Go Deeper With Even More Losant Assets
Contact Tracing with IoT
Aidan Zebertavage: [Music] All right, everyone. It is now 1:02 PM. We're going to go ahead and get started. Thank you very much for joining this Deeper Dive webinar. If this is your first time joining us here at Losant for one of our Deep Dives, welcome, and if you're a returning attendee, welcome back. We're excited to have you all here with us today. My name is Aidan Zebertavage. I'm a member of Losant's Education Team, and I serve as our Technical Evangelist. Today, we are very lucky to have Adam Daniel, Losant's VP of Enterprise Solutions, with us, and he's going to be leading us through a topic that is extremely timely and relevant to today's environment which is contact tracing. The CDC has recommended contact tracing as a key strategy for preventing the further spread of COVID-19, and businesses of all types are looking for any and all ways to implement a contact tracing strategy and reopen their doors. Adam will take us through Losant's IoT-based contact tracing solution and speak to not only how enterprise can implement this strategy but also to highlight several benefits of an IoT-based contact tracing solution over some of the more typical mobile-based strategies that you may be familiar with. Afterwards, myself, Adam, and Brandon Cannaday, Losant's Chief Product Officer, will be available to participate in a Q&A here on the Zoom call. Just briefly before we get started, I wanted to touch on a few housekeeping items. For your awareness, this webinar is being recorded, and the replay will be made available to you in a couple different ways. After this webinar, we'll send you an email with a link to the replay. Additionally, the webinar will be made available on Losant's YouTube page as well as on our Deeper Dive webpage. Throughout today's webinar, you may have questions that you'd like to ask. I'd like to point out a couple of key features in the Zoom conference. You can use the Q&A feature or the chat function to post questions, and I'll be monitoring those throughout the call. And then, at the end of the presentation, as I said, I'll moderate a Q&A session with the posted questions. If you do have to leave early, not a problem. The Q&A will also be posted as a PDF alongside the replay link after today's presentation. So, prior to handing it over to Adam to speak directly about today's contact tracing application, I'd like to do some level setting around Losant and our enterprise IoT platform, especially for those of you on the call who are new to Losant. Losant is an application enablement platform. What that means is that Losant provides enterprises with the building blocks to create their own IoT applications. The platform itself consists of five key components to help customers achieve that. They are edge compute, devices and data sources, data visualization, our visual workflow engine, and end-user experiences. I like to think of these as your building blocks to a full IoT solution. Our customers and partners utilize these tools to create the robust IoT applications that they then put in front of their end-users. Losant is a leader in the industrial, telecommunications, and smart environment spaces, and we've offered this platform to a range of customers including those in the Fortune 100. So, if you are interested in learning more beyond just today's Deep Dive, please reach out, and we'd be happy to set up some time for a much more in-depth discussion. So, while Losant provides the software foundation for IoT, there are many other components that have to come together to create an IoT application. So, we've surrounded ourselves with a great ecosystem of partners. This includes strategic partners with whom we share sales and go-to-market strategies, solutions partners who work with clients to develop end-to-end IoT applications, and lastly, technology partners that can provide hardware, connectivity, and other services to complete an IoT solution. But today specifically, we are here to talk about contact tracing and using IoT to achieve that, and this is especially relevant to today's current business environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted all of our lives and will continue to do so, and enterprise will be challenged to manage their workforce through this pandemic for the foreseeable future. To understand Losant's approach to contact tracing, Adam's going to be taking us through the following. So, to start off, obviously, what is contact tracing? We're going to talk about what we're hearing from our customers about contact tracing and some of their concerns. We'll go into a higher-level, solution overview talking about Losant's approach to contact tracing prior to going into that Deep Dive into the Losant platform and understanding the application itself. And then finally, we'll wrap up with highlighting some of the benefits of our solution over some other strategies. So, really, with that, I'd like to hand it over to Adam to get the Deeper Dive underway. At this time, I'll let him share his screen and get started. Great.
