An RTLS (Real Time Location System) is a technology which automatically locates a certain range of assets in real time. It needs to attach a tag to the asset; and once the asset moves, the tag can transmit the physical location information to a receiver for it to interpretate. This technology can be implemented by wireless sensors, which include BLE, RFID, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, UWB (Ultra-wideband) and infrared sensors, to geographically position the objects.
Nowadays people cannot live in a world without tracking systems, taxi hailing, food delivery, location searching, etc. Things related to positioning all rely on tracking systems; owing to these systems, the convenience in daily life is enjoyable. Other than consumer market, healthcare segment can benefit from RTLS. For instance, to locate equipment and consumables in real time can help healthcare professionals find what they need immediately and reduce the waste.
According to MarketsandMarkets, the RTLS market is estimated to grow to USD 10.3 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 24.8% comparing to 2020. This huge growth comes from more use cases in healthcare, manufacturing and processing, retail, transportation and logistics applications. Overall speaking, North America is expected to take over the most market share in 2025, Europe the second, and Asia Pacific will reveal the most CAGR.
Recently, BLE, RFID, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, UWB are technologies that are used more often to realize RTLS. Among them, UWB-based RTLS solutions are rising recently due to the positioning accuracy and gradually declining prices. However, the ecosystem of it is still in the process of getting matured, therefore comparing to other technologies, it will need more efforts to implement UWB to any application.
Aside from UWB, other technologies such as Wi-Fi, BLE and active RFID also have use cases in RTLS applications. However, considering energy consumption and cost, Wi-Fi is not the most preferred choice for RTLS solution. And in comparison of BLE and active RFID, each BLE hardware can cover a distance range from 50 to 70 meters, while an active RFID hardware can only cover around 2 meters. In addition, taking data rate into consideration, BLE performs a speedy data rate versus RFID. Most of all, smartphones and many IoT devices are equipped with BLE function, hence choosing BLE as the RTLS solution can definitely simplify the whole implementation process. As a result, BLE technology would be a great choice for RTLS systems based on related characteristics.
|Wireless Technology||Accuracy (m)||Energy consumption||Cost||Data rate (Mbit/s)||Encryption||Ecosystem|
|BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)||1～10||Low||Low||1～30||Y||Y|
|Active RFID||Within 3||Low||Medium||Around 0.1||Y||Y|
Since BLE-based RTLS solutions have so many benefits, ABI Research has predicted that the global implementations of Bluetooth RTLS will reach 550 thousand by 2025, and at that time, Bluetooth RTLS tags will reach 300 million shipments annually.
BLE solutions at TECHDesign
At TECHDesign, there are multiple BLE solutions for customers to select. REYAX Technology, an outstanding IoT total solution provider with professional technical services, has manufactured various BLE modules such as RYB070I and RYB080I. RYB070I is a BLE v4.0 module with TI CC2541 chip inside, while RYB080I is a BT v4.2 and v5.0 module with TI CC2640R2F chip inside. Both RYB070I and RYB080I are certified with NCC and FCC CFR47 Part 15; RYB080I is even authenticated with MIC certification. By using the AT command, any product can easily connect with smartphones or other Bluetooth devices.
|Part Number||TX||RX||SoC||Data |
(Support BT 4.0)
(Support BT 4.0)
(Support BT 4.2/ 5.0)
(Support BT 4.2/ 5.0)
Gplus-IoT, another exceptional technology service company at TECHDesign, has provided BLE module solutions to customers, too. CC2541F256, CC2640R2F, CC2640F128, BlueNRG-1, BlueNRG-2, and nRF51822 are the SoCs which comply with BT5.0 and BT4.2 specifications, and the module solutions accordingly can be found at TECHDesign. Among them, series of AN2640R2, BLE232, and WB822D modules are now immediately available.
