Delivering Innovation That Lasts
Let’s look at what this means, focusing specifically on real-time location systems (RTLS). It is technology used across a range of industries from industrial manufacturing to healthcare and much more. However, can we do more with the RTLS systems to drive what is possible with the technology—and, more importantly, should we? Absolutely, we must anticipate future market trends and meet them. It is crucial to continuously assess whether this is working for current essential and desired business goals and how can it be improved.
RTLS solutions need to be adaptable and evolve to address growing demand as they arise. However, can RTLS solutions be delivered in a way that meets customer needs, safeguards their investment and can adapt as needs change? One of the cornerstones of achieving this may lie in a very familiar technology—Bluetooth.
Isn’t Bluetooth An “Old Hat” Technology?
Yes and no. Bluetooth is a very well-established technology. It’s been around since the ’90s and is mostly known as a way of connecting consumer devices like wireless headphones. However, this is not the limit of its capabilities. Bluetooth is constantly evolving, backed by a strong community pushing both standardization and increased capabilities where direction finding, ranging and multistream audio are just a few examples of some of the latest functionality innovations. Today, Bluetooth is pervasive, and location-based services are driving its growth.
More than 6.4 billion devices with Bluetooth capabilities are expected to be shipped annually by 2026. It is used across the world, and when it comes to economies of scale and adoption, you’re already a considerable part of the way there. Now for the innovation—can a technology that is old enough to legally buy you a beer in the U.S. really bring something to the party? Yes.
Bluetooth technology is already a go-to option for RTLS solutions. However, it is also worth saying that not all Bluetooth is created equal. Older generations do have limited functionality, but newer generations (5.0 and beyond) open the market to a larger range of possibilities by introducing novel functionalities. This is particularly true in the context of location technologies; Bluetooth has evolved, enabling additional features that can deliver high-accuracy and reliable RTLS solutions. This means allowing vendor-specific implementations of RTLS to move from the simple power-based (RSSI: received signal strength indicator) proximity positioning to pinpoint centimeter-level positioning, adding real value for users.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
The advantages of using Bluetooth are clear, but to fully reap the benefits, the age-old saying that “proper planning prevents poor performance” certainly rings true. Just because a technology can deliver added value for users doesn’t mean that it automatically will, and the key to ensuring that it does is planning. As with any technology, there can be pitfalls around its implementation, and organizations need to approach RTLS in a strategic way to ensure the vendor solution that they select is future-proofed.
The first question must be: “What is the business driver for employing RTLS, and what am I looking to achieve?” The advantage of Bluetooth is that the answer to that question can be virtually anything, and the widespread availability and compatibility of the Bluetooth ecosystem means the solution can be configured in a way that perfectly serves that need—for example, tracking the location of inexpensive and small electronic tags or locating phones, scanners and general Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. It sounds obvious, but due to a huge amount of flexibility in what can be achieved with Bluetooth-based RTLS, it is vital to have a crystal-clear definition of what your organization is looking to achieve with the technology.
If the business aim is loosely formed and the selected vendor solution is not scalable and versatile, it may not drive quite the deliverables you are looking for. By defining the key goals at the outset, the solution can be tailored in a way that drives the required business outcome. Not only this, but because Bluetooth-based RTLS can adapt as business goals change, the process of planning and defining business goals needs to be ongoing to make sure that the deployment serves its users for as long as possible.
In The Real World
It’s easy to talk about technology in hypotheticals, but the best way to see how to approach this Bluetooth-based RTLS is by seeing what it looks like in a real-world setting.
Take an industrial manufacturing solution, for example. Let’s say the purpose of the deployment is to track expensive industrial tools or assembled parts. The aim is to reduce the need to replace lost assets and minimize the time spent searching for ready-to-ship equipment. The goals of the deployment are defined clearly, and the tracking solution can be adapted accordingly—location accuracy set to high-accuracy level precision with a secure but accessible system so the data can be utilized to save time. It is an easy (although vital) step, but defining crisp and clear needs and goals is key to ensuring the RTLS solutions vendor delivers everything that is needed for a valuable deployment.
We began by asking how we can help organizations safeguard their investment in RTLS technology. There are several approaches, but the key takeaway is selecting a versatile vendor leveraging on a flexible technology solution that can adapt as business needs change. However, with great flexibility comes the challenge of using the options available in a way that best benefits the business. Therefore, a constant assessment of whether the solution’s scalability can serve the needs of the organization is key to ensuring RTLS technology that drives benefits for years to come.