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'Indoor GPS' for Mobile Learning

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

A deep dive into using IoT sensors to access mobile learning while on the job.

Workers having training delivered to them by bluetooth beacons.

One of our guiding principles - hence the name of the company - is that people should be able to pinpoint knowledge and information exactly when and where they need it. We have several ways to combine knowledge delivery with location services. From geofencing to QR codes, frontline workers can push or pull information as needed.

For these workers there are an infinite number of use cases for retrieving knowledge as needed from people, places, or equipment. For example, troubleshooting broken machines, receiving safety notifications when people come to a job site, completing ongoing maintenance of manufacturing equipment, or onboarding a new retail employee.

One of the more recent underlying communication technologies we support is iBeacon, which is the name for Apple's technology standard that allows mobile apps to listen for physical BLE beacons. These beacons are small wireless sensors that you can attach to any location or object. They broadcast tiny radio signals that your smartphone can receive and interpret. Pinpoint uses these beacons to unlock micro-learning and contextual awareness. No data is actually stored on the beacons, they simply broadcast "I'm here." Then when the smartphone detects the radio signal, it checks with the server to see if there is any relevant data for that user.

Watch a short video of a beacon in action.

These beacons are a slick, low-cost and low-friction way to merge IOT with solutions for corporate learning, safety, and field services. In our experience they are a powerful example of push-driven learning when, as you saw in the example, a learning task magically unlocks as you approach an electrical panel in a facility. The user doesn’t have to do anything, yet a contextual and personalized learning event is sent to them.

As exciting as beacons are, they are not without limitations They work best for proximity versus exact location. You can set the distance of iBeacon to near, far, and immediate, but in practice we find 10 to 15 ft is the ideal distance. Also, the speed of detection is fast, taking only seconds when the app is open, but it is not instant. This speed of detection can also be impacted by certain materials in the environment since you’re dealing with physics and not just software code.

The recent introduction of the iPhone 11 holds the potential for a new era of connectivity. Buried in their promotional material Apple mentions the U1 chip, which enables something called Ultra-Wideband (UWB) positioning.

Wired magazine describes UWB as “Bluetooth on steroids”. While Apple is initially touting the capabilities for Airdrop sharing, the potential is enormous for everything from tracking tags (much like Tile widgets) to augmented reality.

UWB is simply faster and more accurate than Bluetooth. It is a different radio frequency technology that holds some key advantages. It can pinpoint an object’s location to within 30 cm accuracy, pass through walls, not interfere with Wi-Fi, and transfer data 4x faster than Bluetooth today. UWB itself has been used for years in real-time locating systems (RTLS), mostly for expensive industrial and healthcare applications. But with Apple’s reach this technology has a good chance of going mainstream. Exciting times for the connected workplace!


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