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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

The Mist Asset Visibility Service lets you quickly and cost-
effectively locate mobile assets using BLE technology without
having to manually deploy and mange physical beacons

For decades, the enterprise Wi-Fi network served one purpose: to connect users devices to the company network. However, the rise of digital transformation has caused many organizations to leverage Wi-Fi to create new experiences.

A good example of an early adopter of this concept is the Orlando Airport, which went fully wireless a couple years ago. However, as I pointed out in the article, creating a differentiated indoor mobile experience is difficult with Wi-Fi only because Wi-Fi triangulation is accurate to roughly 5 to 15 meters. That may be sufficient for a handful of use cases, but most indoor services need to be more accurate than this. Consider a nurse trying to locate a critical piece of medical equipment. An accuracy range of 10 meters could pose quite a challenge.

To increase the accuracy of indoor location, many businesses have turned to beacons, which are accurate to about 1 meter. For example, Levis Stadium has deployed over 2,000 Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to provide location services to patrons of the stadium.

While beacons do hold tremendous potential, there is some downside to them. BLE beacons are small, physical devices that are powered by batteries. They can be attached almost anywhere—walls, ceilings, the back of digital signs or any other place than can be reached. Typically they are deployed somewhere in the range of 50 feet apart, which is why a stadium would need 2,000. Before deployment, the organization needs to do a comprehensive site survey because the configuration and mounting must be done manually, making it extremely time consuming.

As the name “low energy” suggests, beacons don’t draw a significant amount of power, but the batteries will eventually die—usually a couple of years after deployment. When that happens, the beacons need to be located and replaced, creating an entirely new set of problems.

Mist simplifies beacon management with virtual beacons

What if there were a way to get all the benefits of beacons without the associated downside of having to manage hundreds or even thousands of physical devices. This is the exact problem the smart folks at Mist Systems have solved with virtual beacons.

At first glance, the Mist Wi-Fi access points look like any other access point. However, once in place, the Mist platform automates the entire process of deploying beacons virtually. The Mist APs collects information about the environment and then a cloud based machine-learning algorithm eliminates the need for a site survey and determines where the beacons should be placed. On a dashboard, the administrator would see a number of virtual beacons on a map whose placement has been determined by the Mist cloud platform. As the environment changes, the administrator can move the beacon simply by dragging it to a new location.

This week Mist announced its Asset Visibility Service, which is aimed at enabling organizations in any industry to quickly and cost effectively locate mobile assets using BLE technology without the overhead of having to manually deploy and mange physical beacons.

The service is built on an open, scalable platform that brings together Wi-Fi connectivity, indoor location services, asset track and IoT in a turnkey solution. The assets being tracked can easily be outfitted with a wide range of third-party BLE tags in a number of different form factors, including ID badges for people tracking.

The new Asset Visibility Service has a number of use cases, including tracking medical equipment, patients and clinicians in healthcare, students in a school system when an emergency occurs, and monitoring the whereabouts of ladders, forklifts, and other equipment in a warehouse.

In addition to tracking the devices, the data can be used to measure utilization, track movement for optimized routes, and create new experiences for customers or employees.

New Mist partners

Also, Mist announced several new partners to its alliance program announced late last year. The new members are AiRISTA, Bluvision, Cetani and Kontakt.io. Without getting into the details of each vendor, the expansion of the program has brought in asset tags and health and performance monitoring to round out the new solution.

Digital transformation is well underway, and it’s critical that organizations create new experiences to improve workforce efficiency and customer experience. For many industries, Wi-Fi and BLE beacons are a foundational component for building a digital experience. By virtualizing the beacons, Mist’s Asset Visibility Service has made that significantly easier.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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