Waze to Deploy Bluvision’s Directional-Beam Beacons

By Claire Swedberg

Google's social navigation service will employ Bluvision's new BEEKS Plus LR beacons, which offer a longer range and battery life, to pinpoint the locations of Waze users as they drive through tunnels and under bridges.

image_pdfimage_print

Waze, Google‘s social navigation app and website, has begun using Bluvision‘s new BEEKS Plus LR ( Long Range) directional-beam antenna beacons for wayfinding in tunnels and under bridges around the world. Waze has already installed Bluvision’s customized non-directional BEEKS beacons in sections of underground or covered highway in Pittsburgh, as well as in Haifa, Israel. Waze is currently in the process of installing the beacons in Paris and Rio de Janeiro. As Waze does so, it will use the new BEEKS Plus LR beacon, which offers a long battery life and longer read range by focusing its 2.4 GHz signals directly in front of or behind itself.

Commuters worldwide use Waze to share and access crowdsourced traffic and navigation information. The Waze app utilizes a smartphone’s GPS data to identify a user’s location when content is sent, and to deliver traffic information to that phone. However, GPS does not work when a phone is underground or under structures that could block satellite signals, such as tunnels and covered parking areas. In such areas, therefore, users could experience blackouts (known as tunnel-blindness).

For the past six months, Waze has been using a customized version of the BEEKS Plus beacon that offers a faster ping rate, in order to obtain fewer errors for applications involving fast-moving vehicles, as well as a stronger signal.

To get around this problem, Waze has installed Bluetooth beacons at locations where GPS signals are blocked. The company worked with Bluvision to customize its BEEKS Plus beacons so that they would function with applications involving moving vehicles and solve historic, tunnel-specific location challenges. Tweaks included supporting a faster rate of beacon pings to result in fewer errors for situations involving fast-moving vehicles, and a stronger RF signal to provide sufficient overlap of beacons’ coverage. Additionally, the beacons’ adhesive and mounting properties were customized and tested for their ability to withstand such activities as tunnel wall cleaning by heavy-duty machinery.

Waze piloted the customized version of the BEEKS Plus beacon in Haifa approximately six months ago, says Jimmy Buchheim, Bluvision’s CEO. Now, the company is using the beacons permanently in Pittsburgh and Haifa. For those installations, Bluvision mounted the customized BEEKS Plus beacons on tunnel walls in such a way that they can withstand the cleaning brushes and scraping equipment used by highway agencies, according to John Sailer, Bluvision’s COO. To date, Waze has deployed more than 1,000 customized non-directional BEEKS Plus beacons. (Google did not respond to a request for comments.)

Jimmy Buchheim, Bluvision’s CEO

This year, Bluvision developed an antenna that lets a beacon focus its RF signal rather than simply emit a blanket transmission surrounding the beacon on all sides. This antenna has been incorporated into the new BEEKS Plus LR, enabling the beacon to transmit a directional beam in two polarizations—vertical and horizontal. The BEEKS Plus LR has a built-in reflector that a deploying company can adjust electronically and remotely in order to direct its beam to a specific area.

Waze has now started to deploy the BEEKS Plus LR beacons in Paris and Rio de Janeiro, and plans to eventually install them at other locations worldwide. By deploying these beacons, Waze can reduce the amount of power required to achieve the necessary transmission range, thereby extending the battery life to 10 years or more. Alternatively, it can extend the transmission range to a radius exceeding 0.6 mile without increasing power consumption.

Not only can the BEEKS Plus LR beacon offer a long range and low power needs, but a phone or tablet can also pinpoint its own position relative to the beacon, based on the strength of the BLE signal received by the phone. That information can then be used to provide phone and tablet users with location-based notifications, according to a precise location.

That specific location information, based on the tablet’s or phone’s position in relation to the beacon, can be useful for a variety of use cases. For instance, in a store’s doorway, the beacon can transmit a directional signal to the inside of the store, so that a mobile phone app can determine whether that phone is outside or inside the premises.

The BEEKS Plus LR beacon could be used by companies that require long-range transmission only in certain situations. For instance, at a store with coolers for temperature-sensitive food, a retailer could opt to install a version of the beacon with built-in sensors that measure temperature, foot traffic or cooler health, transmitting sensor data in a single direction at a long range. An employee of a consumer brand whose products are in that cooler could then pass a store, even while in a vehicle, and capture the sensor data without having to enter and physically check that sensor’s readings. “From a workflow perspective,” Sailer says, “that is much more efficient.”

The BEEKS Plus LR beacon has a directional beam-forming antenna that can extend the transmission range to a radius exceeding 0.6 mile, without increasing power consumption.

BEEKS Plus LR beacons with vibration sensors could be installed on equipment at industrial sites where those items may be in remote or difficult-to-reach locations. Users could approach the area with a mobile device (with the Bluetooth functionality activated) and use an app to access information regarding that equipment, including its identification number and how much it is vibrating. In that way, they could ascertain whether the equipment is operating, as well as its condition.

The BEEKS Plus LR beacon will also be able to function as a data logger, with 512 kilobytes of optional flash memory for recording temperature and environmental measurements for up to six months.

John Sailer, Bluvision’s COO

According to Sailer, Bluvision provides the beacon hardware and embedded software in the beacons, as well as cloud-based software to provide location engine logic and beacon management. The company also offers a software development kit (SDK) for apps.

In addition, Bluvision is releasing industrial beacons and a new gateway. Both use Power-over-Ethernet and are designed to transmit beacon information to the cloud at low cost, by being easy to install, similarly to the BEEKS Plus LR. However, the company notes, they are built with ruggedized housing.