Blue Maestro Prepares Release of New Bluetooth-Enabled Sensor Products

By Claire Swedberg

The provider of Tempo wireless environmental sensors is launching a waterproof temperature sensor that acts as a data logger, as well as a BLE-enabled temperature-measuring pacifier, a small mobile sensor and a Wi-Fi-based hub.

Blue Maestro was launched two years ago in the United Kingdom to provide wireless sensors to track temperatures and other environmental conditions. With the adoption of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology in the iOS 6 version of the Apple iPhone, Blue Maestro commercially released a BLE-based version of its Tempo sensor. The battery-powered device measures temperature, humidity and air-pressure levels, as often as 24 times an hour, and transmits that data—via a Nordic ID nRF51822 Bluetooth Smart chip utilizing BLE technology—to a smartphone operating the Tempo app. Measuring 3 inches by 3 inches in size, the device is designed to be easily moved from one room to another at a home or business, or outdoors (as long as it does not become immersed in water), in order to capture sensor data and then transmit that information to a phone at a distance of up to 50 meters (164 feet).

To date, the Tempo product is being used primarily by consumers. The company has found that many of its customers own snakes, reptiles or other exotic pets that must live at specific temperature and humidity levels to survive. Those customers place a Tempo device within a tank, where it transmits data to a user's phone located elsewhere in a house or building, so that they can be alerted if conditions become unhealthy for their pets.

Mohamad Foustok (left) and Richard Hancock, Blue Maestro's CTO and CEO, respectively, at this year's Consumer Electronics Show

However, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Las Vegas, Blue Maestro announced the pending release of a device with a business-application focus: a BLE-enabled smart temperature sensor and data logger known as the Tempo Disc. The waterproof device, which will have an IP67 rating and feature a replaceable coin battery with an expected one-year operational life, could be used in scenarios such as the monitoring of environmental conditions of perishable goods as they are transported or stored. Mohamad Foustok, Blue Maestro's CTO, expects the Tempo Disc to be made commercially available in April of this year.

In early 2014, Blue Maestro was looking into other use cases for wireless sensors, and determined that there was a market for an application that would let parents monitor a baby's health via a temperature-sensing pacifier. Other companies have already created thermometers or temperature data loggers built into pacifiers, Foustok says. Those devices typically come with an LCD display on the front to show the temperature reading for parents, but they do not transmit that data.

To make the collection of temperature data more convenient for parents, Blue Maestro launched Pacif-i. The pacifier, like the Tempo, comes with an nRF51822 Bluetooth Smart chip that transmits the information via BLE to a free Blue Maestro app loaded on a user's phone. Pacif-i also contains a thermistor to measure temperature levels, a buzzer that will sound if it ends up missing (assuming a phone user operating the app inputs a request for it to buzz), and a battery to power the temperature sensor and Bluetooth transmitter. The company is now selling the product in limited quantities, and expects to support large-volume commercial sales in January. Current Pacif-i customers are using an app provided to them directly by Blue Maestro, while the app is slated to become available at Google Play and iTunes this month as well.

Typically, Foustok says, parents give the pacifier to a baby who seems sick, perhaps by acting fussy or lethargic. The Pacif-i transmits a temperature reading periodically, turning itself off after five minutes. The smartphone app would then save that data for the parent so that it could be used in the future to, for example, compare against temperature readings taken before or after that span of time.

The app also enables parents to input the time and dosage of medication administration, so that they can track how quickly and to what degree the medicine is reducing a child's fever.

The BLE-enabled Tempo Disc combines a smart temperature sensor and a data logger, and is designed for such applications as the monitoring of environmental conditions of perishable goods as they are transported or stored.

In addition, the Pacif-i app can be used to locate a missing pacifier—for example, if an infant drops it or it falls out of a stroller or behind a crib. The user opens the app and puts it in search mode, and the app determines at what time and day the pacifier was last transmitting to the phone, as well as where that took place, based on the phone's GPS functionality. It can then direct the child's parent to the correct location, such as a park. If the smartphone is within the Pacif-i's read range, the app can enable the user to press a prompt, at which time the phone will transmit instruction to the Pacif-i to activate a buzzer.

Thirdly, the Pacif-i can help parents ensure that a toddler using the pacifier does not wander away in a public place. The Pacif-i, in this case, is set to continue beaconing as long as the parent needs it to do so. If transmission ceases, thus indicating that the child with the Pacif-i has moved beyond the parent's phone range, an alert will sound on his or her phone.

Later this month, the company plans to launch a gateway device, known as the Tempo Anywhere, designed to capture data transmitted by multiple Blue Maestro sensors and then forward that information to a cloud-based server via a Wi-Fi connection. In this way, environmental data can be received at multiple locations, such as in numerous rooms within a single home, and that data is sent to the server so that a home owner or a business manager can view it in real time from any location. In addition, the app can issue an alert via e-mail or text message to authorized parties in the event that an acceptable threshold has been passed.

A third new product, known as the Multi-Sensor tag (being released later this month), is a miniaturized Tempo sensor that an individual can carry in his or her pocket, bag or purse in order to track environmental conditions. This device measures temperature, humidity, pressure, movement and light levels. Foustok believes that hikers, bicyclists and those involved in other outdoors sports would be good customers for the Multi-Sensor tag.

Blue Maestro is an innovation company, Foustok says, and will continue to develop new solutions, while seeking partners such as distributors to sell the products that result. The firm recently won a health-care development contract with the National Health Service (NHS), known as the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), to create a sensor that can detect when a patient opens a medication bottle, thereby creating a record of whether the dispensing of drugs meets a physician's recommendation. The lack of adherence to prescription recommendations in the United Kingdom, as well as in the United States, Foustok says, "is a colossal problem."

The Pacif-i contains a thermistor to measure temperature levels, as well as a buzzer that can be set to sound if the device ends up missing.

The company plans to target patients who intend to adhere to their prescription but simply forget to take medication when they should. Throughout the next 12 months or so, Foustok says, Blue Maestro will explore the use of BLE or other wireless technologies to capture data regarding when a prescription bottle is opened. The company has yet to decide the details of its new solution, but Foustok indicates that it may involve a sensor device built into a bottle cap or a reusable prescription bottle. By the end of 2015, the firm expects to have developed a proof-of-concept version of the medication-adherence tracker. If the NHS determines that the system is viable, it plans to move into the early piloting stage and then to full-scale deployments.

The Pacif-i is expected to be priced at $39, which will cover the cost of data management on the app as well. The Tempo costs $70, while the Multi-Sensor Tag will cost $46. The Tempo Anywhere gateway device has not yet been priced, but is expected to cost between $70 and $80.

The company also plans to offer two other BLE-enabled products during the third quarter of this year: The first is a weather station that combines the functionality provided by Tempo (including temperature, pressure and humidity sensors) with a rain gauge in an integrated device that can then transmit those weather-related details via BLE. The other is a scale that will transmit weight measurements directly to a mobile phone, enabling an app user to collect and track his or her weight historically.