We at Thingsquare have come up with a new way to allow smartphone apps to control and access wireless things. We call it proximity control.

Existing technologies often make it tricky to find and interact with nearby devices. The user is typically required to enter or scan codes, or do other configuration to connect their smartphones with things.

Unlike existing solutions, proximity control does not require configuration to connect things with smartphones -- nearby devices quickly pop up in the user's smartphone, ready to be used.

Proximity control allow users to quickly find and interact with nearby devices with their smartphones.
Proximity control: dimming a nearby lamp.

Proximity control started out as a tech demo at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Today, it is part of Thingsquare-powered commercially available products, such as the Lucid Wireless Solution.


Proximity Detection and Access

A nearby device is quickly detected by the smartphone app, typically within one second. Once the presence of the device has been detected, the user may interact with the device and access data produced by it.

Proximity control demo: detecting a Sensortag with the Thingsquare Device Viewer app.

The user may access the device only if the user has the credentials needed to access it. Users have different access levels that depend on in which situation proximity control is being used. In a wireless lighting system, only the installation personnel may alter characteristics of a device, but any user that are nearby a light may set the dimming level. Access control is determined by who is currently logged in to the smartphone app that accesses the device.

When the Sensortag is near the smartphone, its temperature can be accessed from the app.

The technology behind proximity control is a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and IPv6 meshing (6lowpan). BLE is used for the detection of nearby devices and 6lowpan for the secure data transmission and control.

Moving out of Range

When a device moves out of range of the smartphone app, the device will no longer be accessible. The device will be available again if the smartphone is in range of the device.

When the Sensortag moves away from the smartphone, it will no longer be accessible from the app.

Proximity Control in Large-scale Installations

When installing large-scale wireless systems, such as industrial lighting systems, proximity control plays an important role.

Before installing a lighting system, the lighting designer makes a lighting plan. The lighting plan shows where each invidiual light source should be placed to acheive the desired level of lighting.

Light planning software also provides a light simulator, showing exactly what to expect in terms of light levels after the light sources have been installed.

The traditional way of installing a wireless lighting system is to first give each light source a number according to the light plan and then have the installation team carefully place each lamp its location in the map. This requires coordination between the installation peronnel and the light planner and makes alterations after the fact difficult.

With proximity control, the numbering of the individual lamps can be skipped. Instead, the lamps and their locations are quickly found by walking aronud the installation site after the lamps have been installed. The installation personnel can just install the lamps without worrying about that the right lamp is placed at the right location. As long as there are lamps at the right locations, the proximity control mechanism will correctly identify each lamp.

Availiability of Proximity Control

Proximity control is used by a number of upcoming commercial products produced by Thingsquare customers, including the Lucid Wireless Solution.

Proximity control is available on hardware platforms that support Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Out-of-the-box support is provided for the Texas Instruments CC2650 System-on-a-Chip, which is used in the TI Sensortag evaluation module. Custom hardware support is also available.

If you are interested in using proximity control and the Thingsquare system for your product, get in touch with us and we'll set up a call!