What is Location Tracking Hardware?
Location hardware includes the physical tools required for tracking and receiving advanced data surrounding assets, people and actions throughout your organization. Although location technology is a broad term, it basically amounts to hardware with the ability to emit and read frequencies that help organizations to locate and manage their assets. Through this intelligent technology and the implementation of real-time location systems (RTLS), organizations can gain instantaneous information.
RTLS is able to gain near-real-time data through active RFID tags that interact with readers at a high frequency. An RTLS with the right hardware and implementation can collect data surrounding location, condition, timing, accuracy, and speed of events occurring throughout an organization’s daily operations. Although this data can be useful in advanced location systems it is not always necessary. Therefore, the type and quality of data you wish to gather will hinge upon the hardware you select.
Location Tracking Systems are Specific to Your Needs
All location tracking solutions have their own requirements for the data they collect. A retailer might use location technology to pinpoint where a product is in a store while a manufacturer might use it to see where and when their products are distributed throughout the world. Some organizations may need constant updates on valuable assets while others just need to know where assets or materials are in the overall process. Ultimately, your needs and process determine the design of a location system. When choosing location hardware for data capture, it is important to evaluate the following requirements:
- Range – Are your assets contained to a single facility or are you trying to measure distribution far and wide?
- Accuracy – How exact do you want your data to be regarding elements of time, speed, and signal?
- Precision – To what degree do you need to hone in on an item’s location?
- Determinacy– How often do you want to be notified of an asset’s location (by the second, minute, hour, etc.)?
Applications for Location Technology
While RFID may be good for asset tracking and monitoring work-in-process, RTLS achieves greater visibility of assets across multiple networks and throughout entire enterprises. Consequently, applications for location technology are usually larger in scale and monitor a large volume of moving parts. Some common applications include:
- Supply Chain Management
- Workflow Optimization
- Inventory Tracking
Types of Location Technology
Location hardware consists of tags and readers used to track and locate assets in real-time. However, there are different types of hardware and tags that all vary in terms of their range, battery life, and cost. Two big things to consider when selecting hardware is how precise you want the location to be and how frequently you want new data. Excluding RFID, the umbrella of location technology contains several different types of hardware:
Ultra-Wideband technology (UWB)
Due to their high number of transmission, UWB tags are able to pinpoint exact locations and real-time data over short to medium distances. As a result, they are commonly used for indoor tracking of people or equipment.
Beacons and tags are a popular yet affordable option. Bluetooth beacons interact with Bluetooth-enabled devices to transmit location data. Bluetooth applications include driving customer engagement with retail loyalty incentives or using it as a seamless way to gather location data from existing Bluetooth devices within your enterprise.
Similar to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi can be used to locate and track devices when they come into range of the network. However, accuracy can often be low and systems require additional equipment to be effective.
ISO 24730 is a wireless protocol that works well in difficult environments. For example, they are commonly used in environments with a lot of metals that may block or weaken signals. They can also transmit signals up to 1 kilometer, making them ideal for yard management solutions.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS tags work in conjunction with multiple satellites to determine location and timing. GPS solutions are common for outdoor applications and extremely long ranges.