What’s Ahead for the RTLS Market in the Coming Months?

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The RTLS market has grown quickly in 2018, but let’s take a close look at where growth will come from this year, and what needs to change.

Applications enabled by real-time location services (RTLS, aka “indoor location”) took a huge leap forward last year.

With implementations ranging from automakers going paperless on the assembly line, to hospitals tracking employee movement to ensure hygiene protocols are being met, to companies creating smart buildings to increase employee satisfaction and retention, the market has been growing.

See also: Manufacturers will have fully connected factories by 2022

And the endeavor to derive value from the location of people and things has become limitless. Looking ahead, Fabio Belloni, Chief Customer Officer and Co-Founder of indoor positioning technology firm Quuppa, has taken a hard look at where the market will see growth, and what still needs significant work.

Here’s what he sees coming in the next few months:

  • Large-scale RTLS deployments. RTLS deployments to date have been somewhat contained, as organizations test systems on a smaller scale. Expect that to change significantly in 2019 as organizations move beyond smaller trials to scale RTLS across their organizations. At the same time, low-cost tags and sensors with long battery life will be available at scale, allowing an increasing number of companies to implement RTLS systems.
  • Open systems will proliferate. Indoor location is a tricky beast, and a lot of factors come into play with each individual deployment. Different technologies solve different problems, and one-size-fits-all solutions aren’t really an option today. This market screams for open solutions that can work together to solve the indoor location conundrum, bringing multiple technologies together to deliver reliable, cost-effective location capabilities. The problem is, most solutions are single-mode, proprietary solutions with an “either-or” mentality. They’re indoor or outdoor, but not both. They provide support for tags and smartphones, but not both. Ultrawideband or Bluetooth Low Energy, but not both. Expect a market shift in 2019 as customers demand the best of all worlds in a single solution brought together by multiple partners with the complexity hidden from the customer. As part of this, we’ll also see three emerging trends:
  • The emergence of multi-mode tags and sensors (e.g., Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) + LoRa) enabling seamless handovers between indoor and outdoor, such as in logistics cases
  • Mixed use cases with asset tags and smartphones, e.g. enabling the “paperless factory” or “online work orders” at airline hangar.
  • Innovative use cases combining movement detection (such as Passive Infrared) and asset or people (BLE) tags
  • Mobile operators will play a key role in RTLS. Todays’s one-off deployments of RTLS solutions in the enterprise undercuts a key group that has a lot to gain from RTLS growth: Mobile operators. Mobile operators are increasingly IoT savvy and are seeing new business cases emerge almost daily. Carriers have long endeavored to be more relevant in the business market, trying to sell business solutions to their customers to solve business problems. This is a popular place where they can add value.
  • RTLS and precision. Just how precise RTLS needs to be is determined by the application at hand and the complexity of the environment in which it will be deployed. While some applications only require precision within a meter, some may require centimeter-level precision location. In 2019, we’ll see a wealth of new applications emerging that take advantage of technological advances in location precision and innovation in middleware and applications, across a range of industries that bring strong business value to organizations.
  • RTLS: The competitive landscape opens up. The chief technologies in use in RTLS are Ultrawideband (UWB), BLE + AoA, BLE + RSSI, and WIFI + RSSI. These paths are generally proprietary, however, limiting the scope of many projects. In 2019, we’ll see more customers demand solutions that incorporate two or more of these technologies to deliver the best possible results.
  • RTLS and human capital. Empathic buildings are on the rise, as organizations implement technology to help create the workplaces of the future. In 2019, we’ll see a significant uptick in the applications enabled by RTLS to help organizations improve company culture, increase employee retention, cut down on sick days (saving companies money), increase collaboration, improve onboarding process, and increase safety in the workplace.
Fabio Belloni

About Fabio Belloni

Fabio Belloni started working for Nokia Research Center (NRC) as Senior Researcher focusing on advanced algorithm development and antenna modeling in 2007. In 2008, he became Principal Researcher working on positioning technologies, hybrid systems architecture, indoor mapping and navigation, while leading the execution of technology pilots and demonstration activities around indoor localization technologies. Fabio received his M.Sc.(Tech.) degree in Telecommunication Engineering from “Politecnico di Milano”, Italy, in 2003. In 2007, he received his PhD degree with honours from the Helsinki University of Technology (nowadays part of Aalto University), Department of Electrical and Communications Engineering, Finland. He is the author or co-author of numerous academic papers and has several granted patents and pending patent applications.

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