Let’s get together: Wirepas and Bluetooth technology work in tandem for indoor positioning system

Dec. 6, 2021
A modern hotel and workspace offers an opt-in system allowing people to track each other during their group stay. The lights play a key role.

Valo Hotel & Work in Helsinki markets itself as a place where you can not only relax in comfort but where you can also easily work. The work and the stay might involve a group of employees checking in for a couple of days of meetings or a conference. They might need to locate each other at a moment’s notice.

Yes, they could call or text or message. But as everyone knows, those missives could arrive long after they mattered.

Valo has a system that gets around that problem by allowing the visitors to pinpoint each other’s location at any one time, simply by viewing dots on a map that pops up on their phones.

So what does this have to do with lighting?

The system, provided by Finnish lighting and room management software firm Mount Kelvin, makes use of drivers in the hotel’s LED lights, controlled by a Wirepas mesh system. Each Wirepas-enabled driver is able to pick up Bluetooth signals emitted by a guest’s key fob. As long as an individual carries around the fob, then Mo up in room 233 can see that Frank is down in the restaurant, and so forth.

“The drivers themselves are an indoor positioning system with the key fob,” says Jakub Järvenpää, CEO of Helsinki-based Mount Kelvin. “There’s no [other] special gear in the ceiling for making the indoor positioning system.”

The indoor positioning system (IPS) is an added benefit to the Wirepas setup, which helps monitor room occupancy in order to alter lighting and climate control settings. The mesh system performs other functions as well. It helps guests change lights scenes, for instance. And it can also alert the hotel that it’s time to change a room, from a workspace with a fold-down desk to an overnight space with a bed — certain indicators can trigger that, such as if a room has been empty for a certain amount of time, as noticed by sensors.

Valo is trying out the IPS at its Helsinki property, with intentions of rolling it out to other locations, according to Järvenpää.

It’s not a surprise that the drivers can read Bluetooth signals. After all, the Wirepas Massive mesh system makes use of Bluetooth silicon, while deploying Wirepas’ proprietary mesh software rather than Bluetooth mesh software. (Wirepas is preparing different hardware making use of cellular LTE silicon; that system, called Wirepas Private 5G, will also use Wirepas’ own meshing software).

If the idea that your colleagues and bosses can follow you around a hotel might sound a bit unsettling, you can take some comfort in knowing that the system is opt-in.

“It’s purely optional that you’re tracked,” Järvenpää assured LEDs Magazine.

We’ll save the “yeah, but” follow-on to that observation for another time.

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MARK HALPER  is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.