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From Warehouses to Retail: Versatility of Wi-Fi-based RTLS Solutions

Updated: 4 days ago


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From the time they are manufactured to when they arrive at our doors, most products have traveled thousands of miles. We might be living in a proverbial global village, but raw materials, goods, and other assets are covering larger distances than ever before. Keeping track of them all is becoming increasingly challenging, whether you are a factory floor manager, a warehouse forklift operator, head of a delivery transport company, or a consumer waiting for your package to be delivered.


This is where Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) come in. A rapidly growing technology, RTLS solutions are designed to track important assets in real-time, allowing companies to capture a highly accurate picture of where those assets are at any point in a given process - whether they are being manufactured, handled in the warehouse, transported, or moving around a building.


However, not all RTLS systems are created equal. Depending on the specific technology used, the results can be vastly different. For example, the most known and widely used technology is GPS-based. These solutions, however, must have a direct line of sight to the applicable satellite, making it difficult or impossible to track locations within closed areas. The location accuracy GPS-based solutions provide is only around 10-15 meters. X meters..


At the other end of the spectrum is Ultra-Wideband (UWB) which offers greater accuracy, but comes at a very high cost due to the infrastructure that is needed. Another option is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which is simple to implement but limited in that it can only track items at a short distance, up to 200 meters.


Among the most versatile RTLS solutions are those that are Wi-Fi based. The prevalence of existing Wi-Fi access points makes it easy to install such systems without investing in expensive infrastructure and also provides the ability to scale up as needed. While Wi-Fi on its own has limitations when it comes to location tracking (primarily in terms of accuracy), Deeyook’s innovative solution takes the best of Wi-Fi (specifically the ubiquity) and then adds the use of interferometry and AI to obtain an unprecedented level of accuracy that would be impossible to get from Wi-Fi alone. Interferometry is a function of wavelengths rather than speed of light. This makes it possible to use standard commercial infrastructure to measure phase differences, rather than relying on the tiny differences in speed of light, which regular infrastructure cannot measure.


The Role of Wi-Fi-based RTLS in Diverse Industries


In 2022, the RTLS market size was $5.2 billion with a focus on industries such as automotive, aerospace, defense, and healthcare. So what exactly is RTLS being used for? With the data produced from monitoring different processes, organizations can identify problems in logistics and the supply chain, improve planning, clear up bottlenecks in various systems, as well as a host of other optimization activities.


Specific use case examples include:

  • Improving efficiencies in manufacturing plants by automating time-consuming tasks and tracking the location of inventory and machinery in real-time.

  • Reducing the time and cost associated with complex aircraft assembly by tracking, tools, kits, and parts.

  • Improving hospital response times and patient care by tracking the location of patients, doctors, and medical equipment in real-time.


Three large sectors in which there is tremendous potential for RTLS include retail, logistics, and e-commerce.

Retail: Inventory Management Revolutionized

In the retail landscape customer experience is paramount, and Wi-Fi-based RTLS solutions play a crucial role in providing retailers with the ability to understand customer behavior, optimize store layouts, and personalize shopping experiences based on real-time data.


By tagging trolleys and baskets as well as merchandise, data can be collected on how customers move through a store, giving information on where and for how long they stop. Stores can then optimize their layout and make the purchasing process more efficient. In real-time they can monitor customer traffic and anticipate queue lengths, intervening to ensure faster checkout times.


In addition, Wi-Fi-based RTLS helps businesses build an accurate picture of their inventory levels at any given moment - an invaluable benefit that improves efficiencies and profitability throughout the supply chain. Accurate, real-time inventory data allows businesses to carry just the right amount of product, avoiding stock outs and overstocks which are costly and, in the case of stockouts, frustrating for customers.


Real-time data also means that the business can make well-informed decisions, particularly concerning procurement, manufacturing, and sales. Without an RTLS, these decisions are inevitably based on outdated information, leaving a margin of error and reducing the business’s ability to respond speedily to unexpected occurrences. Using actual inventory data reduces carrying costs and minimizes the risk of being left with unsellable inventory due to product obsolescence that couldn't be predicted.


