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How Bluetooth + Ultrasound = Better RTLS Accuracy and Lower Cost

How Bluetooth + Ultrasound = Better RTLS Accuracy and Lower Cost

Glenn Schatz
January 22, 2021

Innovation is often brought about through numerous pulling factors - some legal, ethical, environmental, cultural or technological. A behind-the-scenes look at the development of AirFinder's unique combination of bluetooth and ultrasound technology fits this statement well.

The complex blend of the ever-changing legal environment as well as the necessity to provide room-level accuracy allowed for the engineers of Link Labs to improve a Real-time Location System ( RTLS) solution that had already been trusted in a diverse number of industries, including hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing.

Customers in these markets now use AirFinder asset tracking system to achieve compliance AND drive down the cost of tracking through a more accurate and simplified system.

Increasing RTLS Accuracy Through Ultrasound

In general, indoor asset tracking relies on either passive or active tags. Examples of passive asset tags are traditional barcodes or QR codes. Other types of passive RFID tags (meaning they don’t have batteries or a power source within themselves) rely on readers and a potentially expensive infrastructure system to read them. Active RFID tags, such as bluetooth low energy tags (BLE tags) allow active monitoring and real-time location tracking.

Bluetooth tags can provide accuracy from between 1 meter and 10 meters (3 to 32 feet), depending on the RTLS infrastructure supporting the tags. The higher the accuracy, the more infrastructure is needed to have a smaller level of precision.

This drives up the cost of asset tracking systems significantly - not just from the initial purchase, but from installation and maintenance costs as well. And while bluetooth tags can provide accuracy within several meters, bluetooth tags cannot provide room-level accuracy without significant infrastructure costs because bluetooth penetrates walls. If you have a location beacon plugged in on the other side of the wall, the bluetooth tag could report the asset in the wrong room.

While this may be acceptable for many use cases, if you are a hospitality worker pressing a panic button, you need assurance that assistance will be provided to the correct room or floor. In order to get that level of accuracy with bluetooth only, you would need to significantly scale the RTLS hardware which makes the systems cost-prohibitive. That’s where Link Labs comes in.

Using patented technology, Link Labs has combined ultrasound and bluetooth technologies into a single tag. Because ultrasound does not penetrate through the walls, the asset tag can correctly identify at room-level accuracy where the tag is located. When room-level accuracy is a requirement for locating your assets or keeping your employees safe, an asset tag using both bluetooth and ultrasound is the answer for driving down costs and increasing RTLS accuracy.

LInk Labs was at the forefront of developing new RTLS technologies to solve customers’ requirements. When the hospitality industry needed a solution that didn’t exist, Link Labs engineers developed the means to combine ultrasound technology with bluetooth. We continue to innovate and solve new challenges in RTLS accuracy and bring scalability and problem-solving to those needing asset tracking systems.

Just-Right Precision®

Determining the level of precision needed with your asset tracking system, along with the associated costs and return on investment, are some of the first steps in selecting an RTLS solution. We help you determine the value created by using various levels of asset tracking infrastructure and different types of tags.

When arranging beacons to fit the layout of an area, bluetooth RTLS and ultrasound RTLS make an excellent team; they are able to strengthen the accuracy of the other by working alternately when just one or the other cannot provide the greatest accuracy. Need ultrasound tags for some assets, but bluetooth tags for other assets? No problem. The system is interoperable and allows you to solve multiple problems using various types of tags.

What Makes the AirFinder RTLS Solution Different?

So glad you asked! AirFinder operates on its own network layer, so it’s not dependent on an internal WiFi system. This keeps IT integrations simple and means that critical alerts aren’t dependent upon a system that may be overloaded.

Batteries are an important part of maintaining an asset tracking system. Because the infrastructure is generally not dependent on batteries (unless you really need it to be), this reduces maintenance costs and allows the system to operate most efficiently. The tag batteries use patented technology to extend the battery life of the tags to years longer and the AirFinder platform allows you to monitor or control battery life for various types of tags.

Link Labs is not a hardware company - for standard BLE tags, we use off-the-shelf tags updated with our firmware to keep your costs low and provide the scalability you need. The value you receive from your RTLS system is not just the asset tracking - sure, we provide location information, but it’s also the alerts, reporting and analytics behind the location information that saves you time and money and provides real ROI to your processes.

In conclusion...

Partnering with Link Labs has allowed customers to increase RTLS accuracy and lower costs within their IoT projects. The combination of bluetooth and ultrasound in AirFinder is a unique solution that allows for better and more accurate real time location data at a fraction of the cost.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us to find out how these technologies can work for you.

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