For years, Cassia Networks has delivered reliable, long-range multiple-device connectivity, edge-processing, and location services solutions for Bluetooth® enabled IoT networks. Supporting a wide range of markets, from industrial IoT and digital healthcare to smart campus and personnel and asset tracking, Cassia’s enterprise Bluetooth IoT products and solutions are deployed around the world.

In a recent podcast, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) interviewed Felix Zhao, CEO of Cassia Networks, to discuss how the company is working with today’s leading solution providers and partners to provide personnel and asset tracking management solutions and location services that rely on Bluetooth technology.

Q&A with Felix Zhao

How is Cassia working with solution providers to enable positioning and location services using Bluetooth technology?

For Bluetooth tag and beacon vendors and Bluetooth Location Services solution providers, Cassia provides Bluetooth enabled gateways and Bluetooth IoT management software. Our partners provide the Bluetooth tags, beacons, and application software. The combined location services solutions have been widely used for personnel and asset tracking applications for various industries, such as industrial, healthcare, education, construction, and retail, in many countries and regions.

Bluetooth® positioning technology plays an important role in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

For example, Cassia is working closely with Kontakt.io to provide key asset tracking management solutions. This combined solution has been successfully deployed and used in various markets (e.g., medical manufacturing factories) to track personnel and assets in real time.

Cassia has also been working closely with our location services solution provider partner in China to develop a personnel tracking solution for petrochemical factories. These types of factories are high-risk environments, and this solution allows management to track the location of personnel in real-time and send notifications/alerts in the event an employee’s health and safety are at risk. The solution helps keep workers safe and ensures workplace health and safety policies are met.­

Furthermore, Bluetooth positioning technology plays an important role in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. By deploying an asset tracking solution powered by Bluetooth technology, medical staff can easily track and monitor patients as well as locate medical assets such as wheelchairs, crash carts, and ventilators. Cassia is currently working with several healthcare solution providers to provide personnel and asset tracking solutions based on Bluetooth positioning technology.

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How can Bluetooth technology help solve location and positioning challenges?

Traditional positioning technology, such as GPS, does not work well in an indoor environment. Bluetooth® technology helps to overcome this challenge. The signal strength (converted to an RSSI value) of a Bluetooth tag or other Bluetooth enabled device received by the Bluetooth gateway is inversely related to the distance. That is, as distance increases, the Bluetooth signal strength or RSSI value gradually decreases.

As a result, one can determine if a Bluetooth end device is in the coverage area of a Bluetooth gateway and the approximate distance between the Bluetooth device and the gateway. This is the simplest form of Bluetooth location services: point of presence.

If there are three or more Bluetooth gateways receiving broadcast signals from the same Bluetooth end device at the same time, the coordinates of the device can be calculated more accurately through a trilateration algorithm.  The accuracy is generally around three to five meters. This is the second form of Bluetooth location services.

These location services solutions are suitable for various applications, such as personnel and asset tracking in schools, hospitals, and factories. Cassia’s Bluetooth gateways and IoT Access Controller (AC) currently support all the above location services applications.

We are also currently working on new products and solutions designed to significantly improve accuracy (e.g., with sub-one-meter accuracy) using Bluetooth angle of arrival (AoA)/ angle of departure AoD positioning technology.

Why have you chosen to use Bluetooth technology, and what value does it offer?

We have chosen to focus on Bluetooth® technology because we see the value Bluetooth offers for the IoT and location services applications.

Compared with other wireless technologies, the cost of a Bluetooth® chip and module is significantly lower.

The first reason is the low power consumption and long battery life. Tags and beacons, for example, are usually powered by batteries. The minimal power consumption of Bluetooth technology can significantly extend the battery life of these devices compared to other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, where battery life will only last a few days or weeks at most. The advantage for the end user is a significant reduction in maintenance and equipment costs.

The second reason is the low cost. Compared with other wireless technologies, the cost of a Bluetooth chip and module is significantly lower. This plays a critical role in the IoT, especially for enterprises looking to reduce costs and improve their bottom line. 

Third, Bluetooth technology is one of the most common connectivity standards and is universally accepted. For instance, the 2.4 GHz band is available worldwide, which makes it a standard for low-power wireless connectivity. Because of the ubiquitous nature of Bluetooth technology, end users are less concerned with compatibility issues and/or having to customize different end devices for different countries.

Last, the market for Bluetooth technology is growing rapidly. To date, there are tens of billions of existing Bluetooth devices, such as Bluetooth tags, beacons, sensors, etc., which greatly lower the entry barriers for IoT customers.

What do you see for the future of Bluetooth technology as it relates to location services?

It’s exciting to see how Bluetooth® technology is meeting the needs of location services and how it is becoming the wireless technology of choice.

At Cassia, we’ve been able to extend the range of Bluetooth technology by up to 1 km using Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) Coded PHY without requiring any changes to the Bluetooth protocol or end device. As a result, fewer gateways are needed to cover large areas like a factory, hospital, or school, allowing for reduced deployment and equipment costs. For our partners, this is a huge advantage.

We see the growing number of Bluetooth low-power devices being used in various industries for personnel and asset tracking applications, and we’re excited to be contributing to this growth. Cassia is committed to providing our current customers and future partners with the most advanced enterprise Bluetooth IoT solutions and products to meet their needs.

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