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What is RTLS? How does it Work and What are its Applications?

May 25, 2022
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RTLS explained
RTLS explained

With the increasing demand to improve how industries function at large, many kinds of technologies are being introduced to the market. Whether it is workforce management or handling assets in a product-based industry, organizations have a lot on their hands. This is the reason why the technology of an RTLS system was designed. In this article, we’re going to discuss it in detail. 

What is RTLS? 

RTLS stands for Real-Time Locating Systems and this kind of system can tell exactly where a person or thing is at any given time. To answer “How does RTLS work?”, we’ll add a bit more context. Each RTLS system is made up of hardware and software that work together to make an indoor positioning network. Active Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that are attached to equipment, goods, or people are tracked by a network of active RFID readers that are spread out across the region.

This proves to be a very beneficial technology for organizations since it allows them to make smart decisions based on the location data they have. RTLS is a goal that can be achieved with a number of asset management and location systems, not just one. Some RTLS applications only need timestamps when an object moves through a certain area, but others need granular visibility and need time data to be updated often.

Components of RTLS

Most RTLS share core components made up of anchors, tags, and location engines. Depending on the use case RTLS components will be chosen depending on the accuracy, latency, range, and throughput requirements of the business. 

RTLS Anchors- Detect signals from transmitting tags to determine the real-time position of the tag. The anchor will communicate each tag’s signal and timestamp the information which is then shared with the location engine. The location engine will then calculate the tag’s position. 

RTLS Tags- Wireless devices that can be deployed fixed or dynamically to an object, room, or person to help determine the location. Tags send data to the anchors which then send data to the location engine. The location engine determines the location of the tag. 

Location Engine- Processes the received location and IoT data from the hardware. The location engine turns this information into actionable location data insights.

What are the Benefits of RTLS? 

what are the benefits of RTLS? 
what are the benefits of RTLS? 

Many industries around the world are moving quickly to use this new and unique technology. Real-time tracking of assets and workers helps companies cut down on production delays, and find ways to improve and protect their workers. The following are the benefits of real-time location services:- 

Keeping a track

RTLS software can be used to keep track of goods, people, cars, livestock, and other things. Managers can better handle their business and make decisions accordingly if they’re aware of all the assets currently present. An asset tracking system would help warehouse managers determine whether or not their workers are consistently running late or even missing deadlines altogether. In order to avoid wasting money and time due to delays and lost assets, it is important to keep an eye on the movement of your items.

Accurate Data

Maintaining an accurate inventory is essential, although it might be challenging. RTLS allows you to obtain and maintain a near-perfect inventory without the need for time-consuming and costly inventory audits. In just a few minutes, RTLS technology can tell you the exact location of all your assets in real-time.

Improving Efficiency

With real-time data on where your drivers are, you can work with them to keep improving their performance, which is good for both the driver and the company. With RTLS, you can keep track of all your employees as well as assets and find out where and how much time is being wasted. This lets you make improvements to the overall efficiency of the company that you know will work. It also saves time for those in the shipping industry because it tells companies where assets are and where they can be found in real-time.

Better Security

Real-time location systems make it possible to show where workers and equipment are on a map of the work area (RTLS). When an RFID tag leaves the area or is messed with, it can even tell the right people, which could be a sign that it was stolen. RTLS is also used by many companies to keep their workers safe because it can track where an employee is. The location of an employee is sent through a tag on their ID badge.

Common Applications of RTLS

common applications of RTLS
common applications of RTLS

There are several applications of RTLS in different industries:- 

1. Healthcare Tracking 

  • Locating expertsRTLS healthcare can help hospitals reduce administrative time and cut down on staffing requirements for a certain task by locating them. 
  • Tracking assets – Items like wheelchairs, and medical equipment like IV pumps, vaccines, etc. can be tracked in an RTLS hospital environment. 
  • Contact tracing – In times such as when COVID-19 spread, contact tracking or tracing was an essential factor and RTLS can help with such situations easily.

2. Fleet Tracking 

  • Monitoring transportation – For fleet-based industries, they can monitor where their vehicles are located in detail based on RTLS. 
  • Parking management – When you have large groups of vehicles, you also need to keep a track of their parking spaces. 
  • Forklift management – Tracking your forklifts allows you to understand where they are and if there will be more needed.

