In 2020, the world saw a significant acceleration in digital transformation across geographies and sectors as a response to the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Given the wide variety of location-based technologies that are currently available, the continuous research and development efforts to improve them and an urgent need for more interconnectivity and data intelligence in the post-pandemic world, interest in the use of these technologies to create smart buildings has been renewed. In a recently published Gartner report, location tracking is listed as an emerging trend in technology that will impact the device market in the short term , which will be leveraged for many use cases across sectors. As the foundation of all location-based technologies, location tracking is an important component of smart buildings which use automated processes to manage people and assets, increase productivity, safety and security.
Real time localization of people and assets can have many benefits for safety management in buildings. Safety of employees is a top priority of all institutions and automating relevant processes can make it much more efficient and cost effective in the long run. By tracking the location of people and assets, organizations can ensure the protection of them in the case of an emergency.
Especially during the pandemic, proximity technologies can be invaluable in making workplaces safe for on-site employees and visitors. By using peer-to-peer Bluetooth proximity detection, wearables can warn the user to keep their distance to others, for example, in the workplace. Our product Safe Steps was developed to help with implementing social distancing and contact tracing processes using BLE powered wearable devices that track and record risky interactions and warn users when social distance is broken. These products present an opportunity to harness the power of location based technologies to ensure the highest level of protection possible for the users and visitors of the building.
However, the safety implications of location-based technologies are significant outside of the context of the pandemic as well. The protection of assets, physical or digital, as well as inventory becomes much easier with wearable trackers, which can be used to secure certain areas of the building by allowing only those who are authorized to access them.
In facilities that are complex and full of fast-moving vehicles and equipment and a large workforce such as manufacturing plants, protection against health hazards and accidents can be achieved with tracking sensors as well. An employee can be wearing a sensor that detects when he is too close to dangerous equipment and communicates to the equipment to shut down to prevent an injury. Also, the sensors can be used to warn the user when they are in a dangerous zone to ensure they take necessary precautions. These use cases show that digitalizing safety processes can be much more effective than manual methods. By ensuring the health and safety of the labor force, organizations can avoid significant financial and reputational consequences in the form of medical expenses, lawsuits and production delays.
Smart buildings also operate at much greater efficiency by gathering data and using it to make continual adjustments and improvements to their operations. Tracking the location of people and the equipment they use and leveraging the gathered occupancy and mobility data can provide meaningful insights on how to boost operational efficiency. Analyzing occupancy to understand how different areas of the facilities are being used can help optimize spatial efficiency of the building and improve the location-based experience of users. Occupancy monitoring can also be used to automate HVAC systems to eliminate wasteful energy use. Tracking the movement and usage of equipment can ensure that they are used at full potential while lost, stolen or misplaced equipment or inventory can also be tracked down to significantly minimize financial losses, especially in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Location tracking can even help save lives in situations where time is cruical: according to an online poll, nurses spend an hour a shift looking for lost or misplaced equipment needed to treat patients. Location tracking can eliminate the waste of time and redirect efforts to taking care of patients instead.
Location-based technologies have endless usage situations and can make a significant change in operations when used in commercial buildings. Often easily deployable, location tracking systems can be the first step towards highly efficient and safe smart buildings.
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