RTLS (real-time location tracking) has been around for years, and it is the kind of technology that is valuable for every industry because of its vast potential. It is expected to nearly triple in value in the next few years as more enterprises continue to integrate it into their systems. It is extensive enough to use and scale, and there is much to know about it. This guide gives a detailed explanation of RTLS and all you need to know about it.
What is RTLS?
RTLS stands for real-time location solutions. Time and location are the key elements in RTLS showing where, when, and what at a local level. in different circumstances, you may need to track the location of objects or people or know where exactly an item is in a general area.
You can configure an RTLS system to report tag locations at various levels of granularity. Additionally, you can set it to communicate when some tags pass through certain restricted doors and checkpoints.
A common RTLS application is in logistics, whereby supervisors use it to know which forklift crossed which picking lane in a warehouse and monitor the drivers’ activities. It can also visualize which cargo was loaded into a specific container or truck at a particular time of the day.
You can employ different sensor technologies such as radio beacon, active RFID, passive RFID, and semi active RFID in a real-time locating solution to achieve various levels of tracking according to your needs. However, remember that the objects, environment, location accuracy required, and other aspects may impact your decision.
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The technologies used on RTLS
Today, there are many ways to make the real-time location a reality. Still, the commonest approach is using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology such as WISER’s redundant radio localization (UWB), wifi, and tracking technology. Wireless transceivers, commonly known as tracker tags, are attached to the objects or personnel that need tracking. At the same time, a system of reference points in a designated location reads the transmission from the tags to calculate location data and actual timing, providing real-time tracking. Depending on the system, the reference points are commonly referred to as antennas, beacons, or anchors.
Some RTLS solutions calculate the location data at the edge, as it were, while others transfer it back to a server first. Additionally, some systems use triangulation, while others use trilateration. But all in all, radio frequency transmissions are the main RTLS mechanisms across all standard technologies in use, including wifi, Bluetooth low energy, UWB, ISM band, and NB IoT.
Other non-radio frequency approaches to real-time location solutions are infrared and ultrasonic. However, they are mainly used to complement radio frequency-based solutions.
Asset tracking VS RTLS
Many people confuse RTLS and asset tracking and even use them interchangeably. Asset tracking can mean anything, including the library catalog, spreadsheets, and even RTLS. Most of the asset tracking solutions in the market are software tools for logging data and do not track real-time location.
Asset tracking refers to systems that account for items at the point of data log, such as the moment of scan and when inventories are updated. Therefore it doesn’t include actual location data. For instance, bar codes enable identification but are not equipped with timing or location data.
In contrast, RTLS provides accurate location data to find out when, where or what object moved. It enables facility owners to mitigate asset loss and improve the security and efficiency of their workflows. Location-based worker safety applications also use RTLS outside the scope of asset tracking, so they are two different things.
Uses of RTLS
Many companies in different industries implement RTLS systems in their workflow to improve efficiency, performance, and productivity. Here are some use cases for RTLS:
- It locates pallets of merchandise in warehouses.
- It tracks items in retail stores.
- It is used to monitor automobiles on the assembly lines.
- It can ensure proper staff levels, for instance, guards in prisons facilities.
- It is used to locate shared use medical tools in a hospital.
- It can identify customers in a restaurant who need food delivery or service.
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Typical RTLS applications by the industry
It helps with safety and compliance, employee tracking, asset tracking, supply chain management, and maintenance management.
RTLS solutions are used in retail for supply chain management, asset tracking, employee tracking, and customer tracking.
In manufacturing, RTLS comes in handy for asset tracking, employee tracking, tool tracking, supply chain management, maintenance management, work in process, safety and compliance, etc.
Governments can use RTLS systems for asset tracking, livestock, employee, supply chain, and maintenance management.
RTLS is necessary for asset tracking, employee tracking, and customer tracking in the hospitality industry.
The last words
The list mentioned above is by no means exhaustive because there are much use cased for RTLS. Most importantly, it provides an affordable and effective way of monitoring what is happening within a facility in real-time.
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