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TimeForge Intros Beacon-based Solution for Managing Staff, Assets

The company's PlaceForge system can locate personnel in real time via Bluetooth readers that receive signals from beacons incorporated into key fobs.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 29, 2014

TimeForge, a provider of online labor-management software, is introducing a solution that leverages Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to help companies view where their personnel and key assets are and have been. The solution, known as PlaceForge, includes Bluetooth beacons provided by Gimbal and Radius Networks, as well as TimeForge Bluetooth readers consisting of omni-directional antennas and a credit-card-sized Linux single-board computer, known as Raspberry Pi.

PlaceForge represents the company's first foray into real-time tracking and asset management. Previously, the firm has used time clocks and proximity cards to monitor employee clock-ins and clock-outs, according to Anthony Presley, who founded the company in 2004 with Erik van Gilder.

The PlaceForge reader, called a hub, is designed to receive the signals of a Bluetooth beacon located up to 100 feet away.
"I really liked the Bluetooth beacons I saw at the NRF [National Retail Federation] show last year," Presley says, "but much of the focus has been on delivering coupons, etc." Last March, he and his colleagues began exploring the idea of employing Bluetooth technology to track assets, such as pallet jacks used to lift and move heavy pallets of inventory or materials within warehouses, on loading docks or at job sites. "Where things got interesting was the idea of putting beacons on staff members and using a reader with Wi-Fi that could track those beacons 50 meters in any direction," That, he says, was the genesis of PlaceForge.

PlaceForge readers (hubs) are placed around a store, warehouse, restaurant or other site, typically affixed to the ceiling. An average grocery store would require about 50 hubs for full coverage, Presley says. "We can provide a complete solution in a large grocery store for under $10,000," he states.

Specifically, Presley explains, a 30,000-square-foot store would need anywhere from five to 20 hubs, depending on the coverage and accuracy desired, and each employee to be tracked would be issued a beacon in the form of a key fob. The upfront hardware costs include approximately $150 per hub and $50 per fob; there are also monthly or annual recurring fees for the service, which includes data analysis.

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