Aidan: Awesome. Thank you, Adam. Let me share my screen here again. So, thank you very much for that, Adam. Before we do get into the Q&A, and I'll let Adam catch his breath a little bit after going into that Deep Dive, I do want to point everybody to a couple of educational resources that Losant has available. So, obviously, we have our documentation describing the functionality and how to use Losant at docs.losant.com, and when you're ready to take a bit of a deeper dive into learning how to use Losant, we offer Losant University, which is a great way to come up to speed on how to use the platform and get a better idea of all of the capability and application potential that the platform has. As Adam mentioned, we do have our historical Deep Dive series available as well. Specifically, we have a Deep Dive available on application experiences and really building up that final end-user-facing application portal for your customers to be able to access that data. So, you can find that at losant.com/deeperdive. And then, finally, I want to put in a plug for our blog. We have a numerous hands-on tutorials that show you, walk you through different applications and different hardware types using Losant. And then, finally, our forums are a great place to engage with the community and get answers to any sort of troubleshooting or Q&A sessions that you may want to utilize that for. So, if we are ready, we did get quite a few questions, and so I know Brandon and Adam are available to start working through these. So, I think our first main topic where we got quite a few questions was around the Bluetooth asset tags in general. So, the first question was, "Are these tags similar to the Milwaukee tool TICK or to The Tile tag?" and I believe, Brandon, you had an answer ready for that one.
Brandon Cannaday: Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Aidan. So, the tags themselves, the actual hardware that make up the tag, it's fairly similar as in it's a BLE tag kind of broadcasting some information. The solution behind it is quite a bit different. So, TICK and Tile both have a pretty creative way to determine the actual GPS location of a tag, but it requires the mobile app. So, what Adam was talking about a lot, in this solution, there's no mobile app requirement because we're not really tracking the physical location and GPS coordinates. We just need to know: Were two tags close to each other? So, the TICK and The Tile both work very similarly. When a mobile phone with one of their apps gets near one of those devices, it kind of remembers that and sends it up to the cloud. So, basically, anybody anywhere that has this app, regardless of if they own that specific tag or not, will be contributing to the location information. So, the tags themselves are similar, but the overall solution on how it's determining location is quite a bit different.
Aidan: Great. Thanks, Brandon. And then, moving on in even deeper into the Bluetooth tags, "Are we able to support angle of arrival on our Bluetooth tags using Bluetooth 5.0 specifications?" And I think specifically getting into how our application maybe differs for some of that, reiterating how our application differs for some of that real-time location tracking. And I think, Adam, you might be best suited to answer this one.
Adam: Sure, yeah. So, let me clarify. We do not need, we're not reliant or dependent on angle of arrival to do what we've outlined here, but that does not mean the tags can't support it. So, our reference tags that we're using for our demo here were just a Ruby tag, which is an open-source hardware platform using the Nordic chipset. The custom firmware that we have developed will run on pretty much any Nordic-based tag as well. So, if there is a Nordic tag chip out there or tag out there that supports the Bluetooth 5 angle of arrival, which I know there are, then, yes, we could absolutely use that tag with this solution as well.
Brandon Cannaday: Yeah, and this is Brandon. Just to add a little bit, I think this plays very nicely into the after-COVID scenario. So, although these tags are not being used for angle of arrival now, they're just detecting contacts between two different tags. Once kind of the need for contact tracing is over, you might be sitting on a few thousand of these tags, and that's where especially Adam was talking about, you can repurpose those to maybe then switch to indoor asset tracking implementation that then can utilize some of that angle of arrival technology for a different use case.
Aidan: And I think continuing on and just to wrap up on some of the hardware questions that we are getting, if we wanted to incorporate other attributes on those Bluetooth tags, specifically we have the question, "Are they able to capture individuals' temperature and then provide a heat map of the facility?" I think what other capability on those asset tags do you maybe foresee in the future?
Adam: So, it depends on the hardware chosen. These tags specifically have the temperature, humidity, so you could use, if you combined this with an RTLS to locate the tag, you could essentially do heat maps and humidity maps of your space. So, that is possible, especially life after COVID if that were the use case you wanted to do. From a other tag standpoint, there are manufacturers that are putting audible like speakers, buzzers, little vibration motors to get some haptic feedback. I specifically haven't seen one with an integrated body temperature in it right yet, but it's absolutely completely capable of doing that as well.
Aidan: So, in order to get started then with this application, I mean would we, would Losant recommend a particular Bluetooth tag or gateway type that our potential customers might look to to implement this solution?
