Fabio Belloni is Chief Growth Officer and Co-founder of Quuppa and a leading authority on advanced location technologies.
Looking back, we can safely say 2021 was a banner year for location technology. Many companies started discovering and testing the benefits of knowing where assets are located, analyzing how they move in their environment and learning how different items (even people) interact with each other daily. Even Apple launched a product for searching and finding items, the AirTag.
According to an analysis by Allied Market Research, the indoor positioning market in 2017 was valued at $2.4 billion. The same forecast predicts that in 2025 the value will be $43.5 billion. Size-wise, that’s comparable to industries such as food processing, recorded music or management consulting. And the growth surely won’t end there.
So what’s the next act for this blossoming tech sector? Here are five trends to keep an eye on in 2022 and beyond in the world of real-time location systems (RTLS) and location-based services (LBS).
1. The pandemic raised awareness of RTLS for public safety. The next step is applying it to business intelligence.
While location technologies have played an influential role in pushing innovation (think Industry 4.0 and smart buildings), companies hadn’t harnessed the full power of the technology past its initial specific needs. That’s changed with the pandemic.
As more companies implement RTLS in support of public safety, such as social distancing and handling contract tracing requirements, they are also noticing the business intelligence applications that have an impact in ways beyond staying safe during the pandemic — for instance, in areas such as worker safety, productivity and asset traceability for all kinds of industries.
That trend will accelerate as organizations realize the value of accurate data and insights in driving business efficiency, productivity and profitability in a post-pandemic business environment. Accurately determining the location of people, objects and assets as they move from one place to another offers a wealth of knowledge that wasn’t fully realized until its pandemic use cases.
2. Companies across vertical markets are seeking an open-platform solution to provide accurate and reliable location data across different location technologies.
Over the last several years, there have been many pilots and trials for RTLS technologies across global markets and industries aimed at exploring location information.
Many of the projects that reached commercial maturity typically addressed solutions for so-called “must-have” use cases, such as:
• Workflow optimization, asset tracking and worker safety applications for industrial, mining, oil and gas environments.
• Hand-hygiene compliance in hospitals.
• Wander management in older adult care homes to keep patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s from getting lost.
• Government initiatives to ensure citizen safety in public buildings.
• Staff and inmate safety in correction centers and police stations.
As projects scale up, the underlying technology will need to scale throughout all stages of the project: scoping, planning, deployment, infra commissioning and tag provisioning, as well as telemetry and monitoring. To be successful, projects will also need to provide plug-and-play operations, easy commissioning and seamless integration, while keeping roll-out and maintenance costs predictable and under control.
Expect more companies to announce strategic partnerships and plans for implementing the latest RTLS and indoor positioning systems (IPS) for projects targeting consumer markets. Additionally, we’ll likely witness more announcements regarding location technologies landing in the hands of the consumer market to facilitate its adoption across consumer and industrial markets.
3. Reducing the deployment costs will be paramount for reaching sustainable scalability of RTLS technologies and LBS.
While maintaining performance (accuracy, latency and reliability) requirements, the costs related to the deployment of RTLS and LBS technologies — such as running cables, renting equipment and supporting IT infrastructure components and labor hours — can appear prohibitive to business owners and end-customers at first.
However, deployment costs are generally one-off and typically become marginal when calculated over the total cost of ownership (TCO), which lasts an average of five years. There’s also the off chance of finding complementary equipment able to still meet the requirements, which can help further reduce costs and increase the return of investment (ROI).
Over time, we’ll see an improvement in cost-effectiveness that gets RTLS and LBS technologies in place. Expect 5G communication technologies to be paired with RTLS platforms, leveraging different levels of integration such as on the switch fabric or wireless connectivity layer. In turn, this increases adoption across vertical markets and industries where the accurate position of an object is becoming more and more relevant for driving day-to-day business.
4. Bluetooth direction-finding technologies for mobile handsets will land in the consumer market and eventually become the technology of choice for all services using IPS.
Anticipate seeing the first Bluetooth direction-finding offerings for mobile devices in enterprise businesses landing in the market with the same key features that have allowed GPS (or GLONASS) to become the de-facto technology for outdoor location:
• Unlimited capacity.
• Simple architecture.
• Inbuilt privacy.
• Easy integration and implementation across devices.
These similarities will enable the building of accurate, reliable and low-cost solutions for indoor positioning and navigation of forklifts and automated guided vehicles (AGV), as well as for enterprise-rated mobile handsets like mobile computers.
Further, all of this will foster cooperation and new ecosystems of companies, which will push forward ongoing activities around Bluetooth standardization.
5. Hybrid RTLS is the solution to the question, “Where’s my asset?”
Historically, fleet management-related use cases have been among the first to leverage location technologies for outdoor tracking. Nowadays, devices, assets and goods are not only moving indoors; they are moving seamlessly between indoors and outdoors, floors and strategically defined areas across facilities.
Tracking devices need to support the activations and deactivations of multiple location technologies, indoors and outdoors, as the device transits between different areas. For example, a car could be equipped with a tracking device during manufacturing, then tracked with high accuracy along the assembly line and quality check area using indoor technologies like Bluetooth direction finding or UWB. Once the car moves outdoors, other technologies would need to kick in (e.g., LoRa, GNSS, SigFox, etc.) to continue tracking the vehicle until its final destination at the dealer site.
Did you know?
Quuppa is the leading RTLS platform for indoor positioning
This article was first published here: Forbes.com