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Locationing for Fun and Profit – Part 2: Micro-Locationing

By Chris Grundemann, Blog Contributor
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In the first post of this two-part series on locationing, I covered some of the top use cases for real-time location services (RTLS) and introduced the Aruba Analytics and Location Engine (ALE). Now that you’ve read that blog, you know how impactful Wi-Fi analytics can be for your business. By freeing data that already exists in your Wi-Fi network, you can make powerful business decisions based on the real-time location of customers and employees.

As valuable as these insights are, Wi-Fi analytics do have some inherent limitations. When discussing locationing, two of the key metrics are latency and precision. Based on the way that mobile devices and mobile operating systems use Wi-Fi, the best precision we can get using Wi-Fi only is about 5 meters to 10 meters and the best latency is in the range of 15 seconds to 2 minutes. This is more than adequate for providing business intelligence but falls short of the requirements for micro-locationing.

Micro-Locationing?

The term micro-locationing, at least in this context, simply refers to high-precision and low-latency locationing. When we crank the precision of our location data up and dial down the latency required to provide that data, a whole new set of use cases emerges.

One of the primary use cases opened up with micro-locationing is indoor navigation. Large venues like shopping malls, museums, airports, sports and entertainment venues, corporate or college campuses, and even large retailers are often hard to find your way around in. In today’s world of GPS and turn-by-turn directions, customers now expect a similar experience indoors. They want to see their ‘blue dot’ on a map that provides context-aware navigation.

Of course, once you know precisely where a specific customer is within your venue, you can do more than help them find their way. You can provide interesting and custom experiences, like delivering a beer right to their seat in a crowded stadium.

The other side of the location coin, is proximity. Proximity is all about engagement. How great would it be to be able to push a notification about recent news or a sale or other campaign when a customer walks past your store – or a specific display within your store?

Or maybe you want to combine location and proximity services to create a self-guided tour through your museum. With micro-locationing you can provide directions to the specific exhibits that individual wants to see, and when they get there you can push the relevant information directly to their mobile device. This could be interesting in an amusement park as well. Leave your creative ideas in the comments below!

One more use case worth mentioning is asset tracking. If you can locate a person, you can locate an expensive piece of equipment too. The cost of the equipment isn’t the only reason to track its location though. In healthcare facilities, knowing exactly where the machine or tool you need in real time can be a matter of life and death.

Aruba Beacons

So if Wi-Fi isn’t capable of providing the needed precision and latency for these micro-locationing services, what is?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the answer. You can use Aruba Beacons to provide a BLE overlay capable of high precision (3 to 5 meters) and low latency (1 to 2 seconds) location and proximity information throughout pretty much any space.

Aruba makes this easy too. If you’re using any of the newer Aruba APs, there’s a good chance they have beacons built in. If not, you can just plug a USB Beacon right into a USB port. When you need to add beacons somewhere that doesn’t have an AP, Aruba offers two battery-powered options. The physically smaller Event Beacon has a four-month battery life and the standard Aruba Beacon can be left alone for as long as four years. Low-maintenance indeed.

Aruba Meridian

Having accurate and timely location data is one thing, putting it to use is another. That’s where Aruba Meridian comes in.

Meridian is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that provides location services for mobile engagement and asset tracking. You can use the Meridian SDK to write a custom app, or make an existing app location-aware. Don’t know how to do that? Don’t worry, there’s an AppMaker that lets you spin up your own app quicker and less expensively than developing it from scratch. There are even Meridian configuration apps that let you set up your Aruba Beacons and Tags in no time.

All of this means that you have no excuses. So how will you put micro-locationing with BLE to use in your environment?

Tags:

  • Beacons
  • BLE
  • GestaltIT
  • Meridian
  • RTLS
  • Wi-Fi