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Understanding Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)

Updated: May 5



What is a Real-Time Location System (RTLS)?

A real-time location system is a technology-based solution that tracks and monitors the exact location of a given item or asset. RTLS is most commonly used to track items as they travel along the supply chain or shipment routes, but it can also be used to monitor employee movement as well as inventory within a warehouse or retail establishment. 


The main objective of a RTLS is to provide continuous visibility into where an important asset is at any moment in time so that business decisions can be made accordingly.


Key Applications of RTLS

A real-time location system can be used in different ways depending on the industry. For example, it can be used to create a digital twin of a warehouse so that managers can easily track inventory or it can be used to monitor the exact location of each component needed to create a complete product on an assembly line. Specific applications include:


  • Locating Assets/People - being able to instantly locate a specific doctor or life-saving machine can mean the difference between life or death for a patient. Using RTLS technology in a hospital or other healthcare setting can significantly increase the quality of care and efficiency.  

  • Inventory Monitoring - being over or under-stocked is a major challenge that retailers must contend with. Knowing exactly what items are available in-stock, what items are currently on route (and when they will arrive), and what items need to be reordered makes it easier for retailers to ensure that they have the right inventory available at the right time. 

  • Fleet Management - fleet managers, especially those with a large number of cars on a big lot, can save valuable time otherwise spent searching for cars and re-assigning drivers if they use a RTLS and can quickly locate each car on the lot. 

  • Employee Safety - location tracking can save the lives of employees in the event of an emergency by letting rescue workers know where people are located who may need help or to be rescued. Alerts can also be set to signal managers or the employees themselves if they are about to enter a restricted or unsafe area. 


How Does RTLS Technology Work?

There are three main parts to any RTLS solution: a transponder, a receiver, and software. 


The transponder is a piece of hardware that is attached to the object that will be tracked. The exact technology used for the transponder can depend on the specific goals, but transponders often use Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags, Bluetooth Beacons, Wi-Fi Tags, GPS, or Infrared Tags. The transponder is set up to receive a signal from the receiver and then send back identifying information about the object.


The receiver can be a location sensor, access point, RFID reader, etc. that is connected to a power source and a network. The receiver sends the data it collects from the transponder to a cloud-based or other host computer or database. 


Finally, software is used to analyze the data and provide results based on the specific needs and goals of the solution.


What to Look For in a RTLS Solution 

Not all RTLS systems are alike, and it is important to look for a solution that offers:


  • Ubiquity - as items may travel through a number of different environments on any given journey, it is important to have a RTLS solution that provides seamless coverage, whether an asset is indoors or outdoors.  

  • Precision - some solutions provide a wide radius in which the object being tracked is located. Depending on the needs of the user, that may be sufficient, but in most cases it is critical to be able to identify the precise, accurate three-dimensional location down to a few inches. 

  • Scalability - business needs are dynamic and it is important to have a RTLS solution that can scale up or down as needs change. Deeyook’s solution, for example, relies entirely on existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, making it easy to scale without investing in expensive additional infrastructure. 

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