> FOCUS BY CLAIRE SWEDBERG
JUST AS BUILDING INTELLIGENCE SYSTEMS draw information about a building’s envi- ronment to help manage the facility’s efficiency and comfort, a low-cost sensor system is
piggybacking on that trend, and it offers new opportunities for contractors.
Indoor positioning systems that use Bluetooth low energy
(BLE) are installed in nearly every kind of public and nonpublic location today, including malls, offices, stadiums and
hospitals. The technology is affordable, easy to install and can
be hosted on a cloud-based server, sparing building owners
from bringing their IT department into the mix.
This has led to its rapid adoption. Most recently, the construction industry is getting in on the action as well.
BLE is the enabling technology to locate people and things
both indoors and outdoors. It grew out of a 2013 Apple release
of its iBeacon protocol to transmit to Bluetooth-enabled iOS
phones. The technology also works with Android and Windows
According to global analyst company ABI Research, BLE
beacons will sell at about 60 million units globally each year
for retail, smart homes and beyond by 2019. Since the iBeacon
release, new companies have been developing their own BLE
beacon devices to broadcast an identity to phones or receivers
to meet the growing appetite for indoor positioning.
A variety of technology companies and solution providers
are designing app-based systems for use in airports, to offer
security line info and wayfinding; healthcare facilities, to help
patients and physicians understand the traffic flow and how it
affects appointments; and museums, stores and warehouses,
with the ability to identify where people are based on their
smartphone or tablet, and provide them content or simply collect analytics accordingly.
For ECs and integrators, the indoor location technology is
a revenue source and a tool.
For starters, the technology needs qualified installers and
integrators. In some cases, BLE is being installed as part of
an improvement or renovation in existing buildings, and it is