Digital innovation in Spain’s retail sector

Based in Barcelona, Spain, Be Retail is a provider of innovative solutions in Spain’s retail market.  Part of the Be Motion group, which focuses on online marketing, Be Retail delivers solutions for bricks-and-mortar clients that combine mobile, location and analytics.  Their innovation enables new practices and methods.

Clothing store window

As we well know, retail is a fiercely competitive space that over the past few years has been transitioning from simple bricks-and-mortar to a new era that merges the physical world, online and mobile.  Responses to these challenges have included omnichannel strategies with a renewed awareness on the power of mobile, location-awareness and analytics.

Adoption of new ways of shopping throughout the world has been uneven. Price-Waterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) Total Retail 2017 describes the retail market worldwide, focusing on the Spanish market as an example to illustrate a societal transition where online shopping is gradually but firmly gaining ground on bricks-and-mortar. Major retailers, both domestic and foreign (European and American) are changing their game plans, responding with new approaches, technology and methods. BeRetail has played a key role delivering innovation into this market.  Here are some of their projects.

Major Supermarket Chain

Taking advantage of the ubiquitous mobile devices, a major chain of supermarkets is deploying an array of in-store solutions targeting their customers and their operations:

© Ldprod | Dreamstime.com - Woman using mobile phone while shopping in supermarket

Proximity Marketing. A customer walks by a specific area of the store and receives information about an item of interest. Either a promotional offer or simply product information about an item available nearby. The information is always contextual: it may take into account the customers’ interest, the time of day, and the location inside the store: a gentle reminder that their object of interest is just down the aisle or around the corner.  This is the classical application of iBeacons paired up with a custom app.  And it is made possible by having the customer install the store’s app on their phone and, ideally, to share their shopping preferences.

Business intelligence. Through analytics, merchandising specialists and store managers can gain insights by analyzing customer behavior inside the store: Where do customers go? How long do they linger?  What are the preferred paths throughout the various sections?   How do path, speed and dwell time change throughout the day?  On different days of the week?  Does anyone linger in front of endcaps?  How many customers spend time at brand-specific exhibits?  How long are the checkout lines at various time of the day?
Father and daughter at the supermarket

These insights, and many others are possible by tracking customers’ movements throughout the store.  For instance, at a supermarket, shopping carts and baskets can be fitted with electronic tags that broadcast their location inside the store. That makes possible tracing the whereabouts of customers moving through physical space, which enables generating heat maps and traces to illustrate people’s movements over time.  Note that personal privacy is never compromised by this technique, as no personally identifiable information is ever collected.

Online ordering with in-store pickup services. Supermarket produce sectionSupermarkets have implemented systems that enable customers to order online or via their smartphones the items in their shopping list, and have store employees gather the items, bag the order, and have it ready for pick up when the customer shows up. This can be especially convenient for hurried parents driving home from work, with children in the back seat, just picked up from school or daycare.

The store can radically increase their employees’s efficiency by using a system that analyzes the shopping lists and plots the most efficient route throughout the store so that the employee collecting the order can be guided from item to item, without missing anything.   An indoor navigation system enables the step-by-step guidance required.  Just picture a tablet attached to the shopping cart, guiding the employee, displaying the route through the shortest path.  Such a system requires a database that accurately maps items and their locations throughout the store.

Auto Mechanic Shop’s performance

A chain of auto mechanic shops that serve insurance agencies, decided to use actual performance data to differentiate itself from the competition.  Customers could now have answers to performance questions: How long does it take for a vehicle to be serviced for a given problem?  What is the estimated service time per problem type?   How many vehicles are being serviced? At what step in the service chain is a given vehicle?  What’s the estimated service completion time for each vehicle?  What’s the shop’s performance rating?

Keys at auto shop

The company decided to deploy a solution to measure the efficiency and performance of its shops. The solution tracked the location of each vehicle throughout the service stages at the shop.  An indoor location tracking tag was attached to each vehicle.  Each vehicle’s position within the shop was tracked automatically throughout the service process and its location was made available both through an online dashboard for customers to access, and through a mobile app, which also provided status alerts.

The system significantly increased the perception of transparency. No longer were customers in the dark about how service to their vehicle was progressing.  Now they could actually check where their vehicle was in the chain and get its status. There is now a performance rating.

Behind the scenes

BeRetail logoIt takes an innovative solution provider like BeRetail to bring complex applications like these to life, addressing real business needs with technology.  And it takes technology partners to provide some of the required building blocks, reducing time to market and risk.

