Stable Communication in Tunnels and Below Ground! The New IoT Technology Supports Worksite Operations

What are BLE Sensors, Devices Playing an Important Role at Worksites?

Equipment maintenance for buildings, such as office buildings and shopping malls, involves operating and monitoring, inspecting, repairing and maintaining equipment and devices. Did you know that use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors are rapidly increasing at the sites of such maintenance work?

BLE is a low-power, wireless, short-distance communication technology. By collecting location and biometric information of onsite workers as well as data on the environment and equipment vibration, BLE sensors are contributing to bolstering safety measures and improving work efficiency, which is enabled using analysis results of such collected information and data.

BLE sensors, however, have a weakness; the communication range is only around 10 meters. To accommodate for this weakness, it has become a general practice to relay communication using smartphones and gateway devices within the communication range and accumulate data in the cloud via mobile communication such as LTE or 3G of smartphones. However, there are still serious issues: unstable mobile communication in worksites with poor reception such as tunnels and below ground as well as high communication costs resulting from the use of one smartphone for each BLE sensor.

Japan's First Wireless Communication Devices to Autonomously Create a Network while Users are Moving

Fujitsu has launched the Edgiot AH Series*2 and the Edgiot GW1100*3. The Edgiot AH Series offers ad hoc*1 wireless communication systems for IoT devices. The Edgiot GW1100 is a gateway device that forwards data from Edgiot AH series devices to the cloud.

AH series devices are one size smaller than smartphones, offering excellent portability. They are also the first wireless communication devices compatible with BLE sensors in Japan to continually recognize network routes between devices and autonomously create wireless networks even while users are walking around.

Instead of using mobile communication via LTE or 3G, AH series devices use the 920 MHz band, which does not require a license. This allows the devices to perform multi-hop communication in which multiple wireless devices use other adjacent wireless devices to send data, creating a wide mesh of communication networks as wide as 1.5 kilometers. Since the 920 MHz band has excellent radio wave properties that go around barriers and are less affected by radio wave interference, thereby facilitating stable communication.

Taking advantage of reliable proven experience with wireless communication for smart meters, Fujitsu has also equipped AH series devices with a mesh-like ad hoc communication capability. More specifically, the devices constantly monitor each other's operation status and automatically find a detour to maintain communication even when part of the network fails.

*: A communication method in which devices establish a temporary connection with each other using their built-in communication relay capabilities instead of a dedicated station
**: The official product name is the FUJITSU Network Edgiot AH Series. (Sold only in Japan)
***: The official product name is the FUJITSU Network Edgiot GW1100. (Sold only in Japan)

Fujitsu's wireless communication system for the IoT

Approximately Thirty-five Percent Reduction in System Deployment and Communication Costs

The AH series will not only solve the issue of maintaining communication in workplaces with poor reception such as in tunnels and below ground but also collect data on workers' pulses, steps and heat stress in places such as plants, shipyards and construction sites where many people work. Furthermore, analysis of collected data will improve safety control efficiency and reduce maintenance costs, which used to be very high.

For a workplace with 50 workers, it has been estimated that system deployment and communication costs can be reduced by approximately 35% if switched from mobile communication.

The AH series can also be used in shopping malls or tourist attractions to provide local information to visitors and tourists. In this case, device settings and information to be offered can be changed remotely--without staff having to do so onsite--through centrally managing beacons in multiple locations in the target area. This will enhance work efficiency and reduce the workload of workers.

Fujitsu will continue enhancing the Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) communication method, which allows low-power communication between a distance of one kilometer or longer, and support IoT-enabled worksite innovation.