Everything About RTLS
RTLS – Real Time Location System gives companies the ability to track objects and people, while also gathering vital data about these assets and the surrounding environment. RTLS is great at locations and tracking the movement of “things” via continuous feedback. It can give you information about where an object is at the present, where it has been, and provide an analysis of where it is going.
RTLS system is a blend of hardware and software that work together to create a mesh network capable of overseeing the movement of RFID tags within a specific location. This wireless network is created by placing anchors (active RFID readers) at key points throughout and surrounding a facility. These anchors send out a radio signals, and also receive radio signals. They can recognize the active RFID tags every time they come within range of the anchor. When the anchors get a signal from a RFID tag, the location of the tag can be calculated by using triangulation, received signal strength (RSSI), time difference of arrival (TDOA), or similar methods. This calculation is done by the location engine, which is a part of the RTLS software.
The RTLS software that Litum IoT has developed serves multiple functions, including:
- Displaying Where Assets are Located On the Map of the Facility
- Showing the Movement of Assets
- Creating History Reports for Review
- Triggering Alerts & Automated Actions
A well-developed RTLS software program can also be tied into other systems throughout your facility to further improve automation and safety. For instance, RFID tags affixed to delivery vehicles can ping on gateway readers at a warehouse entrance and trigger the gate to open. The system can also automatically send directions to the drivers of these vehicles telling them where to park or which docking bay to go to on arrival.
Several RTLS Technologies in Use Today
There are a wide range of technologies developed for use in location tracking systems. Each of these systems offers a selection of unique benefits for businesses. Some technology are better suited to passive monitoring of assets and personnel as they enter and exit a building. Other systems, such as Ultra-Wideband (UWB) RTLS, is specifically designed to provide accurate, real-time status updates of asset movement within a facility. Before you choose the RTLS technology for your business, take the time to speak with one of our experts about your needs and goals for real-time location tracking.
RFID– Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions are a popular option for facilities and retailers that want to track the movement of merchandise or tools within a short range. This technology is better suited to passive RFID that tracks tags as they are scanned by handheld scanners or when they pass through gateways.
GPS– Open mining operations and other concerns that operate outdoors can benefit from using the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the movement of their vehicles and equipment. Since this technology uses satellites, it can only provide real-time tracking within a few meters and only outside of buildings.
WiFi– A less expensive option for businesses that are just starting to consider real-time tracking, Wi-Fi send wireless signals in all directions to multiple access points. It is useful for tracking time of arrival time, speed, and has a location accuracy to within 5-10 meters.
Bluetooth– Bluetooth low energy beacons (BLE) are becoming more affordable and they offer better location accuracy of within 3-4 m. for real-time tracking. This is also a flexible technology that can be used for tracking objects as they pass gateways or active movement within a facility.
UWB– Ultra-Wideband (USB) RTLS technology is one of the most popular options for facilities that require pinpoint accuracy. This low energy frequency provides location accuracy of within a sub meter range. It is ideal for monitoring the movement of fast vehicles and preventing collisions, tracking senior newborn babies, senior residents, patients and improving their safety. UWB tags last for years with a single battery and require minimal maintenance.
Quick Comparison of RTLS Technologies at a Glance
Do you just want to compare the basics of the most commonly used RTLS technologies? We’ve put together a quick comparison of the tech available to companies and a wide range of industries. Whether you have a tight budget or large one, need to monitor personnel in real time, or want to provide improved security, there is a RTLS available for you.
RFID: Low cost technology; Passive ID tracking; Inventory management, personnel monitoring
GPS: Medium cost tech; Outdoor satellite, 5 m. location accuracy; Asset tracking, monitoring staff. Short battery life
WiFi: Medium cost tech; 5 m. location accuracy; Asset tracking, monitoring staff, facility security & safety
BLE: Low cost tech; 3 m. location accuracy; Asset tracking, monitoring staff, facility security & safety
UWB: Premium price tech; submeter location accuracy; highly flexible usage, suited to workplace safety & security, asset tracking
Common Applications of RTLS
It may be hard to visualize the far-reaching capabilities of real-time location systems before you have a chance to install these technologies in your facility. Litum IoT experts have in-depth experience planning and managing tracking technologies for clients. We have helped businesses utilize RTLS for many applications, as you can see below.
One of the most basic functions of RTLS is to monitor and track the movement of your vehicles, equipment, and tools. With the right technology, you can actively observe vehicles traveling on a tarmac at the airport, find where tools have been left behind by workers in a large facility, and even make sure no equipment leaves a designated area.
Employee Tracking From Long Range
Keeping track of personnel is also a vital function of a real-time location system. Businesses can use this technology to do virtual roll calls, monitor the active movements of staff members, check that staff are actually working, and even keep track of important data, such as hours worked, tardiness, and which employees used which equipment.
Tracking merchandise and inventory in a warehouse is another excellent way to utilize RTLS. With passive and active ID tags, facilities can automatically log the entry of merchandise from the loading dock and keep an accurate count of inventory. This information can also be used to track down point of origin when needed, monitor the production of raw materials, and easily distribute inventory to retailers and other facilities.
Sensors installed on ID tags that are affixed to vehicles and equipment can monitor the status of your assets and trigger alerts when maintenance is needed. You can also utilize RTLS to keep track of how often maintenance is needed on various equipment, monitor the results of maintenance and reduce repair costs from breakdowns.
Environmental & Heat Monitoring
Sensors can also be affixed to passive and active ID tags to monitor the environment, such as gas levels, temperature, humidity, and even vibration that could indicate an earthquake or rock slide. This is a great tool to use in hazardous environments like mining facilities and logging concerns.
ID tags worn by employees can also include Man Down alerts that trigger when the employee hasn’t moved for a long period or has even fallen. RTLS can also be used to assist with emergency evacuation, fire training, and collision avoidance. Real-time location software can actively monitor the movement of vehicles and equipment, such as forklifts, to prevent accidents and crashes.
Gateways set up within an RFID network can monitor passage of personnel to prevent unauthorized access to specific areas. Passive ID tags affixed to tools and equipment may even trigger an alert when someone walks away from the site with these assets. Panic buttons and alarms on ID tags also allow employees to request emergency assistance from security.
How Does the Future of the RTLS Market Look?
According to Research and Markets, the global RTLS market is expected to grow a whopping 22.5% by 2023. This technology is being rapidly adopted by companies in the healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and automotive sectors. With an increasing need to meet stricter government regulations and remain competitive in an economy bursting with startups, it’s no wonder that so many businesses are adopting real-time tracking systems.
Among the commonly used RTLS technology, UWB is expected to grow the fastest in coming years. This system is capable of tracking a large number of tags at once to within the greatest level of accuracy. It should also be noted that the prices for UWB capable tags are dropping, which makes this system more and more affordable by the day.
If you are thinking about updating your production processes with new technology, contact Litum IoT. We help you design and set up the ideal RTLS for your company’s needs. Our locally based experts will also meet with you in-person to go over the options right away.