The Future of Indoor Positioning Systems is Bluetooth 5.1

In many fields of application it is of decisive importance to know the location of an object or person: Tracking patient transports in a hospital, finding products in a production facility, analyzing consumer behavior – these are all applications for real-time location services (RTLS). With RTLS, users can see where an asset or person is located, track and manage that information – all in real time. Finding and installing a simple and efficient tracking solution or indoor positioning system (IPS) is therefore a priority for many companies today. But the Future of indoor positioning systems is Bluetooth 5.1

On the market there are not only many providers competing, but also numerous technological approaches. The rule of thumb is: the more precise the positioning, the higher the investment required. 

In order to find the best solution and be able to select a suitable indoor positioning system (IPS), it is therefore essential to define ones own requirements. Do I really need an exact positioning of an asset or is it relevant for me whether an asset has reached / left a certain zone in production or is located in a certain room? In this case, it is referred to as room-precise positioning. 

Many applications (Asset Tracking, Indoornavigation) can already be covered with room-accurate positioning: Patient search, monitoring of children or people in need of help, indoor navigation in complex buildings such as airports, hospitals or large shopping malls. In addition, a decision must be made as to whether the desired system should be able to detect or at least process other ” conditions ” such as room temperature or humidity.

Bluetooth Low Energy has therefore established itself as a technology stack in many areas. The required hardware is comparatively inexpensive. In particular, the very accurate ultrawideband (UWB) requires very expensive hardware. Positioning over an often already existing Wifi network promises an accuracy of five to 15 meters. However, even these are never achieved in practice. Even human bodies prove to be significant disruptive factors in this methodology. This is due to the high water content of a body (over 70%) and the resonance frequency of the water, which is around 2.4 GHz, the frequency at which many wireless local networks are operated.

Bluetooth Low Energy or the synonymous beacon technology achieves positioning accuracies of one to three metres and thus fulfils the requirements for room accuracy. The hardware is robust and reliable and available in an extremely wide range of forms, so that it can be used both as wearable (for patient tracking, etc.) as well as fixed in the building or reversibly installed on assets. In addition, BLE tags can be combined with other sensors. A building or ship can even be equipped with BLE sensors/beacons during operation. The Trilux company offers LED luminaires with built-in sensors, so that a building can be made smart by simply changing the lighting. In this case, the power supply of the BLE sensors is also permanently secured, so that no battery change is necessary.

With Bluetooth 5.1 about to be introduced, the wireless standard also has a new function especially for improved navigation. The so-called Direction Finding will increase the accuracy enormously. This means that the future of indoor positioning systems is Bluetooth 5.1. The number of usecases that can be covered with it will continue to grow. There is hardly any reason in the area of RTLS or IPS not to rely on BLE but on any alternative technology that will be obsolete and currently more expensive in the near future. This is not the only reason why the standard provider Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) predicts that more than 400 million tracking devices will be delivered worldwide by 2022.

Thomas