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Beyond Retail: Bluetooth® Beacons streamline many aspects of modern life

Beyond Retail: Bluetooth® Beacons streamline many aspects of modern life

Bluetooth® Beacons are big news in the retail sector as storeowners seek new ways to engage with their consumers and boost sales. Yet for all of the benefits they bring to the retail sector, there are at least as many applications outside the retail sector in smart factories and smart cities.

In smart factories and intelligent warehouses autonomous vehicles can move swiftly and efficiently through the building by following beacon signals, eliminating reliance on expensive tracks or vision sensors and complex guidance software. The use of beacons also allows routes to be adjusted in software at minimal cost, compared to the cost of re-laying physical tracks.

Another benefit for warehouses is gained by attaching beacons to stock items in the warehouse or packages on a delivery truck, allowing staff to identify each one individually via a simple mobile app. In fact, asset tracking in general is a significant opportunity for beacons and could be used in, for example, hospitals where the movement of beds or other equipment could be monitored and controlled.

Even in the home, beacons have a role to play. Often-misplaced assets such as bicycles, wallets, keys or even a pet can be located within several hundred meters with a mobile device app. Extending this further, beacons would also facilitate geo-caching whereby an alarm could be triggered if something (such as a child or an elderly relative) went beyond the bounds of a pre-defined 'soft' perimeter. Similar applications would exist in industrial applications to safeguard business assets.

In smart cities, including museums and other public buildings, a beacon could trigger a dedicated mobile phone app published by the tourist board to provide valuable information to tourists, thereby enhancing their experience without the cost of providing human tourist guides.

Toshiba is at the forefront of the Bluetooth® technology on which beacons rely to deliver their benefits. In order to develop a successful beacon for any of the applications above designers have to deliver a device that marries together RF technology, computing power and extreme low power operation in a single, micro-miniature package.

To address these challenges, Toshiba has developed the TC35678 Bluetooth System-on-Chip (SoC) that combines Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) baseband and RF blocks with an ARM® CPU core along with a general purpose ADC and multiple general purpose I/O lines.

The SoC solution reduces PCB area by 20% and requires 70% less external components than previous generatioans, allowing small beacons to be realized. By requiring just 3.3mA peak current, and 50nA in sleep mode, beacons based on Toshiba’s SoC can run for months or years on a single coin-cell battery.

To learn more about Toshiba’s Bluetooth® SoC solutions, including a fully turnkey reference design, download their comprehensive white paper here:

Click here to learn more about Toshiba's solutions for Bluetooth beacons and turnkey reference designs

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·Before creating and producing designs and using, customers must also refer to and comply with the latest versions of all relevant TOSHIBA information and the instructions for the application that Product will be used with or for.