Real-time location systems (RTLS) are an increasingly important strategic capability for a variety of business applications. After deciding it can benefit your organization, you need to consider the five critical factors that can ensure long term success of your investment:
1. Enterprise-Wide Coverage
Knowing the location, status and movement of equipment and people provides valuable information that can be used to reduce expenses and increase productivity. Since assets and people move throughout your entire enterprise, to achieve maximum benefit your RTLS deployment must cover every square inch.
A system that only covers specific areas or departments will impact your success. User adoption depends on enterprise-wide coverage. Without this, RTLS will never fully be integrated into the fabric of your organization; and you’ll be unable to optimally impact productivity, workflow and true value innovation.
Also consider one of the biggest returns on investment RTLS provides: reduction in lost, stolen or otherwise “missing” equipment. Without coverage that extends everywhere, you simply can’t protect your assets.
2. Location Accuracy
Today’s technology advances in RTLS mean you don’t have to sacrifice time to deployment or incur increased costs to achieve room-level accuracy. But “room level” can be a misnomer.
Yes, your RTLS must provide accuracy with the four walls of an enclosed room – but your entire facility is not comprised of rooms. What happens when an asset travels through the corridors? Consider how RTLS will perform throughout your entire enterprise – in hallways, open areas, corridors, etc. Dozens of business applications will demand this level of accuracy.
Further, some enter the RTLS market with the assumption that zone level accuracy is “good enough.” That would be true if you only need asset location reported on the correct floor or within a cluster of rooms. To affect the highest impact for your strategic initiatives, staff productivity and user adoption, room level accuracy is a critical factor.
3. Installation and Maintenance
Installation considerations are a main factor in both the cost and ongoing success of your deployment. A minimally invasive solution that does not compromise your existing IT network, does not interrupt daily business operations, and can be installed in days or weeks, is vital.
Network Requirements for real-time tracking, an RTLS network needs to be established. This is comprised of access points, sometimes referred to as sensors, receivers, readers or detectors, placed strategically throughout a building to accurately locate the tagged assets. How these network access points are installed, and the potential for business disruption during the process, are important to consider.
Many RTLS networks require that access points are hardwired: holes are drilled in ceilings or walls, or ceiling tiles are removed and replaced, in order to run cable and pull power for each access point. This can be disruptive, labor intensive, time consuming and expensive.
Network flexibility is also key. How your RTLS adapts to changes in the environment must be considered. Network cabling to a new or repositioned access point, can add substantial cost.
Network Interference and Security
When planning a RTLS deployment, leveraging existing Wi-Fi infrastructure is often seen as a suitable solution, which typically limits location accuracy to zone level. Your Wi-Fi information network supports and maintains many vital systems, so pay attention to interference, network traffic and security issues. Some RTLS systems utilize their own dedicated network, which maintains separation from other business applications and systems.
Time to Deployment
Considering that immediate benefits are achieved the minute your RTLS goes live, installation time is critical. Why delay your return on investment? What are the lost opportunity costs in when the go-live date is delayed due to extensive infrastructure, regulatory issues and calibration requirements?
It shouldn’t take a team of IT professionals to keep the system running. It is important to understand the time and money involved in maintaining your RTLS at peak performance. This system is not only comprised of hardware and software, but of service and maintenance. Be sure to understand all maintenance costs up front.
Tracking assets is where your RTLS starts, not ends. Your RTLS should be supported by standards-based technology and be capable of providing location and status data to both your end-users and to third party applications. Fully interoperable RTLS can seamlessly integrate with other software systems which can be enriched with real-time location information.
5. Low Risk
Your business is a dynamic environment with unique needs. You should partner with a vendor that is vested in your success. Look for a flexible business model that removes barriers to entry – one that doesn’t require a large capital purchase or long-term contractual commitment, and allows you to easily expand assets as needed.
Regardless of your industry and the specific business applications your RTLS will address, by recognizing and addressing the five critical success factors, you’ll maximize return on investment, ensure the long term success of your system and truly drive value innovation to achieve both your short-term tactical goals, as well as your long term strategic goals.
Jason Howe is Chief Executive Officer of Awarepoint, a San Diego-based firm specializing in Real Time Location Systems and asset tracking management challenges. You can track them down at www.awarepoint.com