Hospital BLE Architecture: Proximity, RSSI, and AoA-Based Positioning
There are many different types of BLE architectures to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology is transforming healthcare facilities around the globe. From enhancing patient satisfaction and improving staff safety to boosting hospital efficiency and improving ROI, a reliable BLE architecture can help hospitals better allocate physical and human resources. This technology fosters new use cases in hospitals, such as real-time asset tracking, wearable technology, connected inventory, property security, and more.
There are many different types of BLE architectures to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Before implementing BLE technology in your facility, it is necessary to choose the right type of BLE architecture to support the range of devices you will be hosting on your facility’s network.
Three Common Types of BLE Network Architecture
If your hospital or healthcare facility is considering implementing a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) platform, you will need a reliable BLE architecture to support it. While there are many different solutions on the market, it is important to learn about the three common types of BLE architectures, including the benefits and drawbacks of each.
1. Bluetooth Low Energy — Proximity Based Location Positioning
BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) proximity refers to the ability to detect the presence of nearby BLE-enabled devices. BLE proximity is determined using BLE RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator), which measures the signal strength of a Bluetooth Low Energy signal to estimate the distance using BLE beacons — small Bluetooth Low Energy transmitters that broadcast a signal at regular intervals. BLE beacon architecture can be used to trigger actions on nearby devices, such as sending a notification, displaying a message, or collecting location data.
BLE proximity can be used for a range of applications, including location-based services, asset tracking, and proximity marketing. It can provide a convenient and efficient way to interact with nearby devices and services, and can also be used to enhance the security of access control systems.
Benefits of BLE Proximity:
- Easy and quick detection: BLE proximity allows for easy and quick detection of nearby BLE-enabled devices, making it convenient for users to interact with nearby devices and services.
- Low-power consumption: BLE uses low power, making it suitable for use in battery-powered devices. This means that BLE proximity can be used for extended periods without draining the battery of the device.
- Range flexibility: The range of BLE proximity can be adjusted depending on the requirements of the application. This allows for more flexibility in designing and implementing proximity-based systems.
- Cost-effective: BLE technology is cost-effective and widely available, making it an attractive option for businesses and organizations looking to implement proximity-based solutions.
- Enhanced user experience: BLE proximity can enhance the user experience by providing personalized and context-aware information and services based on the proximity of the user to other devices or services.
Drawbacks of BLE Proximity:
- Accuracy: The accuracy of BLE proximity can be affected by environmental factors such as obstacles, reflections, and interference from other wireless devices. This can impact the reliability and accuracy of the proximity detection, particularly in crowded environments.
- Range limitations: The range of BLE proximity is limited to a few meters, which may not be sufficient for certain applications that require longer-range proximity detection.
- Device compatibility: BLE proximity requires that both devices have BLE capabilities. This means that older devices that do not support BLE may not be compatible with proximity-based applications.
- Battery life: Using BLE proximity in an demanding application, such as one that requires frequent proximity detection, can ultimately result in the reduction of battery life for some devices.
- Security concerns: BLE proximity can be used for malicious purposes, such as tracking or unauthorized access to sensitive data. This highlights the need for appropriate security measures, such as encryption and access control.
Overall, BLE proximity is a useful technology that enables proximity detection and interaction between BLE-enabled devices.
2. Bluetooth Low Energy - Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) Based Positioning
This BLE architecture also utilizes RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) technology to track equipment, people and more. Unlike BLE proximity, however, this form of tracking leverages mobile tags and fixed gateways. BLE RSSI is a measure of the strength of the signal received by a BLE device from another BLE device expressed in decibels (dBm).
RSSI is a critical parameter for estimating the proximity of a BLE device, as it provides an estimate of the distance between the transmitting and receiving devices. However, it is important to note that the RSSI value is influenced by several factors, including the distance between devices, obstacles, interference, and the orientation of the transmitting and receiving devices.
In general, a higher RSSI value indicates a stronger signal and therefore a closer proximity between devices, while a lower RSSI value indicates a weaker signal and a greater distance between devices. However, it is essential to calibrate and test the accuracy of RSSI measurements in a given environment before relying on it for proximity or distance estimation.
Benefits of BLE RSSI:
- Proximity detection: BLE RSSI can be used to detect the proximity of two BLE devices, which can be useful for a variety of applications such as location-based services, asset tracking, and indoor navigation.
