A few days ago I attended a pitch event hosted by ABB Synerleap in Stockholm. Participating in the competition was also Distruptive Technologies A/S represented by sales director Ole Petter Novsett. Instead of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), their tags use an own proprietary radio protocol. Just like BLE tags, their tags communicate to a cloud service through a gateway that translates radio signals into data which is forwarded to a cloud server. What is absolutely amazing was the size of these tags which are very small and thin, only 19 * 19 * 2mm, and the promised battery life of 15 years with an update every 15minutes!
We see this as a great solution when it comes to monitoring fixed objects at scale. This could be real estate properties and industries, where sensed data from offices or machinery contribute to build knowledge about windows that have been left open or preventive maintenance. At CargoBeacon, we remain neutral to the radio technology, although we build a lot around BLE today, we would love to extend the platform to also support Disruptive Technology's sensor solution. In conversations with customers, we simply choose the solution we think is best for the intended application. As CargoBeacon also use small tags for BLE, they are still larger and also have a significantly shorter battery life than the technology presented by Disruptive Technologies.
But does not the development of BLE fall behind you might wonder? I would not say so. Most importantly, the way we see it is that their uses cases are different:
- With BLE you search for nearby sensors at any time. BLE beacons send out a radio pulse, often several times per second. For moving objects this becomes important as frequent beaconing allows you to quickly determine whether an object is nearby or not. For example, put scan on your mobile phone to determine if the gadget is nearby or not. With radio pulses transmitted every 15 minutes, you would theoretically need to search for radio signals at least that long to ensure whether objects are nearby or not.
Bluetooth also develops a lot. In January 2019 the Bluetooth 5.1 standard was ratified. This includes how to work with Angle of Arrival and Angle of Departure on radio level. With common grounds from different chip vendors we can expect smartphone support within a couple of years from now. This means an app will not only present the approximate distance to an object you are looking for, the app will also show you the direction to the object.
We also see several initiatives in the market where we are moving towards even more energy-efficient solutions for BLE. I.e. researchers at the University of Michigan work on a BLE chip that provides more than 10 years of battery life powered by a small coin cell battery normally found in watches, see more here.
Another very interesting initiative is Williot who are developing battery free Bluetooth! They develop a chip that harvests energy from radio waves in the air in order to run a proprietary BLE circuit with target price below one dollar. Here we really see great potential in logistics and intelligent packaging.
At CargoBeacon we are following these developments and we will continue to build a platform that enable support for these new radio technologies as they are being introduced to the market and needed by our customers.
Needless to say we are really excited about the future and developing a platform empowered by new technologies!