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Waze to Deploy Bluvision's Directional-Beam Beacons

Google's social navigation service will employ Bluvision's new BEEKS Plus LR beacons, which offer a longer range and battery life, to pinpoint the locations of Waze users as they drive through tunnels and under bridges.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 27, 2016

Waze, Google's social navigation app and website, has begun using Bluvision's new BEEKS Plus LR ( Long Range) directional-beam antenna beacons for wayfinding in tunnels and under bridges around the world. Waze has already installed Bluvision's customized non-directional BEEKS beacons in sections of underground or covered highway in Pittsburgh, as well as in Haifa, Israel. Waze is currently in the process of installing the beacons in Paris and Rio de Janeiro. As Waze does so, it will use the new BEEKS Plus LR beacon, which offers a long battery life and longer read range by focusing its 2.4 GHz signals directly in front of or behind itself.

Commuters worldwide use Waze to share and access crowdsourced traffic and navigation information. The Waze app utilizes a smartphone's GPS data to identify a user's location when content is sent, and to deliver traffic information to that phone. However, GPS does not work when a phone is underground or under structures that could block satellite signals, such as tunnels and covered parking areas. In such areas, therefore, users could experience blackouts (known as tunnel-blindness).

For the past six months, Waze has been using a customized version of the BEEKS Plus beacon that offers a faster ping rate, in order to obtain fewer errors for applications involving fast-moving vehicles, as well as a stronger signal.
To get around this problem, Waze has installed Bluetooth beacons at locations where GPS signals are blocked. The company worked with Bluvision to customize its BEEKS Plus beacons so that they would function with applications involving moving vehicles and solve historic, tunnel-specific location challenges. Tweaks included supporting a faster rate of beacon pings to result in fewer errors for situations involving fast-moving vehicles, and a stronger RF signal to provide sufficient overlap of beacons' coverage. Additionally, the beacons' adhesive and mounting properties were customized and tested for their ability to withstand such activities as tunnel wall cleaning by heavy-duty machinery.

Waze piloted the customized version of the BEEKS Plus beacon in Haifa approximately six months ago, says Jimmy Buchheim, Bluvision's CEO. Now, the company is using the beacons permanently in Pittsburgh and Haifa. For those installations, Bluvision mounted the customized BEEKS Plus beacons on tunnel walls in such a way that they can withstand the cleaning brushes and scraping equipment used by highway agencies, according to John Sailer, Bluvision's COO. To date, Waze has deployed more than 1,000 customized non-directional BEEKS Plus beacons. (Google did not respond to a request for comments.)

Jimmy Buchheim, Bluvision's CEO
This year, Bluvision developed an antenna that lets a beacon focus its RF signal rather than simply emit a blanket transmission surrounding the beacon on all sides. This antenna has been incorporated into the new BEEKS Plus LR, enabling the beacon to transmit a directional beam in two polarizations—vertical and horizontal. The BEEKS Plus LR has a built-in reflector that a deploying company can adjust electronically and remotely in order to direct its beam to a specific area.

Waze has now started to deploy the BEEKS Plus LR beacons in Paris and Rio de Janeiro, and plans to eventually install them at other locations worldwide. By deploying these beacons, Waze can reduce the amount of power required to achieve the necessary transmission range, thereby extending the battery life to 10 years or more. Alternatively, it can extend the transmission range to a radius exceeding 0.6 mile without increasing power consumption.

Not only can the BEEKS Plus LR beacon offer a long range and low power needs, but a phone or tablet can also pinpoint its own position relative to the beacon, based on the strength of the BLE signal received by the phone. That information can then be used to provide phone and tablet users with location-based notifications, according to a precise location.

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