- Power efficiency: BLE RSSI can be used to determine the distance between devices without the need for high-power radio transmissions, which helps to conserve battery life in both the transmitting and receiving devices.
- Cost-effective: BLE RSSI can be measured using low-cost hardware, making it an affordable option for a wide range of applications.
- Easy implementation: BLE RSSI can be easily integrated into existing BLE applications and does not require any additional hardware or software.
- Flexibility: BLE RSSI can be used in a variety of environments and applications, making it a versatile solution for proximity and distance estimation.
Drawbacks of BLE RSSI:
- Signal noise: BLE RSSI can be affected by signal noise, which can result in fluctuating RSSI values that are difficult to interpret.
- Limited range: The effective range of BLE RSSI is limited, typically up to a few tens of meters, which may not be suitable for certain applications that require longer-range proximity detection.
- Signal delay: BLE RSSI can have a delay in detecting changes in signal strength, which can affect the accuracy of distance estimation in dynamic environments.
- Inaccuracies due to environment: The accuracy of BLE RSSI can be influenced by a range of factors, including interference, attenuation, reflections, and the environment in which the devices are used, including the presence of walls, metal objects, and other obstructions that can affect the radio signals.
Overall, BLE RSSI is a useful and practical technology that can provide a range of benefits for developers and users of BLE-enabled devices and applications.
3. Bluetooth Low Energy -AoA-Based Positioning (BLE AoA)
BLE AoA stands for Bluetooth Low Energy Angle of Arrival. This technology allows for the determination of the direction from which a Bluetooth Low Energy signal is transmitted. By using multiple antennas, BLE AoA can estimate the angle of arrival of the signal, providing a more accurate measure of the direction from which it originates.
BLE AoA can be used for a range of applications, including location-based services, asset tracking, and indoor navigation. It can provide more accurate and reliable location information than other technologies such as BLE RSSI, particularly in dynamic environments where the signal can be affected by interference and reflections.
Benefits of BLE AoA:
- Accurate location determination: BLE AoA provides highly accurate location information, which is useful for applications such as asset tracking and indoor navigation. The direction from which a Bluetooth signal is transmitted can be used to determine the location of the device with high accuracy.
- Robustness: BLE AoA is more robust than other localization technologies, such as BLE RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator), in dynamic environments where the signal can be affected by interference and reflections. BLE AoA can provide accurate location information even in noisy environments.
- Low-power: BLE AoA can operate in low-power environments, making it suitable for use in battery-powered devices. This makes it ideal for applications that require long battery life, such as wearables and IoT devices.
- Security: BLE AoA can be used for secure indoor positioning and tracking, which can be beneficial for applications such as asset tracking and access control.
- Compatibility: BLE AoA is compatible with existing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices, making it easy to integrate into existing BLE applications and systems.
Drawbacks of BLE AoA:
- Cost: BLE AoA requires specialized hardware, such as multiple antennas and signal processing chips, which can be more expensive than other localization technologies. This can increase the overall cost of the system.
- Complexity: The implementation of BLE AoA requires specialized software and signal processing algorithms, which can be more complex than other localization technologies. This can make it more challenging to develop and deploy BLE AoA-based systems.
- Limited range: The range of BLE AoA is limited to a few meters, which may not be sufficient for certain applications that require longer-range location determination.
- Environmental interference: The accuracy of BLE AoA can be affected by environmental factors such as obstacles, reflections, and interference from other wireless devices. This can impact its accuracy and reliability in certain environments.
- Calibration: BLE AoA requires accurate calibration to provide accurate location information. This can be time-consuming and may require specialized equipment and expertise.
Overall, BLE AoA is a promising technology that can provide more accurate and reliable location information than other technologies, making it a useful tool for a range of applications.
Streamline Your Operations with an Effective RTLS Platform and BLE Architecture
Transform your healthcare facility today with Cox Prosight, an IoT-enabled solution designed to help hospitals improve operational efficiency, staff safety, and clinical workflows. Our full-stack solution utilizes a BLE RSSI architecture to deliver real-time visibility into the locations of equipment and staff. The BLE RSSI architecture we offer is affordable to set up, easy to scale, flexible for your needs, and well suited for a range of applications.
Cox Prosight provides healthcare facilities solutions for asset tracking, staff safety, environmental monitoring, hand hygiene compliance and patient experience. If you would like to learn how Cox Prosight can help your facility cut costs and boost operational efficiency, contact our team today.