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Mist's Virtual Bluetooth Beacons Get a Try-out

The company says one of its devices can create unlimited virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (vBLE) beacons within a 2,500-square-foot area, sparing a store the expense of installing and maintaining battery-powered beacons, and enabling it to change those beacons' locations merely by updating the software settings.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 11, 2016

Mobile and cloud-based technology startup Mist Systems, located in Cupertino, Calif., has developed a solution that creates "virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (vBLE) beacons" by using software algorithms and steerable antennas to identify the location of a user's BLE-enabled mobile phone.

The system features what Mist calls a Dynamic BLE Array, incorporated into a device that functions as multiple BLE beacons. The device, which the company refers to as a BLE access point, can typically cover a 2,500-square-foot area—which, according to Sudheer Matta, Mist's product VP, equates to the same amount of coverage provided by eight physical beacons in the same area.

The Mist BT 11 can be mounted on a ceiling to provision unlimited virtual beacons within a 2,500-square-foot area.
Approximately 50 companies in health care, retail or other industries are using, testing or preparing to test the technology. UCLA Health has deployed the Mist solution to help visiting researchers, students and patients navigate its Center for the Health Sciences complex. Stanford Law School, Bowdoin College and Ohio's Hope Hotel have each installed the system as well, to track the movements of individuals and assets.

The advantage of deploying the Mist solution, Matta reports, is that users can change the location at which push notifications occur (traditionally where beacons were installed), in the software, without needing to physically move beacons around a facility.

Mist offers two devices with the Dynamic BLE Array: the Mist BT11, which measures 203 millimeters by 203 millimeters by 40 millimeters (7.99 inches by 7.99 inches by 1.57 inches) and the Mist AP41, which is slightly larger at 215 millimeters by 215 millimeters by 52 millimeters (8.46 inches by 8.46 inches by 2.05 inches). Each device contains 16 directional antennas and a single omni-directional array for sending and receiving BLE transmissions, while the Mist AP41 can also serve as a Wi-Fi access point.

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