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Sheridan & SOTI create location-tracking apps using iBeacons

Who doesn’t know the frustration of losing something? Keys, wallet, tools… Sometimes it’s nuisance. But in business and in healthcare, losing something can be very costly.

To help reduce the basic human problem of losing things, there’s a new mobile technology called iBeacon – the subject of one of Sheridan’s latest applied research projects.

Placing a tag or sticker on the item that you want located or tracked, iBeacon uses Bluetooth technology to track down the location (and sometimes the status or condition) of things, and reports this information back to a mobile device such as a smartphone.

Mississauga-based SOTI wanted to explore this technology further and see if it could be applied to different business settings.

SOTI partnered with Sheridan College through a $25,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and worked together for six-months.

Dr. Ed Sykes, a Professor of Computer Science and Sheridan’s School of Applied Computing and two students teamed up with Kevin David, a Technical Support Manager with SOTI, on four apps that demonstrate this technology’s potential.

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Kevin noted, “Sheridan has a history of research that ties in nicely with SOTI’s pursuit of innovation…we’ve also had significant success hiring Sheridan students in the past.”

Reinforcing that notion, Sheridan and SOTI developed prototypes of apps with four different industry applications, demonstrating how iBeacon technology could be used in a variety of sectors.

The first “asset-tracking app” involved helping delivery truck drivers keep track of their keys. The app was set so that the moment the keys were a certain distance from the driver’s smartphone, an alert was given.

Notifications would continue until the driver either held the keys or was within a safe allotted distance. (This tool could save transportation companies time and money, while preventing theft.)

The second app focused on food transportation, with iBeacon stickers placed in the refrigerated compartment of a food delivery truck.

The beacon transmitted the temperature of the truck’s fridge system to the driver. If the temperature spiked or dropped, an alert was sent to the driver and the dispatcher. This enabled them to decide whether to continue the route, or return to the office, potentially preventing food from spoiling.

The third app ensured the safe operation of a wheelchair. In this application, the iBeacon was placed on a wheelchair in a normal upright position. The app detected if the wheelchair was moving, or on its side.

“Sheridan found the right students with the right skillsets to work with our team at SOTI and made sure the projects delivered were on time and within scope.”

– Kevin David, Technical Support Manager, SOTI

If the wheelchair fell over, an alert was sent to a user and a caregiver, reporting the wheelchair’s positon and gave the user the option of contacting emergency services.

Lastly, an app was developed for home healthcare workers. Using this app, they could ensure the location of several devices they need to administer care as they enter a client’s home such as a sleep mask, oxygen tank, or blood pressure monitor, using the app to scan the home to make sure all of the devices were present.

The app would alert the nurse of their location and take away guesswork as to whether or not equipment was missing. This app triggered a checklist of things that need to be done with the patient, such as checking blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

 

For Kevin and SOTI, all of the app prototypes got their hearts pumping. “What impressed me about the students was the level of creativity and skill that they brought to the table,” he said.

“They were able to take an idea to a proof of concept, and in the process, opened our eyes to what was possible with iBeacons,” added Kevin. “We can use that to further develop this technology for environments such as warehouses and shopping malls.”

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Dr. Ed Sykes of Sheridan’s School of Applied Computing, and Kevin David, Technical Support Manager, SOTI

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