The advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, has brought about a rapid change in the way companies manufacture, improve and distribute their products.
Among the many new technologies that are being adopted by businesses is Real Time Location System (RTLS), a technology that has rapidly expanded in capability over the last few years and promises to provide new levels of control for floor managers everywhere.
What Is RTLS?
RTLS is a general term that refers to any technology that can track, identify and locate any assets and people in a workspace. RTLS does this through a combination of sender and receiver devices that feed this data into an assortment of smart hardware and software systems. These systems then process that raw data into a readable format that provides floor managers with an all-encompassing view of where everything is located.
When fully implemented, RTLS can be custom configured to provide a vast number of benefits, allowing managers to develop more efficient floor plans, better staff allocation, improved inventory management and enhanced safety protocols. In addition, RTLS can also communicate with other IoT devices, effectively enabling many different services or use cases within the same environment.
While these use cases have obvious efficiency benefits for manufacturing or shipping facilities, RTLS can also be utilized in a diverse number of industries, such as retail, hospitality and health care. For instance, a hospital can use RTLS to determine which areas are understaffed or overstaffed, the availability of hospital beds and the location of medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies.
These wide applications have made RTLS an incredibly fast-growing new market. As of 2020, RTLS had a market value of $3.93 billion and is projected to reach $39.12 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.
Considerations When Implementing RTLS
Implementing RTLS isn’t all that complex, but it does require a well-laid-out plan that considers the individual needs and requirements of your business. The following five-point plan will take you through each of these considerations to ensure RTLS is implemented in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
1. Your Personal Needs
There are about half a dozen location-tracking technologies, which vary in accuracy, range and power requirements. For instance, conventional GPS can provide an asset’s real-time location anywhere in the world but only within five to 20 meters, which is far too inaccurate for use in an indoor environment. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has good accuracy but is limited by its poor operating range, necessitating the use of thousands of receiver tags in a large facility. Other RTLS technologies include Ultra-Wideband (UWB), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled (BLE), all of which have their pros and cons.
Therefore, when choosing an RTLS for your facility, consider the following.
• Targets: Are you tracking people, assets or both? Will you track them through wearable tags or mobile devices? How many devices would you track?
• Accuracy: How accurate does your RTLS need to be? Is it enough to simply know if an asset is in a certain area or not, or do you need to know its precise location down to less than one meter?
• Latency: How real time does your tracking need to be? Would a latency of 10 to 20 seconds be acceptable for your needs, or do you need something more precise?
2. Finding The Right Vendor
Any successful technology implementation relies on choosing the right vendor. The company you hire should have a proven track record and understand the unique requirements of your business. Good vendors should also provide extensive training on how to use their systems and IT support when things go wrong.
Compile a list of potential vendors that you can narrow down over time. The more you discover about the capabilities of an RTLS system, the more you’ll be able to winnow the list down to only a select few vendors.
3. Budget And ROI
Determining a budget for your RTLS or tracking system can be a complicated process, especially when you need other stakeholders in your business to sign off. Start by breaking down the costs of each part of the project, such as the cost to procure tracking tags and locators, installation costs, IT integration costs and ongoing operating costs, such as cloud storage and general maintenance.
Once you’ve worked out your budget for installing and operating your RTLS, determine your expected ROI over the next 10 years; this is your total cost of ownership (TCO). Your TCO calculation should take into account not only the additional sales your company might accrue from increased productivity but also the reduction in operating costs from greater efficiency.
4. System Architecture And Integration
The true worth of an RTLS system comes from how well integrated it is with the rest of your system architecture. Location systems should be able to operate easily alongside other data systems, IoT devices and management software. This ensures you won’t run into any integration problems when introducing new technology, something that all businesses need to be careful about in a time when new technologies seem to come out almost every year.
5. Future-Proofing And Scalability
There’s no telling what your business might look like ten years from now. You may have expanded your current facilities, built new ones or moved into emerging markets.
For that reason, it’s important that you choose an RTLS with easy future-proofing and scalability. Evolve your RTLS in tune with the evolution of the rest of your business and avoid locking yourself down with an inflexible system.
From asset and personnel tracking to inventory management and safety protocols, an RTLS or location system can allow businesses to cut their operating costs and increase their overall efficiency. By examining the key considerations outlined above, companies can make more informed decisions and implement the one that’s right for them.
Did you know?
Quuppa is the leading RTLS platform for indoor positioning
This article was originally published here Forbes.com