3. Asset Tracking 

  • Tracking of raw materials – Key resources, such as supplies and machinery, can be tracked using RTLS solutions such as position data to ensure that they arrive at the proper moment. 
  • Staff security – The RTLS deployed in your firm can reveal the precise location of your staff and indicate harmful locations while they are working.
  • Locating Orders – With RTLS devices, companies can track where the orders are in real time instead of following longer processes like barcode tracking.

Types of RTLS

what are the types of RTLS?
what are the types of RTLS?

There are two types of RTLS:

1. Precision-based RTLS

Organizations are able to track items and people with complete accuracy of RTLS. This necessitates more expensive and more sensitive gear. The most common use case is inventory management.

2. Proximity-based RTLS

Unlike precision-based RTLS, this kind of RTLS determines the location of an object or person within a shorter area. 

Which Industries can use RTLS Technology?

Real-Time Location Solution (RTLS) is a market that is growing and has shown that it is very useful and important in business today. The following are the industries that can benefit from RTLS technology:

  • Transportation Industry tracking their fleets and the location of drivers
  • E-commerce and retail for tracking their orders and products in real-time
  • Manufacturing industry for tracking inventory 
  • Mining Industry for tracking tools, ensuring the safety of employees deriving metrics
  • Pharmaceutical and healthcare industry for tracking products and their quality

What Technology can be used for RTLS?

what technology can be used for RTLS?
what technology can be used for RTLS?

There are many different kinds of technologies that can be used in systems that track where something is. Each of these systems gives businesses a different set of benefits. Some technologies are better for keeping an eye on assets and people as they come in and out of a building. Other systems, like Ultra-Wideband or UWB RTLS, are made to give accurate, real-time updates on the movement of assets within a building. 

1. RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification

It is a popular way for stores and facilities to track the movement of goods or tools within a short range. RFID’s most important features are low-cost technology; passive ID tracking; inventory management; and keeping an eye on employees.

2. Low-Energy Bluetooth (BLE)

Bluetooth low-energy beacons (BLE) are getting more accurate by the day which makes them better for real-time tracking. This is also a flexible technology that can be used to keep track of things as they pass through gates or move around inside a designated area.

3. Infrared (IR)

An RTLS can also use IR signals that can be used for different things than RFID because the receivers need to be able to see them. This is a low-cost information-gathering technique and you can track the location of an asset with IR RTLS.

4. GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) can be used to keep track of where vehicles and equipment are in open mines and other businesses that work outside. Since this technology uses satellites, it can only track people in real-time within a few meters and outside of buildings.

5. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi sends wireless signals in all directions to multiple access points. This is a cheaper way for businesses to start tracking in real-time. It can track the time of arrival, the speed, and the location within smaller distances.

Conclusion

RTLS is beneficial to every industry and uses cases to keep organized and safe. To determine the right RTLS for your business you must consider three important things. The amount of square footage you need to track, what you want to track, and how accurate you need your system to be. The answer to these questions will determine what underlying RF technology you need and which company is suited to meet your requirements. 
If you are looking for an indoor tracking solution, Mapsted is a location-based services company that works with clients around the world and provides them with a hardware-free RTLS solution that has an accuracy of 1-3 meters, by using only the data sensors and technology already installed on your property.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the difference between RFID and RTLS?

Ans. RFID determines whether a tagged item has passed from the designated area while RTLS does not need any intervention.

Q2. Where is RTLS used?

Ans. RTLS can be used indoors or in confined areas and does not allow global tracking.

Q3. What is RTS healthcare?

Ans. RTLS helps the healthcare industry by tracking their assets and workforce allowing hospitals to save a lot of time and money.

Q4. What is an RTLS sensor?

Ans. RTLS real-time location systems or location sensors are used to monitor an item and its physical location.

Q5. How Accurate are Real-Time Location Systems?

Ans. The accuracy of RTLS depends on the underlying RF technology used as well as the positioning techniques. UWB for example delivers 1-2 meter accuracy while Wi-Fi and BLE Bluetooth are less accurate with results between 1-10 meters. Different techniques for positioning however have allowed for more accurate results by implementing ToF (Time of Flight) and AoA (Angle of Arrival).

Q6. What is the Range of a Real-Time Location System?

Ans. The range of an RTLS depends on the RF technology used as well as the use case and deployment environment. If a user requires a large space to be tracked the accuracy may decrease while for a smaller space, accuracy will increase. An example would be a miner in a vast cave versus order picking in a warehouse.

Q7. What technology does RTLS use?

Ans. RTLS uses technologies such as RFID, Wi-Fi, BLE, and GPS.

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