When considering a Real Time Location System (RTLS), it is important to address some of the most common business challenges.
An RTLS monitors the location and status information of personnel and assets in real time, providing the latest business intelligence to inform everything from crisis decision-making to route planning and work schedules. It can often also integrate with existing solutions, such as access control and PAGA systems, as part of a site-wide IIoT connectivity program.
This article aims to highlight some of the most important questions you should ask yourself when considering a RTLS for your harsh or hazardous environment.
RTLS Business Challenges
The business challenges associated with a RTLS can be divided into three main categories:
- Planning your RTLS
Planning your RTLS
Choosing your technology or technologies is a big step and requires a good understanding of your aims, site type, and budget.
What problems are you trying to solve?
Which use cases are most important to your business?
It is a good idea to separate what you need from what you want, to get the best value for your investment.
Do you already have a communication infrastructure?
Could that be leveraged for RTLS?
The classic example is an existing Wi-Fi network that could be adapted to reduce your installation time and cost.
An RTLS is a major capital investment, and you want to be sure that you can balance the cost of deployment against the value to the business.
Important RLTS Planning Considerations
Will your chosen solution be able to grow with your business?
For example, in number of workers or visitors tracked, size of site, across multiple sites, adding additional functionality or use cases.
High availability architecture
Do you require redundancy in your software systems to keep the worker safety solution running in emergencies? Can your chosen solution deliver that?
What accuracy do you need to fulfil your requirements?
Early aspirations for RTLS were to get better than 1m accuracy in 3D. Though technically possible, the cost is prohibitive and the density of infrastructure highly impractical.
What additional functionality do you need from your solution?
For example, you could also require mustering, emergency call, fall detection buttons, alerts, reporting, analytics etc.
Potential integrations with existing safety systems
What safety systems are already installed on your site?
In an emergency, operators should not have to waste time duplicating efforts to raise alarms or monitor evacuating workers, nor access multiple system interfaces. Identify if your chosen solution can integrate with your existing technology, such as PAGA systems or ventilation fans.
Do you need to incorporate access control for security and site management? Can that be included within your chosen system or would you need to operate two systems at the same time?
It is not uncommon for workers to object to their location being monitored, feeling as though that is a ‘Big Brother’ approach and a potential invasion of privacy.
Education is a key factor here, to ensure that the facts are conveyed clearly. An RTLS can be tailored to show a greater or lesser extent of individual information, depending on the application.
For example, many customers using the Extronics RTLS will have worker data grouped for productivity analytics, as they are concerned with improving a workflow rather than following a specific worker. Of course, if an emergency call button is pressed or there is a site evacuation, individual workers are identified to allow help to reach them quickly.
In our experience, workers who have seen how the RTLS’ involvement has prevented or mitigated an accident, or who have been through a serious incident where an RTLS may have made a material difference, are in favour of such safety systems and welcome greater visibility in the workplace.
Maintaining an RTLS
How much maintenance will the system need?
How easy is it to configure?
What support is available?
To work successfully, an RTLS should be tailored to suit the site and the applications for which it is used. You should consider how you want to configure any future changes, such as either training in-house personnel or liaising with a vendor or system integrator.
When using an RTLS as a safety system, you should also consider reliability and redundancy. What happens if either hardware or software stops working?
Extronics RTLS solutions
Extronics has been providing RTLS solutions to hazardous industries for over fifteen years!
We specialise in developing and manufacturing ATEX, IECEx, and North American certified equipment for use in hazardous areas, and rugged industrial products for harsh environments. We serve customers around the world from industries such as oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, and mining.
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