As per Technavio’s report, by 2020, RTLS Market in the Transportation and Logistics industry will witness a CAGR of more than 49%. This article intends to explore the scope and significance of real-time location tracking in the transportation & logistics sector with references to some of the RTLS products currently available.
Investopedia identifies ‘Transportation industry’ as a parent industry of several industries like air freight, airlines, logistics, marine, rails & road. The transportation sector is vast and forms one of the major industry in this era of rapid globalization. Especially with diminishing boundaries across countries, the scope and challenges across this sector have only elevated.
In a country, the thriving of the transportation sector is lot dependent on the overall economic health of the particular country and its surrounding areas. At the same time, data generated from this sector is also crucial in analyzing and predicting economic opportunities. For instance, there was a time, when there was a shortage of airport slots of airlines connecting Taiwan to mainland Chinese airports which in a way indicated that the economic ties between the countries were going strong and could be viewed as an opportunity for investors.
Let’s talk about some of the major challenges in the transportation sector and how RTLS helps in curbing them.
Top challenges of the Transportation sector
Cost cutting is still the no. 1 challenge for the transportation and logistics sector. Several other major challenges are as follows.
- Seamless customer support - Once a customer orders a product, he/she needs to stay posted on the whereabouts of the item. This need to stay connected to the shipment is necessary for a number of other operations other than retail.
- Improvement of the business operations. Allocation of resources, manpower etc.
- Availability of Drivers.
- Coping up with compliance and regulations.
- Safe transportation of fragile or explosive goods.
A brief overview of the RTLS technology
“North America tops the list of regions with demand for RTLS systems, followed by EMEA and APAC”
RTLS detects the geo-location of a target which can be an object or people. RTLS is usually employed within a confined region pertaining to the fact that it relies on wireless technologies like RFID, BLE, UWB, Wifi, Zigbee etc. Currently, active RFID and WiFi are the most widely used RTLS technologies, but they are expected to be surpassed very soon with the emerging technologies like UWB and Zigbee, due to the later’s capability to give more precise and accurate readings.
Chief components of a typical RTLS system are Tags, Anchors, Softwares.
Tags would be attached to the target objects, Anchors are the static readers which are usually 3 in number in order to detect the 3 coordinates of the targets. Then, there has to be an interface which would present the target tracking in a convenient format.
The wireless signals sent by the target’s tag is sent to the Anchors, which in turn convey this information to the software for further processing and displaying to the end user in a visual format.
UWB is usually the preferred technique if precision in the target position and movement is your priority.
“According to forecast reports from IndustryARC, UWB technology is expected to acquire the fastest growth due to the growing demand for personal & asset tracking. It is expected to surpass the other technologies by 2023.”
Logistics and Manufacturing are expected to be the prime contributor to using UWB technology in RTLS.
In case, you need a system which would be able to accurately cover a very large distance, you might need a combination of RTLS and GPS.
To get a better idea on the RTLS technology, you can check out our RTLS Development Kit. This kit uses UWB radio chip and uses TWR (Two Way Ranging) and Trilateration technique to provide the right location. The key component of the RTLS kit is Decawave’s DW1000.
Significance of RTLS
“The global RTLS market revenue is estimated to reach $7 billion by 2020”
Every smart business has the requirement of collecting data, processing them and making intelligent decisions based on them. RTLS finds its use in a wide variety of applications. Some of the significant use cases of RTLS in regards to transportation & logistics are as follows -
- Navigation - RTLS system can help to move from one point to another by showing real-time availability of routes with precision.
- Fleet tracking - With the ever increasing number of vehicles worldwide, the opportunities and requirements of fleet management solutions are huge. Tracking vehicle location, present optimized routes, job scheduling, analyzing the efficiency of the driver becomes important here.
- Geo-fencing - Alerting on exiting or entering a virtual boundary. This can also be used to restrict communication access to certain worker/user based on their location.
- People or Asset tracking - Tracking of workers on site or critical assets form an important aspect of streamlining a business operation.
RTLS in Transportation and Logistics
“Amazon uses Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology in its warehouse in order to track every shipment”
On closer observation, it can be seen that major challenges of the transportation & logistics sector can be taken care of with a smart location tracking of objects or people as per the requirement.
The chances of a shipment missing would be nullified if a real-time location system can be deployed. This would, in turn, lead to enhanced customer satisfaction. Next comes the challenge of improving business operations. Real-time location tracking would help synchronize all the operations by bringing in transparency to the system and subduing the discrepancies.
A number of issues arise when assets, resources or manpower are not allocated efficiently. Now, when real-time tracking can be done, visibility of existing assets, resources would increase and thus, the allocation would become easier. This would also help to curb the issue of non-availability of drivers.
Keeping track of every regulations and compliance when done manually is subject to human error. But, RTLS can smartly take care of this by fetching the required data and immediately alerting if any discrepancy is detected.
Owing to the load and pressure on the transportation and logistics sector, cases of misplaced deliveries, broken items are not very uncommon. Such incidences would also be reduced when RTLS is able to fetch real-time data, keep track of every delivery and help easily detect the fragile items.
RTLS in other verticals
RTLS has made its presence felt across various other industries like manufacture, retail, healthcare, personal security, defense, education etc. By 2013, Education vertical is expected to register the highest growth in using RTLS. US and European Healthcare industry are highly dependent on RTLS in perfecting their diagnostics, surgeries and resource optimizations.
Whether you run a manufacturing unit, educational institute, transportation business, RTLS is a must if you want to optimize your resources, provide seamless customer support and build a safe business operation. However, in the Transportation & logistic sector, RTLS is rather a necessity than a choice.