Even the most in-the-know security professional can be forgiven for not knowing every single real-time location system (RTLS) technology on the market. The options are constantly changing. New technologies emerge, engineers discover new use cases for old technologies, and there is always something you haven’t seen before.
Real-time locating systems, also known as real-time tracking systems, are used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real-time, usually within a building or other contained area. These systems can be thought of as GPS because they can provide a similar level of location and movement data, both in real-time and in detailed tracking histories.
While the specific technical standards and applications vary, all RTLS platforms share the same basic hardware and software components:
Transmitters: An RTLS transmitter attaches to a person or asset and sends identification and location data to receivers over a wireless signal. Transmitters are also sometimes called tags, transponders, or badges, depending on their form factor.
Receivers: RTLS receivers positioned around your facility receive signals from tagged assets and pinpoint their location. Depending on the wireless standard used, they can determine location either by the tag’s proximity to receivers or through a mathematical process called trilateration. Locations are calculated based on the time it takes signals to reach three or more receivers.
Management portal: The RTLS receivers send the location data they collect to a central management system. Human operators and connected computer systems can use this central portal to analyze tracking data.
Different tracking systems offer different capabilities, but broadly speaking, every real-time location system will offer some combination of real-time tracking and longer-term logging. Many systems have other capabilities, such as the option to configure “geofences.” A geofence is a virtual boundary created by RTLS receivers in an open facility. When a tagged person or asset crosses one of these boundaries, the system issues an alert to security or other designated responders.