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How RTLS and connected lighting systems support asset tracking and utilization

Real-time location services (RTLS) technology provides instant information about the location and movement of people and equipment throughout a space. Think of RTLS as an indoor GPS with the ability to locate people and objects automatically, in real time. Today, connected lighting systems provide a natural platform for the deployment of RTLS, making it easier to streamline asset tracking and utilization by having distributed sensors throughout a facility.

We spoke with Ganesh Balasubramanian, product manager, connected buildings for Eaton’s Lighting Division, about how RTLS and connected lighting technologies help facilities track and manage their assets.

What powers RTLS, and how do these technologies work?

GB: RTLS technology has been around for a while. It’s powered by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, RFID or UWB technologies. With the popularity of smartphones, the cost of Bluetooth technology has dropped significantly, making RTLS more affordable. The miniaturized technology can now be incorporated into light fixtures, such as those integrated into Eaton’s LumaWatt Pro connected lighting system, and distributed fairly easily throughout an entire facility.

As one example, LumaWatt Pro is a connected lighting system that combines energy-efficient LED luminaries with a powerful wireless sensor system. The sensors connect with wireless asset tags that are attached to objects or worn by people. The tags transmit the location data to the software, which then visually interprets the exact location for the end user.

How does RTLS help analyze asset tracking and utilization?

GB: A trackable Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tag can be placed on every person or piece of equipment. Consider hospitals, which are constantly looking for ways to reduce capital spending. One benefit is the ability to find equipment when needed. For example, hospital staff may want to understand how many IV pumps they have, and how and when they’re used. If they have 50 IV pumps at a time, but they’re only using 40, they may not need to purchase as many next year. The asset tags on each IV pump collect data about how often the pump is used, but also about where it is in the building, so it can be found easily.

Why is this technology so valuable to facility managers, owners and users?

GB: Facilities desire more operational efficiency, because everyone wants to reduce capital expenses. They’re also concerned about the safety and security of people in the building. They need to be able to locate equipment and people in the space immediately and, more importantly, know how to remove people in an emergency situation in the most effective and secure manner. RTLS helps them do just that.

Fortunately, this technology is seamlessly integrated into distributed network of smart LED lighting fixtures, creating an internet of things (IoT) infrastructure that can be used not only to successfully manage assets, but also to increase the safety and security of a facility and improve workflow efficiencies.

What segments stand to benefit the most from RTLS deployed via connected lighting systems?

GB: In general, RTLS is most widely used in health care and industrial segments. Consider industrial facilities like automotive or aerospace manufacturers. Preventive maintenance is a common use case for them. They need to know if the equipment will fail before it actually does, so they can repair it and get it back up and running without downtime. With asset tags on equipment, this is possible. The asset tags have embedded sensors to show if a piece of equipment is running hot, for example. Then, the appropriate people can be notified to repair it.

With accurate indoor location mapping, RTLS helps reduce costs and optimize efficiency while providing increased security and satisfaction for facility users. The embedded Bluetooth sensors, which are most commonly installed in a connected lighting system, immediately reveal the location of a misplaced object, so the first place you look for something is also the last.