For field service companies, beacon technology offers a useful way to track and service a range of medical equipment. These small, context-aware and connected devices can relay a range of data directly to a technician’s mobile device.

Similar to the machine-to-machine communications enabled by the Internet of Things, beacons provide the potential for faster, efficient asset servicing. The technology uses Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) to identify when a smart device is within proximity.

If Bluetooth is enabled, a corresponding app on a technician’s device receives the information. A range of useful data can then be instantly transmitted, including medical device serial number, manufacturer ID, device type and performance statistics.

The use of beacon technology in healthcare represents key gains for field service. A range of tasks, such as locating assets, repairs, management and quick data retrieval, are simplified with beacons. For technicians, the possibilities of adaptive media — media that respond to users — are considerable.

Location Awareness

For high-value medical devices to function efficiently, regular preventative maintenance is key. But locating that equipment in large medical centers can be a complicated, time-consuming task.

field service mobility, mobile technology, beacon

Image via flickr/Jonathan Nalder

Small, battery-operated beacons, similar to GPS tracking devices, can be attached to any medical device to provide technicians with geo-mapping. Moreover, beacons can be programmed to require that inspections and servicing follow strict, step-by-step protocols.

A recent report by ABI Research indicates that healthcare will contribute significantly to the large percentage of beacons being shipped globally by 2019. ABM Healthcare Support Services is one company that’s poised to take advantage.

“There are some significant benefits coming down the line and there will be large scale adoption, both by us and our clients,” predicts Stephen L. Grimes, chief technology officer at ABM. Built-in support from iOS, Android, Linux and Windows 8 operating systems will further benefit adoption.

This is significant for field service because increased numbers of mobile devices are being used to connect remote field service workers to legacy applications. Greater reliance on mobility and trends, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), enables field service companies to access new and dynamic capabilities.

Improved Asset Management

In addition, technicians are increasingly able to use a company-sponsored or personal mobile device to perform a variety of tasks by accessing cloud services. Beacons offer a further advantage through low-cost asset tracking. Technicians can utilize beacon information pushed to their mobile devices and then send that data to the Internet for storage or immediate analysis.

In general, pre-existing Wi-Fi and RFID technology have been adequate for tracking medical assets. As IT leaders recognize the advantages of these tiny transmitters, look for increased use of beacon technology by internal healthcare departments, including facilities management.

Moreover, with the growth of adoptions in other sectors, such as retail, travel and entertainment, greater reliance on beacon technology for the field service industry is imminent. Healthcare represents an ideal environment for utilizing the special characteristics offered by beacons. They offer the potential for creating sustained value through improved asset management.

About Kerry Doyle

Kerry DoyleKerry Doyle is an analyst and writer who has covered business and technology issues for over a decade, first as a technician at the fabled PCWeek Labs and a reporter for PCWeek magazine, then as senior editor at ZDNet.com. He has contributed articles and content to organizations as diverse as IDG/ComputerWorld, GigaOm Research, Monitor Group, Harvard Business School, and Global Knowledge. He provides cogent analyses of the newest trends in technology, from nanotech to the cloud, with a focus on issues relevant to leaders in field service.

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