Comparison between the most common RTLS technologies – Real Time Locating Services (RTLS) Pro Tips – Part 1
Looking for an asset tracking or RTLS solution and you don’t know which technology to choose? Depending on the problem you are trying to solve and the type of assets you are tracking, a technology’s usefulness can differ substantially. Some industrial solutions focus too much on specific and narrow use cases can’t be used for monitoring the movement of assets through the larger production process either because they are not designed to do this or they become too expensive. Others are unable to work in certain environments or do not offer the optimal accuracy or maintenance routine. Below, we will briefly analyze the most common technologies currently used in RTLS:
GPS – offers strong solutions when objects are on the move outside. However, much of the asset movement is conducted indoors, rendering GPS nearly useless.
RFID – passive RFID solutions which use tags and barcodes only work within a very short range with expensive readers, making them ineffective for active tracking purposes. Moreover, simply logging items as they pass a certain position fails to capture the dynamism of the workflow and cannot provide up-to-date information. You only get a static image of your operations, telling you “when” and “where”, but not “how” or “why”, or “for how long”.
UWB – the technology uses high-bandwidth radio communications which offer the best-in-class location accuracy (up to 10 cm), but is also the most expensive one.
WiFi – In WiFi-based RTLS, the tag actually has a WiFi radio in it that transfers data out to multiple access points throughout a building or area. The access points use time difference of arrival and differences in signal strength to then compute location and send it to the cloud. This technology may be a good fit if the needed accuracy does not go below 5-6 meters.
Bluetooth – Due to the widespread adaptation of the Bluetooth standard, BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy) beacons are therefore cheaper and easier to integrate into other systems and everyday devices than alternative solutions and provides the flexibility required to adapt the solutions to each and every part of the business’ operations. Depending on the use case, the accuracy can go up to 3 m. Therefore, from the cost vs. value perspective, Bluetooth beacons are the way to go for now. For example, Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest players in the aerospace and defense industry, use a BLE-based RTLS solution in their warehouses. Also, see more about Tracko, our BLE RTLS solution.
Need more information? Read much more in the RTLS white paper: