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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

Many larger hospitals are already using the Centrak solution for real-time location and have installed a separate BLE beacon network. However, Lukens says, that means higher installation costs, and the beacons come with some challenges. Because they rely on batteries to operate, and because they can be removed or damaged, it can be difficult to ensure that they are all in full operating condition without dispatching workers to physically check the beacons.

CenTrak has developed its own beacon to be ubiquitous in all of its Gen2IR emitting devices, as well as in a standalone unit. The beacon is designed to require low energy, Lukens says. "Also, we're powering it with a very powerful battery," he states, which comes with a five-year guarantee. When the beacon is built into the devices, its power is monitored by CenTrak's Enterprise Location Services Infrastructure software. If a problem occurs with a beacon, the software can alert a user to this issue.

For hospitals, Lukens says, "Primarily, the interest is in wayfinding"—emulating the "blue dot" experience, in which users can view their own movements on their phone screen while passing through a facility. But companies could use the technology for other purposes as well, such as locating the devices themselves. For instance, he explains, if a hospital were distributing smartphones or tablets among staff members, it could utilize BLE technology built into its existing system, or as a standalone solution, to locate those items and ensure that they do not leave the facility or become misplaced.

CenTrak is offering a trial program by which users can install the beacon devices temporarily every 35 feet or so, in order to quickly set up a network and determine what benefits it provides. Several million Gen2IR emitting devices are already in use worldwide, Lukens reports. The firm is offering an upgrade program to its 1,000 existing health-care facility customers using those devices, enabling them to exchange such devices for BLE-enabled products.

The company intends to sell all of its Gen2IR devices with beacons built in, and customers can use that functionality now, or in the future. "The demand has been so significant," Lukens says, "that it made sense" to include the technology in all products. It is also selling standalone beacons at a cost of $20 apiece, for companies to use for wayfinding, or for asset tracking in area where zonal location-based data is sufficient.

Currently, between five and 10 of CenTrak's customers have already deployed the BLE-enabled devices. Those companies, Lukens says, are using the beacons with their own apps to provide wayfinding for their visitors, patients and employees.

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