BLE LTE Asset BLE LTE Asset

LOCATION TRACKER

NBIoT and LTE-M connectivity

Category

IoT

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SERVICES

Full Product Development

2022

The Challenge

When we think of business, we imagine values, goals, service to the community, and profits they bring to people in their everyday life. These things are an immediate part of each business, as well as taking care of their employee's safety and valuable assets.

Many businesses, including Oil and Gas, Mining, and Manufacturing facilities, need to know the location of their employees on-premises to prevent dangerous situations. During a pandemic, it also became essential to track close contact between people to prevent the spread of COVID. Some enterprises take the path of least resistance and install apps on employees' smartphones. This raises questions about the security of personally identifiable information.

Our problem research identified the following pain points for industrial enterprises:

  • Track the location of employees, indoors and outdoors, to prevent dangerous situations
  • Prevent the spread of COVID and respiratory diseases
  • Upload all data to the company-owned server
  • Maintain the privacy of personal smartphones
  • Track the location of parcels and equipment

To address these issues, AJProTech created a reliable and portable LOCATION TRACKER AND CONTACT TRACING solution.

Spheres of application

Mining

Mining

Industry

Industry

Warehouse

Warehouse

Logistics

Logistics

and more

The Solution

AJProTech introduces a solution for an easy and secure way to track people and valuable assets on company premises. AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKER is a portable device for real-time indoor/outdoor positioning and contact tracing with NBIoT and LTE-M connectivity. Optimized for extended battery life, it can work for up to 12 months on a single battery charge. The credit-card-sized tracker can be worn in any pocket and does not require special treatment. True Plug and Play!

AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKER meets the following functionality:

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Employee location tracking for indoor and outdoor environments
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Contact tracer records close interactions between people
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Customizable access to rooms and facilities with NFC card
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Location tracking for objects, vehicles, cargo
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Find a person in case of an emergency
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Trackers can be depersonalized and do not store personal data, unlike phones

AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKER offers real-time tracking and reporting to help businesses be in control of their operations. This could result in a safer work environment and higher productivity.

BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER
BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER
BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER
BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER

Our approach

At AJProtech, we strive to create products that do more than simply function. Instead, we put ourselves in the user's position to determine the most practical and dependable design while considering all potential applications and circumstances.

We asked ourselves several questions - How can we create a product which can help efficiently and securely track people, assets, or cargo fleet? How to create a product that is durable and reliable? After testing several approaches and dozens of components, we devised a reliable solution.

The first step is to identify the required components.

- To track outdoor positioning, GPS is traditionally used. We selected a GPS module with low power consumption.

- For indoor navigation, inertial tracking with IMU can be used. BLE beacons are used as Points of Interest - objects that are located in known locations, and then from them, a tracker can calculate its position using inertial navigation.

- Contact tracing can be done with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). When 2 devices come close, the tracker registers a contact and its duration. Unlike phone apps, this method is completely anonymous and does not raise privacy concerns about personal devices.

- Tracker needs to be compact while data is regularly uploaded to the cloud. We selected LTE-M and NBIoT for lower power consumption than standard 4G / LTE networks.

- Last, we added NFC so employees can use the device as an access control card.

Those components became the foundation for AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKER - a compact and efficient solution with a size of a badge that fits in a pocket.

At AJProTech, we use proven hardware development methodology to design products suitable for mass production. We applied an agile iterative approach to this project. Especially important during chip shortage, each design decision was checked with our Supply Chain specialists on the ground in Taiwan and China. We rapidly created prototypes using design, engineering, and fast validation in parallel.

BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER
BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER

ELECTRONICS DESIGN

We consistently deliver cost-effective and future-proof electrical solutions starting with system architecture and component selection. With a few sprints or iterations, our electronics design services cover the complete hardware product development process from early prototypes to mass production.

The component selection was driven by low-power consumption, miniaturization, and component availability. The heart of the navigation system is the nRF9160 chip from Nordic Semiconductors. nRF9160 features an application processor and a full LTE-M/NB-IoT modem in a compact package.

The second communication module is nRF52840 SoC which supports Bluetooth 5 and NFC. BLE beacon functionality is used both for indoor navigation and contact tracing.

Integration of IMU (accelerometer and gyroscope) allows tracking movement, acceleration, and orientation required for indoor navigation. Sensors can also detect abnormal situations and careless handling.

We validated core functionality on the evaluation boards, ran simulations of power consumption, and selected the required battery capacity. After selecting critical components and batteries, a custom PCB was designed. Advanced PCBA uses the most minor 0201 components and chips in BGA packages.

With the abundance of multiple radio interfaces on the small PCB, a special effort was spent preventing cross-talk between radio signals. Following PCB Layout techniques are essential in projects like this.

At the end of the design sprint, we created compact PCBs with cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, and NFC protocols, and IMU and battery management.

 

MECHANICAL DESIGN

When creating battery-powered IoT devices, it is always a compromise between the device's size and operation time. Before designing the device enclosure, we ran five power consumption models with different battery capacities. Once battery capacity was selected, we designed several enclosure options. Mechanical Design for a slim plastic enclosure is done around 600 mAh battery which gives up to 12 months of operation on a single battery charge.

Our Industrial Designer explored various shapes and dimensions going through dozens of sketches. Each variant was rapidly prototyped with 3D printing for usability tests.

Finally, a slim credit card-sized option that can be worn in a pocket was selected. We designed a slim enclosure from ABS plastic with internal cavities and local reinforcements to maintain structural integrity and keep a minimal thickness.

