What is the Real Time Locating System (RTLS)?
The modern real time location system is the basis for developing applications which increase efficiency, performance and safety in all spheres. It can help in exact locating people and tracking assets or vehicles, which allows employees to optimize business processes and concentrate on beneficial activities.
Types of RTLS
There are many variants of RTLS systems realization. The choice of technologies is determined by operating conditions and requirements placed on positioning accuracy.
Radio Frequency Technologies
All radio-frequency technologies are divided into two categories:
- Standard ones – in some way adapted for measuring distance.
- Specialized ones – best equipped for detecting distance.
The equipment working on radio-frequency technologies detects the location using radio signals. The already existing infrastructure can be used as the basis for the system, which significantly reduces the system arrangement costs.
Satellite Navigation and Positioning Technologies
The most widely-used satellite technology is GPS that can ensure positioning accuracy up to 6 m (for modern satellites – up to 0.9 m). Its work is based on the ability to detect the location by measuring the moments of receiving the satellite signals. GPS-navigation is mainly used outside since it can hardly allow defining location inside the building because of interferences from the land.
The ultra wide band technology is optimal for positioning and estimating distances to objects. The equipment uses short impulses which have high bandwidth at low central frequency. The infrastructure is based on the wired technology and ensures high localization accuracy. However, its application causes certain difficulties with creating a high-capacity transmitter.
Local Positioning Technologies
Local systems include ultrasound and infrared devices that detect mobility of objects. The equipment for ultrasound positioning uses the frequencies from 40 to 130 khz, infrared devices make use of IR-impulses which are detected by receivers with fixed coordinates. Both models ensure high localization accuracy (up to 30 sm) but differ in low interference resistance and short range.
The primary purpose of RFID is object identification. They are used for magnetic cards, product bar-code recognition, people identification at the enterprises with the site access control management. The technology is provided for the use of the readers which constantly reproduce radio emissions of a certain frequency within a radius of 100 m. When getting into the zone of reader action, RFID beacons use these rays as a source of power and start transmitting identification codes.
WLAN is a local network based on wireless technologies, Wi-Fi being its most common way of organization. The network scheme contains at least one hot spot which transmits its own identifier (SSID) by means of special signaling packets. The interval of transmission is 100 msec and the speed is not less than 0.1 Mb/sec. The range of Wi-Fi hotspots is on average from 30 to 200 meters, which provides accurate positioning up to 5-10 meters.
Bluetooth Low Energy
The optimal solution for using the system is the Bluetooth Low Energy standard which allows developers to create competitive applications with easily accessible tools and components. The range of its action exceeds 100 meters. One of the main advantages of BLE is ultra low peak power consumption. Thanks to this, for setting the RTLS indoor tracking system one can use tiny sensors with continuous work.
At present there are no universal rtls technologies that could provide location accuracy in different conditions, in closed spaces or in the open air. However, Bluetooth technology is considered one of the most common. It is widely used for solving tasks in the sphere of geolocation.
Components and Principles of RTLS Bluetooth Operation
The standard Bluetooth real time locating systems consist of the following components:
- BLE beacons - installed at places, it transmits radio signals at set intervals.
- Navigine platform – the basis for defining the location of beacons which receive signals and transmit data to the users inside the building.
- Smartphone with switched on Bluetooth – intended for receiving the transmitted information.
The operation principles of a real time location tracking system are quite simple. As soon as the user gets within the range of the beacons, the pre-set mobile application, which activates notification sending, is initiated in his smartphone. Any data can be transmitted to the smartphone – information on goods, actions, discounts, etc. The system allows building routes around the territory, it literally leads the user to the necessary object, helps to perform the analytics of mobility. An appropriate power level of radio signals from beacons and good coverage density are the necessary requirements for realizing the technology.
Spheres of RTLS Application
RTLS can be applied in various spheres, the most common ones are the following:
- Production. Using the system, one can efficiently track assets at each stage of the production process – from production to storing and sales. The RTLS implementation allows locating equipment, vehicles or persons fast, as well as timely react to emergency situations.
- Medicine. The key tasks in healthcare are monitoring equipment and patients’ condition. Real time locating services help to increase the level of safety within the medical institution and improve the quality of healthcare.
- Logistics. Using the system in logistics provides a possibility to monitor vehicles effectively, track goods storage and transportation. RTLS can be easily integrated into video surveillance systems. Moreover, it helps to build optimal routes for vehicles.
- Retail. In trading the technology is used for attracting clients with a possibility to save on marketing campaigns. It helps customers to find the necessary goods in the store, monitor material handling equipment at the stock office of the store and equipment for cleaning the supermarket and keep a record of shopping carts. Moreover, the system allows keeping the required temperature in certain zones for storing perishable goods.
- Museums and exhibitions. Exhibits are valuable items so they need high level security. The system ensures a full control over the items and reacts timely to their relocation. Additionally, it helps develop applications (programs for mobile devices, audio guides, etc) that allow visitors to find the necessary exhibit or get more detailed information on it.
- Transportation. In transportation RTLS helps passengers to find the shortest way to different places at airports or railway stations. The system is often used for tracking flows of people, improving staff navigation, tracking equipment in real time.
Thus, RTLS is a promising technology that is easily integrated into the concept of Internet of Things. It helps quickly identify the objects of interest and view a location in real time.