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Real Time Location Systems


  • 9.1 Tags
  • 9.2 RTLS Host
  • 9.3 RTLS and Indoor Positioning Systems
  • 9.4 Security and Indoor Positioning Systems

The idea of locating objects and finding people in buildings is not new. Back in the 1990s Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) entered the market. There are numerous business reasons why building owners would want to track people, equipment, and materials on their property. They may want to better track and manage the assets, equipment, and personnel within the building, increase the efficiencies and workflow of the operations, prevent theft, or improve the response to life safety situations.

For decades, bar codes have been the technology of choice for ID and tracking. However, they can't be changed, need a line-of-sight to be read, have a short lifespan and offer minimal security. Newer technologies offer greater data capacities, higher security, tags that can be modified, and can be read without line-of-sight or contact. They may even be able to integrate into existing wireless systems.

Many wireless tracking systems are based on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and are fairly common. If you have been to a library recently you probably have used this technology to check out a book. Library books have RFID tags. Sensors at the checkout counter or

the door sense the RFID tag and the system identifies and tracks the book

Figure 9.1 the door sense the RFID tag and the system identifies and tracks the book. Walmart and the U. S. Department of Defense legitimized the technology and furthered its adoption by mandating its use in their supply-chain processes.

Other RTLS technology is based on Wi-Fi. The technology may the basis for the RTLS or the Wi-Fi network can be networked with active RFID systems. The Wi-Fi system uses wireless access points connected to a wired IT network and adheres to IT standards using Ethernet and radio frequencies standardized by IEEE 802.11. Initially the density of Wi-Fi access points in buildings had to be significantly increased to allow the system to triangulate the object or person and the Wi-Fi tags. The objects were fairly bulky, though there have been improvements to system accuracy and tag weight.

The technology for a RTLS deployment is dependent on how it's utilized. For large manufacturing or production the use of Wi-Fi may be more suitable given the reach, but, if you're tracking a volume of smaller consumable items, passive RFID Tracking may be more appropriate. What follows is a description of RFID tracking systems and how they can be used in a healthcare environment.

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