Where exactly did you leave the laptop in your office? Or where did you last see your employee Gary working?
Questions like these are seconds or minutes wasted throughout the day, and cumulatively it may become an entire day wasted (or more) at the end of a work quarter. Now imagine a factory where thousands of people work together. How will you find the right person or the right tool without getting lost in this sea of resources?
That is where the best indoor positioning systems come into play. When I started learning about this technology, I realized it’s a really vast topic, and you will have ten questions for every answer you get. So, we are going to resolve as many questions that you (just like me) have about IPS tracking.
According to a study by Allied Market Research, the indoor location technology accounted for $5.2 billion in 2016 and is stated to grow at a CAGR of 42% and reach $41 billion by 2022. It is clear that indoor positioning systems have been impacting many industries and verticals, hence the 42% CAGR growth.
Now you may think, what is wrong with indoor GPS and geofencing? Can’t we just use that for indoor tracking? Well, no. The GPS tracker working is accurate but only about 50 meters. If you need to get a more accurate position reading, then you need to choose an indoor positioning system. But which technology will you choose for your indoor tracking needs? Keep reading to find out.
What is an indoor positioning system?
In simple terms’ positioning or navigation” means to track a person or an object. So, an ”indoor positioning system” means a technology specifically used to track people (Smart Helmet), objects, inventories within a small or large indoor space. When we speak about technology specific, it automatically involves PCB design services that allows these smart objects to work efficiently.
Several powerful positioning systems like GPS and GLONASS would show someone’s or something’s position all across the world. But these navigation technologies are meant to find location only to the extent of a street or a building.
For higher accuracy in pinpointing the location to almost 5 meters or less, IPS trackers were developed. There are several kinds of indoor positioning technologies, and we will be going through all the major ones used currently for commercial and personal purposes.
Who should go for an indoor positioning system?
The Indoor Positioning System offers location analytics, navigation, mapping, wayfinding, asset tracking, and several other solutions. It is the best in class solution for people and businesses that need to get accurate and consistent location updates of their resources within a closed environment.
Although local positioning systems can work for commercial products and homes, the majority of the client base of this technology are enterprises, factories and warehouses. So, to answer the question, “who should go for an indoor navigation system?”. Any company that needs to track their employees, tools, devices, inventory location within their facilities should go for indoor positioning systems.
Feeling charged up to learn more about indoor positioning and navigation systems? Let’s dive deep into the various indoor positioning technologies.
Types Of Indoor Tracking Technology & Their Working
We live in such an advanced age where you can track anything using a handheld device like your smartphone or a tablet. So, let’s explore how different indoor tracking technologies provide such an accurate location reading. We’ll investigate different indoor navigation systems and judge them through various evaluation criteria like accuracy, costing, range, etc.
There are WiFi transmitter tags in this system that send simple packets of information to WiFi access points within an indoor space. The backend system uses an algorithm to study the time and strength of those received readings to determine the position of the transmitter tags.
This location information is saved in the cloud and transmitted to you on the front-end dashboard. The system uses a Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) measurement with wide bandwidth to provide position accuracy of about three to five meters.
Now the catch here is that to gain a high level of accuracy, you need at least three access points that receive each transmitter tag in the zone. Also, a single WiFi tag could cost you about $40-$60 or even more. So, WiFi-based indoor positioning systems are generally an expensive option.
Ultra Wide-Band (UWB) Systems
Ultra-wideband is a really amazing technology that implies short-range radio technology for indoor positioning. The basic science behind this technology is Time of Flight (ToF). So, instead of measuring the received signal strength indicator (RSSI), positioning is done by measuring the running time of light between an object and numerous receivers. Once again, to find the exact location of an object, you’ll need at least three receivers and a direct line of sight between the transmitter and receiver.
In layman’s terms, three or more ultra wide-band readers transmit a very wide pulse. The tags attached to an asset or person to be tracked generate a small pulse within. The readers then report very accurate time measurements from the pulse generated by tags back to a central server.
If you read the location from 3 or more UWB nodes, the accuracy would be up to 20-30 cm. The object to be tracked (asset) is equipped with a small tag that runs on battery power or draws its power from a source.
Although UWB brings amazing accuracy, the biggest drawback of UWB is that it is very costly. And in many cases, the client isn’t benefiting much with such high accuracy in the actual XY position. The UWB system is used extensively in warehouses.
RFID – Radio Frequency Identification
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) uses radio waves to wirelessly transmit the data and other characteristics of an object. It’s a highly anticipated positioning system that allows for mobility tracking of assets and people.
However, the range of these RFID tags is quite limited, less than a meter. RFID technology is unfit for indoor localization and can only be used where close range selective object identification is required. The cost of purchase and maintenance is quite low, but so are the features of this system. So, RFID is primarily used for asset tracking and RFID inventory system.
BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy
We kept the best for the last! Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the perfect technology to use for indoor positioning and navigation systems. Its low power and high range system can achieve accuracy of up to 4-5 meters.
There are two major components to this technology, BLE beacons and BLE hubs. Further, there are two ways to use the BLE technology for indoor tracking of assets and people:
(a) The first approach is to place low powered beacons in the environment while mobile hubs like smartphones will send data and signal strength measurements to the internet based on the beacon’s location.
(b) The second approach places the BLE hubs in the environment and puts the low-powered BLE tags on assets to be tracked within the indoor space.
BLE Using RSSI
Bluetooth low energy technology using received signal strength indicator (RSSI) enables continuous indoor tracking with a room-accurate location. In the RSSI method, the main indicator of the position is calculated via the beacon’s signal.
BLE Using AoA
Another, more accurate method to calculate the position of an object or person indoors is through BLE’s angle of arrival (AoA) method. The hub has 5 antennas within; four maintain a 90-degree quadrant cumulatively covering 360 degrees, while the one additional antenna calculates the distance based on the received signal time and strength.
Although this method incurs a slightly higher hardware cost, the accuracy is pinpoint (0.1-0.5 meters), making up for choosing this indoor positioning system. And the cost margin is less compared to other options mentioned here.
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Why Go For Indoor Positioning Systems?
Here are the major benefits and application of indoor positioning system to keep track of assets and people indoors.
Let’s Build Your Indoor Positioning System
If your factory, warehouse, or plant seems to be at a lesser than expected performance level, what you need is a consistent update of all your assets (human and machinery). The best indoor positioning system can achieve this and offer numerous other benefits that will drive your enterprise’s productivity and scalability to another level.
All you need is a dedicated embedded products development team that can build the perfect indoor positioning system.