Adam: Right. So, right now, what we're doing is with our demo kits and pilots, we're using these Ruby tags. The Ruby tags are easy to get. They're an open-source platform. They are customizable at volume, so they're a great tag to get started with. They are a little on the large side, so when you're talking about form factor with people carrying them around, it may not be the perfect form factor. But what we're seeing is that they're a great place to get started. And then, once the pilot runs and we see what the use cases are because every environment is a little bit different. For example, in an enterprise environment in an office setting, maybe a lanyard or pendant shape form factor might be right, but in a construction or manufacturing setting, things dangling or hanging from a body could be problematic. So, maybe more of a clip-based on a vest or on a belt is a better form factor. So, yes, we can absolutely make recommendations for hardware and get you set up with some pilot hardware to test it out and get started and then kind of evolve the solution over time with you based off of the results of that pilot.
Aidan: Great. And then, I think the last question that I think around the actual hardware piece of this before we get into some of the more specific questions we got around workflows and the actual application data that it's producing, it was just this concept of distance on an XY-coordinate plane versus being able to track distance in the 3D space. So, I'm assuming that this is coming from an application where you might have vertical distance that you have to take into consideration with exposure, so do we have the ability or do we foresee the ability to be able to track in that 3D space the distance required for detecting contact within two tags?
Adam: Right, and again, going back to the infrastructure piece, this solution is not dependent on any kind of RTLS. We wanted to keep the infrastructure costs down. That doesn't mean you can't combine this with an RTLS. So, if you want to, if you already had the infrastructure in place and you had the capability of doing triangulation through something like a Meraki system or Meridian or a Koopa and you had that infrastructure in place and you want to translate to an X, Y, and Z, you absolutely could. We're not limiting in that area, but this demo, this solution is specifically not leveraging those to keep infrastructure costs down and flexibility high.
Aidan: Great. So, I think, obviously, that we have a lot of potential flexibility on the hardware side, but I think for me, looking at this application, it really comes from the value of being able to implement a contact-tracing solution relatively quickly. But I think one of the things, some of the questions that we've gotten here are around: What else can this data tell us? So, specifically, we got a question that says, "So, once an employee tests positive, can you then assign contact tracing as far as time, and then assign a probability of exposure based on how many degrees of contact versus when?" So, I think this is getting into a little bit more of a deeper understanding of what data is relevant to understand contact tracing and who needs to be made aware at the enterprise level that they've been exposed to COVID-19. So, I think, Adam, this would be a question on the backend side on what level of data analysis would we be able to achieve that might be able to get us something close to this?
Adam: Sure, yeah. With notebooks, you can do much deeper analysis than what we showed in this demo. The translating it from just simple contact to more duration-based is possible, so we could essentially put all of the contacts in series in order and then do an aggregation on duration. That's completely doable within a notebook. We could take the count of contacts combined with the duration, and so you could absolutely do some further analysis on that as well.
Aidan: Great. So, I think this is getting and taking another step back, back into the workflow that you showed. "Would all the gateways then be communicating to a single webhook as you had it set up in the demonstration?" And I think that where this is coming from is in a busy office or in a busy area where you might have multiple gateways, do we foresee any hindrance where we have that level of communication going on? And really, I guess what this is leading to is how does this really scale to a thousand-employee operation, 2,000-employee operation? Adam, could you speak to that a little bit maybe on what we've heard even from the customer side?
Adam: Sure, absolutely, and Brandon might have some opinion on this as well. So, what we're showing in this demo is really simple. So, we've created one webhook. We also in the platform, have the concept of peripherals and gateways, which is right in line with this scenario as well. So, a peripheral...And I encourage you to check out documentation on peripherals and gateways as well. It would be a more scalable solution than just a single webhook where you essentially have gateways that are authenticated sending the information up to a workflow based off of that. And then, all of the tags are just registered as peripherals communicating through the gateway, so that's also another option. But as far as scalability goes, Brandon can probably talk to the concept of one webhook and at full scale as well.