BeRetail bridges the gap between customers’ needs and technology. Accuware provides its location platform and support to ensure a successful implementation.

Using Accuware’s products, BeRetail has access to functionality such as:

  • Proximity applications were implemented using a standard iBeacons infrastructure: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) iBeacons (hardware) deployed throughout a venue, to trigger branded mobile apps running on customers’ phones and tablets. When actual location, rather than mere proximity is required, Accuware Indoor Location may be the right tool.
  • Indoor tracking of objects (ex. shopping carts, cars) was enabled by Accuware Bluetooth Beacon Tracker. This product uses small form-factor BLE beacons (ex. iBeacons) attached to objects, whose signals are triangulated by a set of beacon sensors (hardware) deployed throughout the venue.  Note that tracking people may also be possible with this system.
  • People tracking was made possible by Accuware Wearabouts, which relies on apps running on mobile devices (either smartphones or “tags”), which sense ambient Wi-Fi signals to estimate their location in a venue.
  • Indoor navigation was implemented leveraging Accuware Indoor Navigation, which relies on apps running on tablets or smartphones that sense ambient WiFi signals augmented by signals from device sensors like gyroscopes and accelerators.

Experience shows that no single technology works best for all location-aware applications.  It depends.  That’s why solution providers like BeRetail can partner with platform providers that combine the latest technologies with worldwide coverage and support.

It is a win for everyone; especially for our common customers.

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Nantes Museum of Art reborn

On June 23, 2017, the Musée d’Arts de Nantes reopened after an 88+ million Euros, six-year long renovation.  The beautiful main building was renovated and expanded.  A new building, the Cube, was dedicated to contemporary art, and a large inner space was opened for public exhibits.  In addition, digital technologies were deployed throughout the museum to make it all accessible, creating unforgettable new experiences for all visitors.Musée d'Arts de Nantes

Created in 1801 as a provincial museum, the Fine Arts Museum of Nantes, now named Musée d’Arts de Nantes, is the largest and most important institution in France’s Loire region.  Its collections contain works from all major French and European art movements, placing them among the largest public collections alongside the six largest notable Museums of Fine Arts: those of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Montpellier and Rouen.

Renovation

The physical renovation was commissioned to the British architectural firm Stanton Williams, and the digital implementation was entrusted to the French digital agency Mazedia.  The results were stunning.
Musée d'Arts de Nantes

Stanton Williams delivered a magnificent new and expanded physical space, transforming the 19th century complex into an “urban quarter” that encompasses the original building (“le palais”), the chapel (“l’oratoire”), the garden area now open for exhibits, and a new building. the Cube, destined to house contemporary art.  Exhibit space was enlarged by almost a third, enabling 900 new pieces of the 13,000 collection to be available for visitors.

The digital transformation was equally remarkable. Mazedia deployed Wezit, a transmedia storytelling platform for implementing interactive programs at cultural institutions using multiple media formats.  At Nantes three Wezit-enabled attractions were deployed: the Ma Visite mobile app for visitors’ smartphones and tablets, interactive kiosks and the “Under the magnifying glass” stations.

Objectives

There were twin objectives for the digital transformation: enabling the content curation desired by the museum and creating a superb visitor experience.Visitors experience

Curation enabled presenting the content so as to highlight the artwork as conceived by museum curators.

Visitor experience required additional work: a key requirement was for visitors to either be able to create their own tour and operate autonomously, or to take advantage of the predefined tours designed around specific topics.

Since the renovated museum complex is quite large, passageways have been created between buildings that were formerly not present, and some spaces are now used differently than they were before the renovation. As a result, one of the museum’s big challenges was helping visitors find their way easily inside the new, larger space.  Location-awareness, both of artwork and for visitors, became a key concern to address.  Indoor location helped tackle these problems.

Ma Visite mobile app

Ma Visite (“My visit”) is an app available for both iOS and Android devices. Ma Visite mobile app It provides access to key information and functions:

  • the list of all curated museum tours, which encompass the museum’s collections, its architecture, works grouped by time period, or tours such as “looking for love” and the “literary tour”
  • tours for families
  • the “must-see” exhibits
  • the ability for visitors to build custom tours based on their personal interests, and this is possible to do even before reaching the museum grounds
  • special event announcements
  • indoor navigation, for visitors to find their way throughout this vast physical space.