|Part Number||TX (Power)||RX |
|AN2640R2||+5dBm||-96dBm||CC2640R2F||2||Standby@1uA, Shutdown@100nA |
|BLE232SA-A||+8dBm max||-88dBm||BlueNRG-2||1, 2||Standby@2.1uA, Shutdown@500nA |
|WB822D+||+0dBm max||-93dBm||nRF51822 + nvRAM + RTC||0.25, 1, 2||Standby@2.6uA, Shutdown@1.2uA |
Other than BLE modules, related SoC can be purchased at TECHDesign as well, such as the OPL1000 from Opulinks Technology. It is the world’s first uncompromised wireless connectivity with ultra-low power consumption. Integrating 2.4GHz Wi-Fi with 802.11b standard and BT5.0 BLE in a single SoC, the OPL1000 SoC can be used as a standalone communication processor or as a wireless data link in hosted MCU systems.
|Part Number||Package||Memory Size||Core Processor||Operating Voltage||Operating Frequency||Peripherals||Connectivity|
|OPL1000A2||QFN 6x6 48PIN||384Kb||ARM Cortex-M3||-30～70V||2.4GHz||UART / SPI / I2C / ADC / PWM||802.11b, BLE5.0|
RTLS Enhancement from COVID-19
2020 is a special and shocking year for mankind since the COVID-19 pandemic has been rampantly spreading worldwide and changed people’s lives forever. Social distancing and contact tracing become essential, and the governments require RTLS solutions which can realize the needs.
Companies like Laird Connectivity, Kontakt.io, Quuppa and others are coming up with BLE solutions for proximity detection and position tracing, and it is well known that many of the solutions are in the form of wearables. Apart from that, some RTLS providers just include the function of proximity sensing and contact tracing in their software platforms, so the deployment of solutions can be easier and faster.
|Emerging social distancing enforcement, contact tracing, and occupancy management devices|
|The employee social distancing solution leverages its BEEKs BLE tags to detect proximity of employees and visitors.The data can be reported to the cloud and transmitted via a BluFi gateway.|
|Laird Connectivity introduced its Sentrius BT710 and BT720 Bluetooth® trackers in partnership with Nordic Semiconductor and Quuppa. The BT710|
|Estimote developed a range of Bluetooth® workplace safety wearables. Any employee gets symptons, the employer can generate a contact-tracing report.|
|Kontakt.io’s COVID-19 Contact Tracer solution leverages Bluetooth® badges and Bluetooth radios embedded within Wi-Fi access points or dedicated Bluetooth|
|Kontakt.io’s COVID-19 Contact Tracer solution leverages Bluetooth® badges and Bluetooth radios embedded within Wi-Fi access points or dedicated gateway infrastructure to maintain a record of movement of all employees and visitors in a building.|
|Ultra-low power Bluetooth® IC vendor Atmosic has supplied TraceSafe Inc. for its AllSafe Wristband social-distancing and contact-tracing solution.|
|Quuppa’s Bluetooth® LE technology is being leveraged within a number of applications through various partnerships to help tackle COVID-19.|
|Zebra’s MotionWorks Proximity solution leverages existing Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi mobile computers to alert workers when they are in close proximity and log any proximity events in the cloud via the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.|
|Bluetooth® wearable barcode scanner provider ProGlove has upgraded its ProGlove Connect App to enable sound, light, and vibration alerts on its MARK family of devices|
COVID-19 not only brings threats to the world, but also brings opportunities to RTLS. BLE-based RTLS can trace the people who were in contact with any person who was tested positive for COVID-19. It enhances the safety of surroundings, minimizes the negative effect of COVID-19, and helps to control the pandemic effectively.
The RTLS market is estimated to grow to USD 10.3 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 24.8% comparing to 2020, according to MarketsandMarkets. Healthcare, manufacturing and processing, retail, transportation and logistics applications have contributed the growth of this market.
BLE, active RFID, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and UWB are technologies that are used widely to realize RTLS. Among them, BLE technology is a great choice for RTLS systems based on energy consumption, cost, data rate, and ecosystem availability. At TECHDesign, there are multiple BLE providers such as REYAX, GPlus-IoT and Opulinks Technology for customers to select the most suitable solution.