Enclosures, consisting of two pieces, were designed to be manufacturable with CNC machining or Silicon Molding at low-volume production.

During the DFM stage (Design for Manufacturing), the enclosure can be optimized for injection molding for Mass production.

BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER FIRMWARE DESIGN BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER FIRMWARE DESIGN

FIRMWARE DESIGN

Unlike many consumer products, B2B solutions are often customized for the needs of specific enterprise clients. That puts additional pressure on the Embedded Firmware. Firmware needs to be scalable and adjustable.

AJProTech Firmware engineers started working on the firmware with evaluation boards long before custom hardware was manufactured. By the time PCBs arrived, most firmware foundation was already completed.

LOCATION TRACKER is built on Real Time Operating System (RTOS) that manages data gathering, Bluetooth communication, and cellular connectivity tasks. Firmware is optimized for maximum operating time, precise positioning, and integration with additional sensors.

Thanks to our previous experience with low-power systems and power consumption optimization, trackers achieve impressive 12-month battery life on a single charge.

Embedded firmware supports the following features:

  • Outdoor position tracking with GPS / GNSS
  • Inertial indoor navigation between Bluetooth beacons
  • Contact tracing with other iBeacons and Trackers
  • Uploading location and contact data to the cloud or company server
  • Worldwide coverage with eSim
  • SOS button to request immediate assistance
  • Optional sensors to measure air quality, humidity, pressure, and temperature.

Thanks to the flawless work of our firmware engineers, AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKER enables accurate positioning and stable connectivity in demanding environments.

HOW IT WORKS

BLE tracker
01.
Tracker detects outdoor
position with GPS
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Indoor position tracking uses inertial navigation between BLE beacons in known locations
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When two trackers come within BLE range of each other, the contact tracer records the device ID and timestamp
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Tracker regularly uploads position and contact information to the cloud
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The tracker can be used as a digital access card with NFC technology

WEB SOFTWARE DESIGN

Most enterprises have a stable IT infrastructure to manage their operations. Any additional software needs to be integrated with existing systems. When we started Backend and Server development, ease of integration was the cornerstone of the architectural decisions.

Proprietary cloud server software with a Web interface manages device onboarding and data gathering. A central cloud server is used to communicate with trackers with an option to launch the server on-premises.

We have developed a server and a web interface that receives data from all trackers.

  • Device onboarding. Add / Assign / Remove trackers
  • Device provisioning to a specific employee
  • Manage tracker mode. Update frequency, and status.
  • Location history for each tracker
  • Real-time location on the map
  • Download contact tracing info, time, and duration of each contact

The following features are in the process

  • On-premise server launch
  • Group management and batch onboarding
  • Upload custom maps for indoor and outdoor navigation
  • Set geofence and zoning
  • Assign and revoke access to rooms

API for integration into existing enterprise software is also developed. The system is in beta testing.

 

PROTOTYPING

The iterative Agile approach works best in software development when the dev team works in 2-week sprints. At AJProTech we use a similar approach in Hardware product development. Every week, we aim to create and test new mechanical prototypes. Our lab is equipped with 3D printers, CNC machines, PCB soldering stations, and a lot of cool equipment. Every week we prototype and test new samples: various shapes of device enclosure, testing required material thickness and polymers. Each time new prototypes are available, a series of usability tests is performed. This way we can iterate quickly and receive valuable feedback from our team and target audience.

A similar process is used for electronics. Using an abundance of evaluation boards, interface modules, and an extensive stock of components, we assemble rapid prototypes. FAST. By the time PCB is sent to production, 99% of electronics and mechanical questions need already answered. These are rapid Proof of Concept Prototypes.

When custom PCBs are received from production, assembly of Engineering Prototypes begins. In this project, prototypes included a single custom PCB, battery, and enclosure. Most efforts are spent on miniaturization and thickness reduction. We pushed the boundaries of material thickness and assembly tolerances.

Engineering prototypes are also called “Looks like / Works Like” prototypes meaning they are not ready for manufacturing but they may be used in customer testing. Hardware engineers are tweaking PCBs, sometimes adding extra wires, cutting traces, and adding components. The goal is to make it work, it does not need to be pretty.

We’ve done 2 iterations of Engineering Prototyping to complete the EVT (Engineering Validation Test) of the tracker hardware. The device passed functional EVT tests with more environmental and stress tests on the way.

BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER PILOT AND VALIDATION BLE LTE ASSET TRACKER PILOT AND VALIDATION

PILOT AND VALIDATION

Engineering Prototype units are used in extensive testing and pilot validation with several high-profile enterprise clients. AJProTech engineers are running experiments in various operating conditions on industrial facilities.

In parallel, we work on Design for Manufacturing of electrical and mechanical components.

APPLICATIONS:

  • Industrial Safety
  • Smart cities
  • Fleet management
  • Logistics and asset-tracking
  • Predictive maintenance and industry 4.0

Impact

AJPROTECH LOCATION TRACKERS are going through pilot projects on several manufacturing facilities to make workplaces safer and improve operational efficiency. Trackers replace bulky legacy systems and receive favorable feedback from employees and management. Real-time position tracking and contact tracing solution may become the foundation for manufacturing safety.

BLE LTE Asset tracker

What can we create together?

Contact us

United States
Headquarters Los Angeles, CA 26565 Agoura Road, Suite 200, Calabasas, CA 91302
Taiwan
R&D and Manufacturing New Taipei City 120 Nan Shi St.  
Kazakhstan
Software design Almaty