Especially notable are the “must-see” exhibits (“Oeuvres incountournables“), the masterpieces that set this museum apart.  Here is a peek at the user’s experience:

Kiosks

The museum is large, spanning multiple levels over different buildings.
Visitor at a kisok
Complementing the Ma Visite app, the kiosks give visitors the ability to instantly find their location, and search for exhibits of their interest with the convenience of a larger screen.

All artifacts can be found through these kiosks. This way visitors can learn how to locate the specific artworks they wish to see.

Artwork search with location

“Under the magnifying glass” stations

Strategically placed in front of the major exhibits, these stations give visitors the ability to explore notable artwork in detail.
"Oeuvre a la loupe"

"Oeuvre a la loupe"The stations provide the “magnifying glass” (“Œuvre à la loupe”) that enables visitors to delve deeper into the artist, history and significance of these exhibits.

Interestingly, young visitors, accompanied by their parents, are instantly fascinated by these digital devices, rapidly mastering the ability to learn through them.

Le Deluge a la loupe

Behind the scenes

What made the digital magic possible?  Here is how it happened.

Mazedia created the graphics and designed interfaces for the various devices: the website, the mobile app, the kiosks, and the “magnifying glass” stations.  All of them are linked to Wezit, the transmedia platform that enables structuring and  personalizing the digital content published across devices.  Visitors, in particular, may use a variety of devices, such as smartphones, tablets, kiosks or the website portal.  Also, Wezit enables museum curators and administrators to manage the digital content.

Beacons placementA key element of the information displayed to visitors is their location and the location of the artwork they may see during their visit.  Artwork location is displayed as part of search results.

Technically, there are two different ways of providing location. One is using proximity, as in “I’m standing near ‘Le Déluge’ exhibit”.  There is also use for actual geographic coordinates.  For instance: “I’m on the 2nd floor, in the 3rd gallery, near the center of the room”.  This second version delivers coordinates: latitude, longitude and level.

iBeacons were deployed throughout the museum to provide location. These Bluetooth beacons deliver both proximity to specific spots, as the standard iBeacon functionality delivers, as well as indoor location using Accuware’s Indoor Navigation product, which first maps the location of each and every iBeacon, and then delivers coordinates to mobile apps based on the user’s real time location.

With location functionality firmly embedded in Ma Visite, visitors were able to pinpoint their current location and get guidance to locate and see any artwork of their choosing, combining autonomy and flexibility for a great experience.

Early feedback from digital infrastructure users has been very positive.  Children, in particular, were wildly enthusiastic in their embrace of new technology, which instantly multiplied their interest in exploring and learning.  And that is music to the ears of all those who contributed to this remarkable transformation.Wezit at Musee d'Arts de Nantes

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Accuware at ISC West 2017

Our latest solutions for 3-D positioning and video analysis

The Accuware Team will be at the International Security Conference & Exposition, ISC West,  from April 5th to the 7th.ISC West 2017 bannerAt our booth we will demonstrate the latest features of products designed to deliver high reliability and location accuracy in a variety of applications. Our latest offerings include Video Positioning System (VPS) code-named Dragonfly, and Video Location Monitor.  These products expand Accuware’s portfolio, which harness multiple technologies to provide solutions for locating, tracking and monitoring people and mobile assets in the physical world.

VPS Dragonfly

An early version of VPS Dragonfly made its debut at CTIA 2016, the main trade show for the wireless industry.  At that time, VPS Dragonfly was able to estimate the location of a camera-equipped mobile device in 3-dimensions, with an accuracy of just a few inches. It determined its position by decoding visual markers placed around a venue.  The coordinates it produces include latitude, longitude, height off the floor and level (ex. 1st floor, 2nd floor, etc.), which makes it appealing for applications of autonomous mobile robots and drones.

The latest Dragonfly has learned new tricks: by first performing a “visual fingerprinting” of a venue with a device’s camera, Dragonfly can now take a snapshot anywhere around the venue and determine its location by interpolating that image into the database of “ambient visual fingerprints”.  The new system is also self-optimizing, in that it continues “learning” the environment, causing its resolution and location accuracy to improve over time.

This video shows a demonstration of the new VPS Dragonfly functionality as it would be seen when run on a drone:

Visit us at booth 6140 for a live demonstration of this product.

Video Tracker

Video Tracker is a new tool that delivers useful features for intelligent video analysis.  