Brandon: Yeah, yeah, happy to. So, this isn't a bad approach. I think you can have every gateway, dozens, hundreds all sending to one webhook. The platform does have some safety limits that you might hit, but that's just a matter of contacting us. That just protects us from people doing unexpected things maybe on accident. But webhooks scale extremely well. So, behind the scenes, they trigger workflows, and our workflows scale very well. So, I do like Adam's suggestion of the gateway peripheral model. Basically, that allows all of the gateways to directly report that Device: State on behalf of the peripheral, so you may not have to go through the webhook and then through the workflow kind of layer. However, that pushes a bit of the work back onto the gateway, so that depends on the flexibility or the configurability of your gateway. If it's kind of an off-the-shelf, Bluetooth gateway that might just read the data and push it forward, then the webhook and the workflow will work a lot better. But, yeah, to directly answer the question, from a platform and scalability side, I don't see any difficulty with all of those gateways with thousands of employees all sending to a single webhook.
Aidan: Great. I think we've got a couple other questions here that have kind of come in back to the asset tags themselves, as well as just a couple questions around complying with some of the standards that we see emerging out in the enterprise space as all enterprise starts to deal with contact tracing and social distancing in this new world. So, the first question back on the asset tags, Adam, "You mentioned that they were calibrated to within a two-meter range. Could you speak a little bit more to how exactly that works?" And there's a couple questions then on the level of accuracy using those Bluetooth tags.
Adam: Yep, yeah. So, the tags themselves are consistently transmitting at…All of the firmware is all set to a consistent Tx power. So, we have control over that with the firmware. So, right now, we are broadcasting at a 4 power, actually, and then using some of the firmware logic, we're calculating and based off the transmission power and based off the RSSI that we see from the tags, we're roughly translating that to two meters. It is as, if you're familiar with BLE at all, you know it's not a perfect science, and that's why if you're looking at a lot of the RTLS systems that don't use something like attack of arrival, you know you're looking at a one-meter, two-meter accuracy. What we're going after here is simplicity, and we're looking at the line of sight's distance. So, if you are two meters away from a tag that's mounted on the front of somebody, that's going to be fairly accurate from a line of sight. Obviously, the device or the signal strength will get degraded as it goes through walls or other materials, but if they have a wall between them, we're not so concerned about having accurate XY. We are just most concerned of the distance between them, and if the fact that there's an obstruction between them is okay. So, these are calibrated to about two meters. It's calibrated so kind of on the safe side. So, if they're slightly further away from two meters, it will pick it up. And again, the point of contact tracing is to make sure that people that may have been exposed can be notified, so we're kind of erring on the side of caution here.
Aidan: Okay, great. I think, actually, we've got one last question as I mentioned, kind of coming around to compliance, and obviously, this is a very rapidly changing space as all organizations learn how to move through this and invest in establishing best practices. But maybe, Brandon, could you speak a little bit to Losant's strategy in terms of being maybe compliant with some of the re-occupancy strategies that are being introduced out into the world?
Brandon: Yeah. So, I think where Losant helps here is to enable the customers of Losant and solutions like this for themselves to be compliant. So, we see a lot of similar solutions arriving in the market around not only contact tracing but also occupancy monitoring. It's a really good use case for IoT as well. So, there is a significant amount of regulation that's out right now where bars, restaurants, and venues have to be at half capacity or even less, and a lot of that onus is shifted to the business owner that they have to comply to that. And outside of somebody sitting at the door and counting people entering and exiting, there's really not a lot they can do. So, contact tracing is one solution that can enable some of these re-occupancy regulations, however, I would certainly investigate what else can IoT and maybe sensor-driven applications that might help as well and like the counting people coming and going is a very straightforward one that can help a lot of businesses as well.
Aidan: Awesome, and I think that's actually, that's a great kind of segue here to wrap up our Q&A. We've talked about a ton of information today not only around contact tracing, but we also just talked about the capability that Losant can provide to enterprise. So, if you do want to connect with us, whether it is about compliance and regulations that you're being asked to comply with that you want to understand how IoT can help you support those regulations, or you have other questions around applications within your own enterprise and your own site, please reach out to us. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We really look forward to helping you figure out exactly how you can leverage an IoT solution in your given business. I want to thank everybody for your attendance today. I also want to thank Adam and Brandon for their time and their expertise and helping me through this Q&A session. I certainly learned a lot. The Deeper Dive series will be back in August again with topics around IoT and how IoT fits into the world's landscape. So, with that, I will wish everybody a great afternoon and again, thank you very much for attending.