sign inside a hospital (Inked Pixels/

VA puts virtual beacons in medical center

The Department of Veterans Affairs is installing an indoor navigation system for patients at the Orlando, Fla., Medical Center’s Lake Nona Campus and Community Living Center.

Designed to help patients use their smartphones to find their way around the facility, the virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) system uses a blue dot to show users where they are on a floor plan and help them find their destinations. It is expected to reduce missed appointments and improve the customer experience.

Unlike traditional Bluetooth beacons that rely on their own power source and can be difficult to accurately site, virtual beacon technology uses steerable BLE antennas called beacon access points that are powered by Ethernet. The beacon points, which have IP addresses, can be placed on the ceilings and managed by IT teams. A cloud-based app lets IT managers set up virtual beacons for wayfinding or for broadcasting location-appropriate messages.

Beacons can easily be added or moved, and the signals adapt to different mobile device types.

The app sends data from its sensors to the cloud, where location estimates are calculated and returned to the user’s device, which saves the device's battery.

In May, the VA issued a request for information for what it called the MyVA Way app, which would provide wayfinding to the different floors, buildings and outpatient clinics associated with VA medical centers.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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