Japan Airlines tests battery-free beacons at 13 airports

Japan Airlines (JAL) logo

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons that use energy harvesting technology to avoid the need to change batteries have been installed by Japan Airlines (JAL) at 13 major Japanese airports to provide users of its JAL Countdown mobile app with “real-time departure, gate and other timely information”.

JAL is working with technology provider Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) on the field trial and is using Bluetooth beacons that make use of energy harvesting power management integrated circuits (PMICs) supplied by embedded systems solutions provider Spansion.

“Spansion’s family of energy harvesting PMICs enable the development of eco-friendly internet-of-things devices, which can be operated without battery or fuel,” Spansion explains.

“The PMICs implemented in the beacons can effectively extract energy from both sunlight and vibration. The power source is provided by the solar battery panels, which are embedded within the module and are half the size of a business card. The solar battery can be operated continuously using the amount of light equal to standard interior lighting used in everyday activities.”

DNP next plans to run a separate field trial using the Spansion-powered beacon modules to deliver digital floor information and guides at the entrance to Aeon Malls. The project will then be expanded “to include games, digital coupons, in-facility map information and product information”. DNP says it expects these services ultimately to be used in a wide range of large-sized facilities including shopping malls, theme parks and museums.

“Batteries that power most iBeacon solutions today must be changed too often,” says Spansion’s Tom Sparkman. “As the internet of things continues to grow, we believe the costs and maintenance of replacing batteries in beacon modules will become prohibitive.”

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