Computing indoor and outdoor positions with LTE Beacon

Computing indoor and outdoor positions with LTE Beacon

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Massive explosion of brands in various segments and the choice of variety have led to an exponential increase of mall shoppers. Consequent to this, there has also been a huge increase in the number of shops in the malls, thereby confusing the shoppers to find their way. In this scenario use of indoor mapping and positioning technology has become essential.

Big brands like Apple, which has recently acquired WifiSlam, and Google already have Indoor Maps for many airports and shopping malls. All it requires is smartphones with built in sensors, gyro, wifi radios, accelerometer, and camera to make indoor mapping possible.

One such company which has progressed rapidly in both indoor and outdoor positioning is Estimote. The company believes that apps of the future won’t be downloaded to phones, computers or tablets. Developers of tomorrow will use the physical world as their canvas. Precise location of people and objects will be accessed programmatically and apps will be “installed” on places.

To make this happen, the company is working on an Operating System for the physical world: a software environment where developers will be able to quickly build apps for one location and run the same experience on many.

To leverage emerging IoT technologies, the company has designed and productized a new device called Estimote LTE Beacon.

Estimote LTE Beacon
Estimote LTE Beacon

What is it like?

It’s a small, wireless beacon that can compute both its precise indoor and outdoor position. It can talk directly to the Cloud and last multiple years on a battery. Estimote LTE Beacons are designed primarily to seamlessly locate assets and vehicles when they move between indoor and outdoor environments. Their secure firmware/Cloud software is crafted to provide true “proof of location” and “proof of delivery”.

Since the device is fully programmable using JavaScript, it can also support other creative use-cases — for example, it can act as a remotely managed iBeacon or a gateway used to configure other Bluetooth beacons.

Smartphone without a screen

The best way to think of this new IoT device is to imagine it as a small smartphone, but without a screen. It can last years between charges and the cost is similar to a beacon. It has cellular LTE connectivity, built-in GPS, and Bluetooth radio. And it is also possible to create and download apps that run on the LTE beacon.

How does the LTE Beacon work?

This LTE-M device can be attached to an asset, e.g. a jet engine manufactured in a factory. When it moves across the production line, the LTE Beacon scans for Bluetooth beacons installed in the factory and reports its precise indoor location to the cloud. When loaded into a truck, it continues to report its outdoor position using satellite systems. It can also report key telemetry data such as temperature, vibration, and battery status.

When the jet engine arrives at a warehouse, it switches back to beacon-tracking for precise indoor positioning. And finally, when the product gets shipped to the end-customer it can automatically report a secure “proof of delivery” signal. The above use case is just one example of how the LTE Beacon can be programmed to work. We have designed an entirely new way of adapting the device to support many Internet of Things applications.

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