Real-time inventory information is critical to accurate financial reporting because it allows businesses to calculate an actual cost of goods sold (COGS) and inventory valuation. This means that financial statements reflect the true financial position and performance of the company, and properly inform strategies for production, pricing, and procurement.


Because the vast majority of retail providers are already using Wi-Fi for various purposes, they will already have access points set up and will not require additional investment in infrastructure.

Logistics: Optimizing the Supply Chain

The logistics industry relies heavily on the precise tracking of goods in transit, and Wi-Fi-based RTLS solutions are set to revolutionize this sector by providing this view in real-time. By being able to track their assets - from individual items to containers and pallets - all parts of the logistics process can be managed more effectively. This includes:

  • Identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the supply chain, allowing businesses to make tactical and strategic changes. This ongoing optimization minimizes lead times and ensures that goods and products get to where they need to be as quickly as possible.

  • Improving warehouse efficiency by providing insights into the movement of goods within the warehouse, and helping locate goods quickly and accurately.

  • Improving the accuracy of order processing, ‘error-proofing’ the pick-and-pack process, and lowering the risk of shipment errors and misplacements.

  • The data-rich environment created by Wi-Fi-based RTLS supports data-driven decision-making, enabling businesses to recognize patterns, trends, and inefficiencies, and make informed choices to streamline supply chain processes.


E-commerce: Elevating Customer Experience

The booming e-commerce sector benefits immensely from Wi-Fi-based RTLS. Having the products you want available when you want them at the best possible price is the ultimate customer experience, and RTLS solutions facilitate this. With location data, e-commerce companies can track inventory levels, streamline warehouse operations, and provide customers with accurate delivery estimations. RTLS also allows e-commerce companies to provide real-time order tracking to customers so shoppers can monitor the exact location and status of their orders, from packing to delivery.


Wi-Fi-based RTLS data can also be used to adjust pricing dynamically based on real-time demand and supply conditions. In addition, RTLS data can be used to personalize promotions and offers based on a customer's location or proximity to certain products.


In addition to all the standard logistics benefits, RTLS can facilitate the return process - a painful process in e-commerce. Businesses can monitor the status and location of returned items in real-time, streamlining the returns process and reducing the processing time.


Some Factors to Consider

As revolutionary as RTLSs are, there are challenges to implementing and maintaining them. Some of the main concerns are:

Manufacturing Environments are not ideal for Radio Signals

The metal machines and racks in a factory or warehouse, as well as the people, can interfere with or block radio frequency (RF) signals, making it difficult to build a fully functional RTLS. To address this you need to carefully select the system you use. For example, Deeyook’s RTLS uses interferometry which leverages the phase differences between radio signals to calculate angles, and with the help of triangulation and an algorithm, it translates these angles into precise locations on a physical map, enabling accurate positioning and tracking of objects or signals.


Integrating RTLS with Current Processes can be Tricky

When an RTLS is implemented without a thorough understanding of your existing operational processes, there's a potential danger of overlooking specific unique cases or exceptions that might arise within those processes. This can lead to mistakes or unexpectedly high costs. This can only be managed by making sure your RTLS supplier has a thorough understanding of your processes, including observing how things are done in real life.


IT Infrastructure Mismatch with RTLS Software

The effective deployment of an RTLS solution depends heavily on a compatible IT infrastructure. Occasionally, the infrastructure of a business might not seamlessly align with the prerequisites of RTLS software. This mismatch could result in connectivity challenges and difficulties in synchronizing data. Closing the gap between the demands of RTLS software and the capabilities of the existing infrastructure is essential to establish a dependable and accurate solution.


Revolutionize Your Business with Deeyook’s Next-Generation RTLS

Deeyook’s Wi-Fi-based RTLS allows you to maintain a continuous, unbroken chain of custody of all assets. This self-learning, low-power firmware solution will give you the exact location of any item, whether indoors or outdoors, in an open space or dense environment. Deeyook is an ideal partner to help you implement RTLS solutions that work for your business. Visit our website for more information.


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