Zebra Technologies Says Beacons Mean Business

Bluetooth beacons have been used largely for consumer-facing deployments, but Zebra believes the business world should try the wireless technology on for size.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

"I think, in some cases, IoT has been conveyed to be too complicated," Gerskovich said, pointing to beacons as a way to get up and running quickly.

Zebra is also currently engaged in a pilot in the health-care industry. While Gerskovich told IOT Journal that he could not reveal any partners in the project, he said the focus is to quantify emergency services. When the participating health-care provider dispatches an ambulance to collect a patient who has suffered cardiac arrest, that individual is issued a wristband with an embedded Bluetooth beacon, which transmits its unique identifier to a gateway mounted inside the ambulance. That gateway collects timestamps to track how much time elapses from the start of the trip to the ambulance's arrival at a hospital. Inside the hospital, from the emergency room to operating bays, additional gateways collect the beacon ID, and software compiles a profile detailing the timeline of treatment.

The health-care facility involved in the pilot hopes to better understand how much time it takes to process emergency patients requiring timely treatment. Using beacons, it is looking to identify bottlenecks in its emergencies services so that it might improve its response time.

While some consumers have responded negatively to the use or even presence of beacons, Gerskovich said that during the pilot, "We've found that when patients ask about the purpose of their wristbands and we say that it helps them being [tracked through the emergency response system], they start waving the bracelet in front of the reader to make sure it's being read. Mind you, these people are having heart attacks," but they instantly see the application's value.

This, Gerskovich added, reinforces the idea that consumers will embrace beacon technology if they can clearly see how they can benefit from it.

In the enterprise realm, beacons are not completely unknown—in fact, Hunter said, Gimbal supplies its beacons to a company (which he could not name) that uses them to track the locations of pallets within its warehouses. And earlier this year, labor-management software provider TimeForge rolled out a beacon-based system to help companies view where their personnel and key assets are located. But Zebra Technologies is gunning for wider deployment of beacons in business settings.

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