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The power of Hybrid RTLS solutions

Hybrid RTLS combines the benefits of different location tracking technologies to provide the most efficient results for tracking needs and can be used for multiple use cases. As indoor and outdoor positioning become increasingly interconnected, it is important to consider how to combine different RTLS technologies to improve ROI and meet the needs of end-users.

11.1.23
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Exploring the benefits and use cases of hybrid real-time location systems (RTLS) for tracking assets and people in indoor environments. Discover how combining different location tracking technologies can improve efficiency and ROI.

The market for indoor positioning and related services is already very large and still growing fast. According to an analysis by Allied Market Research, the value of the indoor positioning market will be $43.5 billion by 2025. This is comparable in scale to the agribusiness and management consulting sectors. And the growth won't stop there, that's for sure.

In indoor environments, where GPS doesn’t work, solutions using (Radio Frequency) technology have emerged to fill the gap starting from RFID technology to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Ultra WideBand (UWB). Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS), often known as indoor positioning, are common names for these technologies. Positioning is becoming more widespread thanks to initiatives around smart cities, smart buildings, and Industry 4.0, which is driven by the adoption of the Internet of Things.

While indoor positioning is being deployed for an increasing number of cases, it appears that sometimes it is necessary to track the location of an asset both indoor and outdoor. Therefore, it is no longer valid to consider indoor and outdoor positioning as distinct entities with independent systems. Moreover, there are multiple technologies used in RTLS that each have their own advantages depending on the use case and environment whilst end-users may have different use cases for which they don’t want to buy different RTLS systems. So how to combine these different technologies together? This is where Hybrid RTLS comes into play.

The Different types of RTLS technologies:

Hybrid Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) combines the benefits of different location tracking technologies to provide the most efficient results for your tracking needs. By doing so, you will overcome the constraints of using a single technology and instead improve your ROI by using the same system for multiple use cases that you might not have even thought of in the first place.

Here are the most common RTLS technologies:

Wi-Fi:

Wi-Fi-based RTLS systems use the signals received by Wi-Fi Access-Points to track the location of Wi-Fi devices. This type of RTLS technology is often used in indoor environments, such as office buildings or hospitals. But, because of the fact that Wi-Fi technology consumes 40x more energy than BLE, most of the recent Wi-Fi Access Points now embed BLE technology in order to be used by RTLS systems for instance.
This way, you can mutualise your Wi-Fi and RTLS infrastructure and reduce costs.

BLE:

BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) is a wireless communication technology that is optimised for short-range communication and is designed for situations where battery life is more important than fast data transmission rates. BLE is often used for RTLS (real-time location systems) because it requires less power and can extend battery life, especially when compared to Wi-Fi. BLE is the most affordable and energy efficient technology for RTLS and provides good accuracy.

UWB:


UWB is a short-range wireless communication technology that can transmit large amounts of data over a wide frequency range with low power consumption. The 2 main advantages of UWB for RTLS are its accuracy in the centimeters and its low interference making it possible to use it in crowded RF environments.

LORA:

LoRa (Long Range) is a wireless communication technology that operates in the sub-gigahertz frequency band and is designed for long-range, low-power, low-data-rate communication. It is often used in RTLS to send back data over long distances, typically up to 15 kilometers in urban environments and up to 50 kilometers in rural areas. It is based on the open LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) protocol, which allows devices to connect to the Internet via gateways that provide access to a network server.

RFID:

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information, and are made up of an antenna and a microchip. When an RFID reader is in close proximity to the tag, it can read the information stored on the chip. RFID technology is used in a wide range of applications, such as supply chain management, inventory tracking, access control, and asset tracking.

Global Positioning System (GPS):

Global positioning system (GPS) technology uses satellite signals to track the location of devices or vehicles. It is used in outdoor environments, such as for tracking vehicles or assets in transit.

Hybrid RTLS:

In order to enable the use of the same RTLS system for different use cases or in different environments (indoor/outdoor for eg.), hybrid RTLS combines multiple types of location technologies, such as BLE, UWB, LoRa, GPS and/or RFID. By combining different technologies, hybrid RTLS systems can take advantage of the strengths of each individual technology and provide a more flexible and evolutive tracking solution that is able to efficiently answer current and future needs.

For example, a hybrid RTLS system might use UWB technology to precisely track the movement of assets in the factory production lines, and then use BLE + LoRa technology to track assets that are stocked outside of the factory. This adaptation of the RTLS technologies allows not only to ensure the most efficient and affordable technology is used for different use cases, but it also means that there is no need to deploy multiple software platforms each handling a specific technology. With a Hybrid RTLS, only one software platform is used for the different RTLS technologies making it much easier to set-up and maintain.

In short, Hybrid RTLS systems are particularly useful in applications where multiple location technologies are needed to cover different types of areas or answer different business needs. Adopting a Hybrid RTLS system today also enables you to keep options open for the future needs of your business instead of being locked into a system where only one technology can be used.

Ubudu Hybrid RTLS:

Real-time location systems (RTLS) can operate in a variety of different ways, but they always use a combination of hardware and software components to track the locations of assets within a predetermined area.

Having developed internally both the hardware and software components with a multi-technology approach, Ubudu offers the most complete hybrid RTLS solution on the market. This flexibility that the Ubudu hybrid RTLS offers is illustrated by the wide types of clients that use the system: Quick-Service Restauration, Manufacturing, Defense, Retail, Healthcare, Smart Office, Construction, Transportation, Logistics etc.

Ubudu ‘s Hardware:

Ubudu produces its own hardware devices leveraging standard location technologies meaning it can also make use of third-party devices if needed, which include tags that use various technologies, such as Bluetooth and GPS, and infrastructure devices like beacons and anchors. The hardware is designed to be flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of a company.

Ubudu’s Software:

Ubudu has developed a range of applications to configure, manage, maintain, integrate and get business value out of its real-time location system (RTLS). These applications include a location engine for configuring and maintaining the RTLS, an RTLS application for end-users to get business value, a map manager for creating and managing maps, and a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) Controller for directly communicating with RTLS tags. On top of these applications come a set of tools that are used by partners and clients to simplify the deployment process as well as the ongoing utilisation of the system.

Ubudu hybrid RTLS technologies, hardware and software

Hybrid RTLS Advantages:

  • Real-time tracking of all assets on a single software whatever the technology used: not only this reduces the implementation and maintenance costs as there is only one software platform to deploy and maintain, but it also means that end-users can use a unique interface for visualizing all the assets tracked regardless of the RTLS technology used. This way, decision making is easier as all data is grouped and well represented in a single dashboard.
  • More flexibility: One of the key benefits of using a hybrid real-time location system (RTLS) is the ability to customize the system to meet the specific needs and requirements of one or different use cases within the same organization. By tailoring the RTLS to each specific need, the value that the same system provides is multiplied by the number of use cases it addresses, thus increasing the ROI of the system. Finally, this flexibility ensures that the RTLS is able to adapt to changing needs and requirements over time.
  • Lower investment cost: A hybrid real-time location system (RTLS) can integrate multiple technologies both at the hardware level and at the software level to reduce the need to connect to multiple APIs and systems or use multiple tracking devices. For example, using a single tracking hybrid tag with several technologies means that the same tag can be used for location tracking in different environments and different use cases. 
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