Imagine a CCTV system displaying a video feed on multiple screens, under the watchful gaze of  several human operators.  Now imagine those operators suddenly wondering whether a person currently visible on the screen has appeared before.  Is that person currently on camera 3 the same one we saw on camera 6 about 20 minutes ago?  Have we seen this person earlier?  Perhaps earlier this morning?  At what time?  Was that same person present multiple times? When and where?

Now picture the CCTV feed been analyzed in real-time: people visible on the screen are being identified by their appearance, including body bulk, height and clothing color (face recognition is not used). Video Tracker detects individuals
Imagine a database containing small snippets of video collected over time, with annotations of who is visible on each snippet, when it was taken and where.  Incidentally, these snippets are referred to as “tracklets”, meaning “portions of a track”, a “track” being the sequence of physical positions of a given subject as it moves through physical space over time.

Once a person’s appearance is uniquely identified and categorized, this enables tracking the movement of that specific individual across multiple camera views over time.  In other words, classifying tracklets in real-time provides the ability to track individuals moving through a monitored venue over time.  Most importantly, the tracklets database enables visual search.

Visual search works as follows: knowing a specific individual’s appearance, it is possible to search the tracklets database to learn when and where that individual has appeared on screen over time.  Visual search is one of Visual Tracker’s key features.   Here is a demonstration.

As shown in the video, other key features of Video Tracker include the ability to perform traffic analysis, definition of geofences, and the visualization of the varying density of people present in a monitored area over a period of time.

Video Tracker heatmap

Regarding Video Tracker’s search feature, it is important to emphasize that the system does not use facial recognition, given the impracticality of this technology on relatively small and low-resolution video footage. Privacy considerations should take into account that Video Tracker’s features enhance video surveillance mechanisms already in place.

About us

Accuware is an engineering-driven company that develops products to serve a wide variety of industries.  We strive to provide cost-effective, easy to deploy and maintain products that are easy to integrate into complete solutions.  And our world-wide technical support coverage helps us ensure that our customers and partners succeed.

We work directly with customers, and through a network of Application and Implementation Partners, which gives us worldwide reach across many industries.

We will be delighted to meet you at ISC West 2017, booth 6140. We look forward to our in-person conversation about your requirements for location-aware applications.  Contact us for further information.

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Bluetooth Beacons for Tracking?

Bringing indoor location to the IoT world

As we know, Apple’s launch of iBeacons in 2013 started a gold rush in proximity-based applications. Since then we have become familiar with using the tiny, long-lived devices to trigger delivery of contextual information. Museum visitors get vivid displays about the exhibit they are approaching. Shoppers at bricks-and-mortar stores receive promotions when walking by a specific section of a store. And there’s more…iBeacons small form-factor

Later on came the systems that leveraged iBeacons’ ambient signals to provide location coordinates, latitude and longitude. And now, the latest systems enable efficient tracking of people and assets through a physical indoor space. How does it all work?

How beacons are used

Bluetooth beacons are small form-factor devices consisting of a radio transmitter and a battery in a tough enclosure. They are a class of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that periodically broadcast their identifier; that is, they “advertise”. Nearby devices that “listen” for BLE signals react to these advertisements. Different behaviors are possible for the receiver of these signals. Some examples:

Proximity applications. iBeacons how proximity worksApple’s iBeacons protocol enables an app running on the client device to react to iBeacons placed at given locations in a venue. The app “listens” to advertisements, and upon detecting a specific identifier, it displays content downloaded from a server.

 

Device location by ambient signals. ble-signals-locatingAgain, iBeacons are placed throughout a venue. By first scanning the iBeacons’ signals, users build a database of iBeacons identifiers detected throughout the space. Client devices running Accuware Indoor Navigation can now obtain their physical location (latitude, longitude and level) in the site

Tracking mobile device with BLE receivers.
ble-beacon-trackingIn this case, BLE “receivers”, referred to as BLE nodes, are placed at known locations throughout a venue. This time, the BLE beacons are moving, attached to mobile assets or carried by people. Each beacon is configured to identify an asset or a person.

Note that this turns the iBeacon model on its head. It is the BLE beacons that move while the BLE nodes are static. When three or more BLE nodes detect the same beacon, the system can triangulate that beacon’s location. This is how Accuware Bluetooth Beacon Tracker works.

Summarizing, 3 models are possible: BLE beacons can be used either to trigger (contextual) proximity actions, to obtain indoor location or to perform real-time tracking. But, why use BLE beacons for tracking?

