Is the Location IoT the future of RTLS?
The Location IoT market is growing extremely fast
It was staggering to see this year at Geo IoT World 2017 the number of different technologies and solutions for locating assets in all kinds of use cases and industries. By ABI Research estimates, the RTLS market constituted $4B in 2016 and is expected to grow to $13.5B in 2021. This might sound great from a customer perspective, giving you many options to pick from. However, it also poses a challenge of selecting the right partner from a multitude of potential solution providers and trusting them to deliver and stay in business long enough to support you. Strategies for dealing with this challenge ranged from relying on consultants to help you make the right choice, making sure your partner has sufficient credentials and experience in the market and others. The key in our opinion, however, is in the next point:
There is no ‘One solution to rule them all’
When you have a specific use case to solve for, the issues you might have in selecting the right partner can be minimized by focusing on those that have at least a basic solution to allow you to make a proof-of-concept and some case studies to prove it works. This helps you decrease up-front investment and allows you to use the experience that provider has gathered in addressing your specific challenge. Virtually every presentation at Geo IoT 2017 included a variation of the idea that ‘Each use case requires a specific solution’. As a result:
Most key players focus on providing a platform, instead of solutions
By doing that, they provide you with flexibility to adapt to anything you might want to accomplish. However, it comes at a cost – you now need to deal with a chain of providers, where deliverables and responsibilities are harder to manage; you need to negotiate your way through the organization to get the financial or development resources to invest in creating a solution before you can test it; if you want to pilot a couple of alternatives, the resources are even higher. As a result, your pilot can take months to start. This is why, with Tracko we’ve taken an alternative approach – we’ve focused exclusively on decreasing search times and keeping a 100% visibility over your asset’s location, offering a complete solution for this specific need that you can test right away (while remaining open to collaboration by expanding our APIs in case you need more sophisticated customizations for extra use cases support).
Accuracy is key. Or is it?
Just like solution flexibility, accurate location sounds awesome. And it is awesome, especially if you want to automate a part of your production process that requires high precision, where UWB technology offers amazing capabilities of cm-level accuracy. Or if you want to show a user where exactly they are on the map of your event where some beacon-based proprietary solutions have meter-level offerings. However, UWB is extremely battery-consuming, complex to implement in industrial environments and expensive, and thus only implemented when high accuracy is a strong need (eg. your industrial robot will miss the asset unless it’s exactly where it’s reported to be). For beacon-based solutions, the case is similar – a 3-month battery life for your beacons or complex calibration and regular recalibration (due to changes in the physical environment and use of fingerprinting as locating method) are OK when you are organizing an event. When you are dealing with an industrial environment, such compromises are out of the question. In our experience, for use cases where a worker needs to find quickly a bulky item they are looking for in a large warehouse or production space, accuracy is not key. What’s key is that staff members complete their tasks efficiently. For example, by allowing them to get within 5-10m radius of the asset they need and push a button to make the asset direct them by sound in their last steps, we’ve seen upwards of 97% reduction of search times, from hours down to minutes.
The future is here
Of course, these are just a few of the many great insights we gathered at the Geo IoT Conference about the current state of the ecosystem. Although many questions seem to be left for the future to decide when it comes to winning technologies and solutions in this field, the intense innovation, cooperation and competition we’ve witnessed make us certain that it will be a very interesting and exciting one. With the rise of multiple sensored technology, hybrid solutions to allow for full supply chain traceability, emerging open location platforms and challenging technology trade-offs through dedicated solutions, some of this future has already begun. We are looking forward to bringing it to you through our Tracko RTLS with the new features and partnerships currently under way.
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