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1. Overview of Concepts

Welcome to AirFinder. As a next-generation asset tracking and monitoring solution, AirFinder was designed to deliver reliable, accurate location information better than traditional BLE-based or cellular GPS solutions. So you can get the most benefit from our system, we put together a short series of articles on various aspects of its use and important features. This documentation is intended to be a reference for how to use the system, as well as a guide showing how you can make the most of its capabilities. 

The sections follow a logical order for setting up and using the AirFinder system; you can use the links on the left to take you to a particular section directly.

Two things make up the foundation of the indoor portion of AirFinder’s unique architecture: BLE low-energy tags and a BLE network that provides the raw data for the tags to locate themselves. But our system also leverages other technologies to overcome the cost and accuracy challenges associated with other tracking solutions (e.g. solutions based solely on GPS or BLE). Here’s an overview of how it works:

For indoor tracking:

Assets located indoors are affixed with standard, low-cost tags enabled with a BLE. These “intelligent” tags calculate their own location relative to a nearby BLE beacon referred to as a Reference Point. The tags themselves then communicate their locations to a centrally located access point that uses the most effective backhaul method, either LoRa (a long-range wireless system, therefore avoiding LTE-M cellular data charges), LTE-M, WiFi, or Ethernet. BLE access points, spaced about every 100-200 feet in a facility, receive the encrypted location data from the tag and send it to the server.

If there are no reference point beacons, then access points can be used as locations.

For seamless indoor/outdoor tracking, i.e. where items are shared across multiple facilities:

Assets moving between locations/facilities are affixed with “super tags.” Indoors, they work the same as a standard intelligent BLE tracking tag—listening for access points and reference points and running their location algorithms. Once a super tag goes outdoors, it has three different ways of calculating its location:

  • GPS receiver—the tag calculates its position based on satellite signals.
  • WiFi sniffer—Like your phone, the tag searches for the ID of nearby wireless routers to calculate its position. WiFi “Lookup” works well whether the tag is in a box, in a truck, or in a city.
  • Cell-ID—If the tag can hear Verizon or another carrier partner it can also talk to it and calculate its location.

Super tags that are outdoors usually report their locations either directly via LTE-M or LoRa as opposed to BLE. A depot or ship may have BLE access points that read the tags nearby. Connected via cellular, that access point reports the location associated with that tag on the ship.

Site Planning: A 4-Tier Hierarchy

Before you start setting up your AirFinder system, it’s important to think about the layout of your facility and how it will play into your tracking strategy. In some cases, not all parts of a facility may house assets to be tracked; in other cases, key stakeholders may be interested in grouping tracked items a certain way for workflow purposes. Both of these scenarios influence the overall setup of your system; it’s important to consider them so your tracking efforts produce relevant information and present it in a way that’s most useful for you.

To get started, map out your facility into four layers:

1. Sites

A site is considered the highest level in AirFinder and is a fairly straightforward concept: For indoor use cases, a site is essentially the building that houses your facility. For outdoor use cases, the site would refer to an entire area of operation. If you’re tracking assets located in multiple places, you may have multiple sites.

2. Areas

Sites are further broken down into areas. Tags at their highest level will be broken down by area, so areas usually reflect how users want to see tracking information. A hospital with 10 floors would, in many cases, have 10 areas, to locate assets by floor. Or, areas could also delineate particular departments, such as a hospital emergency room or the west wing of a second floor. Think about your areas as different sections of your building that go together in a functional or geographical (or both) sense. You may have only one area or several, or some outdoor areas and some indoor areas. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose your areas. Think about how you plan to use your tracking information; then, carve up your site into areas that will categorize the information in a valuable way. Don’t include areas where people aren’t interested in tracking things—if you do, you’ll be getting more information than you need.

Areas help visualize your tracking territory, so they are usually places that can be mapped. For instance, a single floor in a multi-floor building is an area can be mapped out and the map displayed as an image, like the one below.

Site Planning - A 4-Tier Hierarchy - Areas

3. Zones

Zones are subsets of areas. Zones play a role in helping you find things—an asset might be located in “the sales department” or “the accounting department.” But zones are also very useful for utilizing the tracking information to trigger workflows and for creating analytics around the location information. For example, a hospital that is tracking personnel movement might set up a workflow prompting a text message to an administrator whenever a doctor enters any of the emergency rooms outlined as a zone, rather than looking at each emergency room individually. The same could be done with patient rooms. Or, maybe your use case doesn’t require zone subsets, so you would just set one zone covering an entire area. It all depends on your intended use of the location information, if you have specific workflows associated with it, and what kind of analytics you plan to do.

Site Planning - A 4-Tier Hierarchy - Zones

4. Location

Location is the actual position of a reference point beacon. In the illustration below, “Patrick’s desk,” located in the engineering zone, has a reference point beacon on it represented by the blue circle, “19.” Where the other layers—site, area, zone—are simply logical groupings, the location represents a real piece of hardware (a tag) with a Mac address. Tags calculate their locations based on reference points—they don’t actually know where they are. So, for all the tags it is nearest to, the reference point on Patrick’s desk will be the location they report.

Site Planning - A 4-Tier Hierarchy - Location

Before moving on to setting up your infrastructure, make sure you’ve mapped out your site appropriately and according to the rules: A location has to be inside of a zone, which has to be inside of an area, which has to be inside of a site. 

Next: Setting Up Your Infrastructure

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