RTLS: which uses for high accuracy indoor location?

Published on 09 mars 2020 In: Trend

  • Reading time10 min.
  • LevelBeginner

Real-time high-precision indoor location (RTLS) is facing many challenges in various sectors, such as 4.0 industry, healthcare, sports and retail. This article provides some examples of AOA (Angle of Arrival) communication protocol based applications.

RTLS: which uses for high accuracy indoor location?

The GPS technology was a major player of the geolocalication market for many years. However, since satellite radio signals were not designed to pass through obstacles, this technology soon resulted limited in terms of indoor localisation. The ability to accurately locate indoors equipment and people has become a major concern in many industries. Indeed, this need for precision and accuracy concerns industrial companies as well as healthcare businesses, or even in sport companies. To meet such needs, new technologies based on different communication protocols have developed.

We already introduced some of these protocols in a previous article (read it here), including position calculation by means of an angle-of-arrival detection, also known as AOA. This communication protocol allows a real time localisation of any person or equipment located at 10cm of distance, and represents the most accurate and reliable technology currently available on the market.

Its functioning principle is straightforward: in order to provide a real-time feedback on a precise location, the system relies on 360° antennas and a mobile beacon network. The AOA protocol enables to detect the angle formed between the antenna and the beacon in a 3D repository, and to track the beacon location within less than 100ms.

Thanks to its precision and ultra-reliability, this indoor geolocalisation technology may apply to many business applications. This article provides some case-studies and deals with applications used in the healthcare, 4.0 industry, security and sport sectors.


Tracking medical equipment, safety and patient/visitor routes

The area of healthcare and its associated technological developments represent a major sector of today’s society.  Worldwide investments aimed at new technologies development in this field are expected to reach several billion dollars by 2020, and the ones for IoT technology alone should reach nearly 10 billion dollars. Broadly speaking, connected objects nowadays represent a real assistance to human activity and enable saving much time. In the healthcare industry, this can sometimes prove decisive, especially when patient health is at stake.

In response to this need, hospitals and care centres are beginning to invest in RTLS solutions, in order to ensure patient safety, to allow caregivers to save time, and to decrease device maintenance and purchase costs.

Indeed, equipping buildings with 360° antennas and medical equipment with wireless beacons will give the nursing staff the opportunity of a direct smartphone-based real time location. This will enable them to be more responsive and to avoid wasting time searching for equipment by showing them the location of the nearest equipment. This will optimize the staff's journey, whilst avoiding long and tiring moves.

RTLS uses in hospital

While indoor location can help reduce staff downtime due to recurring physical exercises, it may also prove helpful for hospitals in order to reduce their equipment management costs. The use of high-precision indoor location solutions may contribute to millions of euros in savings on a yearly basis by making it easier to take inventory of hospitals’ machinery, thus limiting the additional costs associated with equipment purchasing.

In addition, this type of technology will improve the flow of patients, visitors and healthcare staff within hospitals. Hospitals indeed are places with a very high flow of people. Identifying and locating patients, healthcare staff and visitors in real time will ensure their safety. These RTLS systems will allow, among other things, to limit access to certain areas, but also to ensure patient safety from a hygiene perspective. Controlling the hand washing time of practitioners between consultations by means of their identification will help to limit the transmission of germs. In the United States, 80,000 people die each year because of nosocomial infections (Source: WHO World Health Organization https://www.who.int).

In addition, indoor location devices can prove very useful to improve the user experience, helping people to find their way around the different services and allowing them to reach the desired location directly, without getting lost in the corridors and floors.

Today, high-precision indoor location has become a real asset for healthcare centres, whether to ensure people's safety, to facilitate their movement across the several buildings, to optimise staff schedules or to reduce costs.


RTLS for 4.0 industry security and optimization purposes

Manufacturers are major players of the global economy, producing and delivering all kinds of products on a large scale. This sector of activity has undergone several revolutions enabling it to evolve and produce ever more and faster. You may have heard about Industry  4.0 over the past ten years, as a development phase that introduces the concept of the intelligent factory. Optimizing, automating and facilitating workers tasks represents one of the main challenges in our new industrial era. In a context of digitalization of the production chain, being able to quickly locate equipment or people will provide a reliable answer to business issues by improving plants' operational efficiency while enhancing their safety.

RTLS uses in industry

In industrial businesses, employees work on machines that may sometimes prove dangerous and cause accidents at work. Ensuring team safety is a key concern, which could be considerably improved by implementing real-time location solutions. Such high accuracy and rliable systems can indeed prevent collisions between workers and machines, inform employees when they enter into a hazardous area by warning them through audible and visual signals, or detect any omission of safety equipment.

In the near future, RTLS tools will also make it possible to detect the loss of verticality and thus provide real-time alerts in case of fall.

From an industrial equipment tracking point of view, the location by angle of arrival detection will allow the instantaneous location of small parts such as hand tools, given the fact that such technology is highly accurate. This will ease the equipment park inventory process, thus avoiding the forgetting or losing of materials. Some fields such as aeronautics require an increased vigilance from operators, as forgetting a tool in an aircraft engine could have disastrous consequences. Such errors might be avoided thanks to this type of solution,which is able to raise the alarm if a tool is missing.

Moreover, exactly as in hospitals, tracking assets within an industrial environment will optimize employee schedules by easing tool searches. But it will also reduce the equipment purchase costs in case of a loss, or optimize equipment maintenance by analyzing its rate of use.

One thing is certain, industrial companies are among the most innovative and the increased use of RTLS solutions in this sector is provided here only as an example.


Real-time data to analyze and improve athletic performance

The emergence of connected watches, wireless headphones, mobile applications, connected clothes is an indicator of an increasing digitalization of the sports industry over the past few years. The ability to collect and analyze data is a major focus for sports clubs and federations, as this enables them to improve overall athletic performance. In the 1970s, access to HD slow motion video was revolutionary. Today, RTLS technologies allow further data access and analysis features. The outcome proves even more convincing for team sports. Providing a small Bluetooth Tags to ice hockey players would indeed make it possible to analyze a tremendous amount of data in real time, such as speed, run distance, heartbeat, etc. All athletes can wear a Tag to measure their speed, number of passes, playing time and many further data. Such data can prove useful to find out which actions were decisive in a match or which players are the most successful.

RTLS solutions may address the performance challenges of all athletes, whether competing as a team or as an individual, but may result in even more useful by providing additional data to the fans, thus increasing their commitment. This can quickly become lucrative when it comes to sports betting. Knowing the performance of athletes in real time allows bettors to make much more accurate predictions about the results of competitions and matches, changing the boundaries of sport in a revolutionary manner.


Indoor location is challenging many business sectors

This article has covered sectors such as healthcare, industry 4.0 and sports, but high-precision real-time indoor location is an opportunity for many other industries as well retail, tourism or smart buildings. Technologies such as the Angle of Arrival Detection (AoA) calculation enable the deploy ment of large-scale and very cost effective indoor geolocation solutions.

The above-mentioned RTLS solution is one example among dozens of other technologies, thus picking up the one that suits your needs might seem like a challenge. help you choose the right technology, please refer to the below comparative table to check the various available solutions.

To find out more about this technology, please visit our expert partner Quuppa's website, or the Bluetooth SIG website.

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