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CenTrak Builds BLE Beacon Functionality Into RTLS Devices

The real-time location system company is providing beacons in its devices to enable hospitals to provide wayfinding services to visitors, while also selling standalone beacons for other industries.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 20, 2018

Enterprise location services company CenTrak has begun manufacturing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and embedding them into its sensor devices to provide its customers with wayfinding functionality that CenTrak supervises to monitor battery life and system status. The inclusion of BLE beacons into its devices, the company says, enables health-care facilities to provide wayfinding apps for visitors, while CenTrak will manage the beacons' status, battery life and functionality for the hospitals. The company also intends to offer its BLE beacons as standalone products for companies beyond the health-care market.

The BLE inclusion is part of the company's strategy to provide flexible Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for the health-care market, says Wil Lukens, CenTrak's chief commercial officer. With BLE, users can employ their own mobile devices, such as smartphones, to communicate with the CenTrak devices and link to the company's Enterprise Location Services Infrastructure software.

CenTrak already offers location solutions using Wi-Fi, active UHF RFID and Second Generation Infrared (Gen2IR). It enables not only the real-time location of employees, patients and assets, but also hand hygiene compliance solutions and the tracking of electronic health records, using a variety of technologies to provide location awareness. For instance, battery-powered 900 MHz RFID tags on products or wristbands can receive Gen2IR signals from transmitters to determine the room-level location, then transit their ID numbers and location information to RFID readers, which forward that data to the back-end system.

In recent years, a growing number of CenTrak's hospital customers have been either deploying BLE-based systems or planning such technology deployments, in order to help visitors navigate their large spaces. Often, people who visit hospitals are first-time guests, and finding their way around a busy facility is often challenging. That challenge is compounded if the hospital is large, as is the case for many of CenTrak's customers—some cover millions of square feet.

For that reason, the company reports, BLE has been a popular technology to provide an app-based solution. Users can download a hospital's app and then view their own location, based on beacon data captured from units installed around the facility, on a map of the hospital. They can then input their destination and be guided to a particular department or office.

Centrak's RTLS technology provides real-time clinical-grade location data for patients, staff members, equipment and visitors, Lukens explains, by pinpointing a tag worn by a person, or attached to an asset, with what he says is 100 percent certainty. BLE provides a way for users to gain much less granular data regarding their own location, using technology they already have on hand—their mobile phone or tablet.

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