobile gateways enable real-time tracking of individual cartons, helping to identify any losses during transit.
Bluetooth beacons, in tandem with gateways, are revolutionizing inventory and supply chain management, providing a cost-effective and efficient way to track, monitor, and secure a wide array of products and assets. Their potential is vast, and their applications continue to expand, making them a vital component in the modern supply chain landscape.