Tracking with BLE beacons

Here is our CEO demonstrating how Accuware Bluetooth Beacon Tracker works:

Let’s review what it takes to implement a tracking system based on BLE beacons.

BLE Node

BLE Node

System components include: iBeacons, BLE nodes, and a cloud-based server. iBeacons move around advertising their identifiers. BLE nodes collect the clients’ advertisements and upload that data to the server. The server estimates the clients’ locations relative to the BLE nodes’ known locations.

Simple, but why use BLE beacons instead of other technologies such as WiFi? Are there any advantages?  YES! The beacon’s long battery life. Let’s take a closer look.

Long battery Life

One of the big challenges of tracking movement using electronic mobile devices is their battery life. Imagine tracking patients at a hospital using mobile devices whose battery life is just a couple of days. That means recharging or changing the battery overnight every two days. Sony CR2032 coin batteryNow imagine tracking a valuable asset, like an EKG machine at an emergency room. How often would you want to have to recharge the battery? Now imagine tracking dozens, or even hundreds of people or assets. From the maintenance standpoint, it can be expensive and inconvenient to do it daily. Now, what if the battery charge lasted many months?

That is precisely what BLE beacons provide: extended battery life. This is because of their very low energy demand for simply advertising their presence, and the ability to configure the frequency of their advertisement, which is the major culprit in draining the battery.
There are several BLE beacons providers. All of them highlight battery life for a good reason.

What does it take to set up indoor tracking?

Bluetooth Beacon Tracker provides a dashboard for system administration and management. That’s where the setup process starts. The steps are:

  1. Physically place BLE nodes on each floor, in a grid pattern. BLE Nodes marked on floor planBLE nodes are simply plugged into regular power outlets.
  2. Upload one or more floor plans or maps to the dashboard
  3. Overlay and resize the floor plans on top of a Google map representation of the target venue, one floor at a time.
  4. Mark the location of each BLE node on the corresponding floor plan on the dashboard. Note that this process “anchors” the location of each BLE node to a latitude and longitude on a given level
  5. Register each BLE beacon identifier via the dashboard, and configure the system to receive data uploads from the BLE nodes.

And the setup is complete.

How does this work in a real application?

Tracking in real time the physical location of people and mobile assets is a critical need in many applications.  Tracking patients in a nursing facility, lift trucks in a warehouse, mobile medical equipment in a hospital, or children at a child care facility, all share a strong requirement to identify and locate in real time.  And very often, to learn where everyone and everything has been over time.

Radbeacon Dot tracking assetsSetting up an application takes a few steps:

  1. Configuring the BLE beacons’ identifier and its advertising frequency
  2. Recording the BLE beacon identifier via the system dashboard, to associate its identifier with a person or asset to track.
  3. Affixing the BLE beacon to the corresponding asset, or enabling a person to carry it.

BLE beacons must be configured with a unique identifier.  In addition, depending on application requirements, the frequency of advertisement should be adjusted to meet practical needs while maximizing battery life.  For example, advertising frequency could be set at 10 seconds to track patients in a hospital.  Tracking fast moving vehicles, such as autonomous robots in a warehouse may require more frequent advertisement. In all cases, you should refer to the manufacturers’ specifications to achieve the desired effect.

Would you like to try this system in your environment?  Contact us for details.

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Indoor location live at CTIA 2016

CTIA Super Mobility 2016 in Las Vegas, the event “about everything wireless”,  was bigger and better than ever.  A global audience descended on the Sands Expo for the yearly sensory feast on the latest technologies about the mobile world.  And once again, visitors to our booth had a chance to see our latest indoor location products in action.CTIA Super Mobility 2016 Continue reading

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Locate iOS devices indoors using iBeacons

Use iBeacons to continuously track iPhones, iPads

Assume you need to  track the whereabouts of iOS devices as users move throughout a venue. And your need to find their location continuously and with high accuracy. You also plan to deploy iBeacons to enable proximity-based applications.  Add Accuware Wearabouts for iOS, and now you have all the necessary ingredients for non-stop tracking and proximity.  And you can try it for free.iPhone Continue reading

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Indoor location technology at CTIA 2016

Accuware will be at CTIA Super Mobility 2016 in Las Vegas from Sept 7th through 9th, booth 6132.  This year we have, once again, new and exciting indoor location products to show off.

CTIA 2016 at Sands Expo in Las Vegas Continue reading

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