Indoor location – Five technologies in brief

Indoor location of persons and / or production equipment or other moving assets is developing into a key competence in production companies and industry. The exact positioning of assets in a building enables the optimization of internal logistic processes as well as the staff management in numerous industries and can therefore be a valuable tool for increasing efficiency while reducing costs. Favendo specializes in indoor tracking and the determination of indoor asset positions.

17.02.2020

Indoor Location methods and granularity

Depending on the required accuracy (granularity) of the positioning, solutions with different locating methods are available, which can also be based on different technologies. Each with different advantages and disadvantages. Especially solutions based on WLAN, the so-called fingerprinting, and the well-known GPS have not been able to establish themselves in practice.

Although WLAN is now available in most cases, it is often not stable enough and the setup of a positioning system requires a lot of effort. GPS is ideally suited for outdoor areas. However, GPS signals do not achieve the necessary penetration in buildings. RFID systems are cheap, but only a static position can be determined. It is not possible with these technologies to track the free movement of a worker or a pallet in a building, for example. RFID is therefore unsuitable for asset tracking or indoor navigation/wayfinding.

Bluetooth Low Energy is today’s standard technology for indoor location

Bluetooth Low Energy and Beacons have emerged as the ideal technology for these requirements. In the meantime, modern AoA locating procedures with Bluetooth based systems are capable of locating accuracy in the sub-meter range. Up to now, systems based on ultra wideband technology have achieved the highest accuracy. Since, in addition to the granularity of the position determination, the price of a system plays a major role in the decision for a certain technology, and UWB is by far the most expensive technology, BLE now also has great advantages over UWB.

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Indoor positioning – how does it work?

Indoor positioning is based on the same transmitter-receiver principle as the well-known Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS is a global navigation satellite system for positioning. In order to function reliably, it requires a free “line of sight” to several satellites (theoretically three, in practice six to twelve satellites). GPS receivers can calculate their own position and speed from the signal propagation times. In combination with geoinformation (topology, street, aerial or nautical maps), this position information can be used to guide the user to a selected location or to create a route taking into account desired criteria.

Summarized: Transmitters send radio signals to a receiver. The receiver interprets these signals and calculates its position within a given topography. The principles behind this are trilateration and triangulation. The three elements mentioned – transmitter, receiver, environment information – are also found in radio-based indoor positioning and navigation systems. Indoor navigation/wayfinding always requires a corresponding app.

Indoor positioning: Technologies in brief

UWB – Ultra-Wideband

UWB enables very accurate three-dimensional positioning, which has to be paid for with high acquisition costs and high effort during system setup. A continuous asset tracking can be realized with UWB.

RFID – Radio Frequency Identification

With the help of so-called RFID tags, RFID provides a static position indication with very inexpensive hardware. A continuous asset tracking is not possible, but only information about whether an asset was registered at a certain moment at a certain location.

BLE/RSSI

Bluetooth low energy technology enables continuous asset tracking with at least room-accurate location. RSSI refers to the method of indoor tracking using beacons and means Received Signal Strength Indicator, which is used as the main indicator of the position calculation via beacons

BLE/AoA

This is also indoor tracking via Bluetooth Low Energy sensors/beacons. The position is calculated with another method, using the Angle of Arrival. This calculation allows much more precise localizations, but is accompanied by increased effort in setting up the sensor infrastructure and slightly higher hardware costs. Nevertheless, the costs remain below a comparable UWB system.

WLAN

Asset tracking and positioning via the existing WLAN network has not proven itself in practice, neither in terms of location accuracy nor in terms of system stability. In addition, the bandwidth is extremely strained by the localization.

Which indoor location for which application?

The first step towards success is to be clear about what is to be achieved by implementing an indoor location system. It will help you to communicate these goals to potential providers of indoor positioning and also ensure that they understand your goals and can decide based on the defined objectives whether the offered indoor positioning solution fits well with your needs. The combination of a clear goal and an experienced technology partner for localization and positioning technologies will help you to keep the planning and implementation phase short and therefore affordable.

The process of project planning and selection of the appropriate technology is an intensive task, and it is essential that interested parties obtain professional advice and support in order to complete it.

Indoor Location tracking is not always enough

In the manufacturing industry, but especially in logistics, construction, mining and open-cast mining, there are tracking applications where indoor tracking is not sufficient because objects and people have to be tracked outside of buildings to ensure a continuous flow of data. It makes sense to extend the indoor tracking system with outdoor tracking. An extension of indoor tracking is possible at any time. Different hardware modules are available for this purpose.

Locating with multi-mode trackers

Multi-Mode Trackers are asset tags that can use different radio technologies for communication. These multi-mode trackers always use the best available signal source. Outside of buildings, these trackers then automatically use GPS or LoRaWAN TDoA to calculate their position.

When moving back inside, these trackers automatically use Bluetooth low energy again to locate objects or persons inside. In this way, machines and workers can be located and tracked on an entire factory site with only one tracking system. Favendo is a channel partner of Abeeway/Actility, the technological market leader in this technology, and combines its installation and indoor tracking expertise with the possibilities of this technology. Multi-mode trackers are available in different versions depending on the requirements. You can find an overview here.

Meet Favendo

Favendo is the trusted partner for superior Real Time Location Services. Our Team is committed to providing timely and cost effective solutions for cruise industry, large shopping malls, public venues, industrial surroundings and more. To offer our customers the most suitable system we partner with Quuppa and Abeeway. Come and meet Favendo.