Stefan Schwab is CEO of Illuminated. Enlighted is part of Building Robotics, Inc., a Siemens company.
The buildings of the world are undergoing a revolution. From schools to hospitals to offices, the Internet of Things (IoT) makes it possible to make buildings more efficient and sustainable. Intelligent lighting has proven to be highly effective in helping organizations reduce energy emissions and electricity expenditure by tailoring lighting use to the exact needs of users, taking concrete steps towards ESG objectives and reducing the impact on the environment. reduce the environment.
Intelligent lighting control and modern IoT infrastructures in buildings can immediately improve sustainability and reduce energy and heating costs. But what if intelligent lighting also enabled new use cases and expanded IoT applications by using the same sensor technologies and wireless network networks? Smart lighting lays the foundation for businesses to implement real-time location services (RTLS), increasing the value of their total investment and delivering greater operational benefits.
How does it work? The same sensors in lighting fixtures that detect motion for occupancy-based lighting and temperature control can also be turned on to detect movement of people and things in spaces. Such an RTLS solution can then track critical resources, including assets, inventory, and people in workspaces. Organizations deploying RTLS can analyze and optimize the movement of people and assets within workplaces, increasing productivity and driving further energy efficiency improvements.
Lighting-based RTLS solutions offer significant opportunities in a variety of industries and with many use cases. For the past five years, I’ve helped large enterprises transition from simple smart lighting systems to the broader benefits of IoT technologies, including RTLS. These transitions often lead to improved workflows as companies learn more about how residents interact in their spaces and with their colleagues.
Understand lighting-based RTLS
Intelligent lighting refers to a network of LED lights equipped with sensors, enabling them to detect a range of activities and factors for automated occupancy-based controls and to produce data-analytical insights. RTLS further connects the building infrastructure, turning each tagged item in a workspace into a data point that can support better decision-making. According to recent market research, the RTLS market will grow $12.7 billion by 2026 as more organizations recognize the opportunity to improve employee well-being and improve asset management.
Organizations use RTLS to identify individual assets or people and track their locations and movements within a specific area. For large companies or manufacturers, that area could be an office or a warehouse; for a hospital this could be a specific wing or floor; and depending on resources, RTLS can even cover an entire building.
RTLS uses sensors and tags (a small device attached to assets that communicates with the network of sensors) to provide a constant stream of data to a central system of hardware and software. For personnel tracking, badges and wristbands serve the same function as tags. This raw data is processed and available through displays and dashboards, making it possible to instantly identify the location of a requested asset. RTLS applications can also provide rich workflow features, with triggering events and alerts directing staff operations for greater efficiency.
RTLS best practices
The biggest challenge in implementing RTLS is integrating the new technology with existing workflows, tools and systems. Executives and facility managers should view RTLS as a complement to their existing solutions, rather than a replacement. Careful integration planning before implementation can ensure that these valuable tools work together smoothly.
Business leaders should consider how RTLS will integrate with human workflows and operations. Change management requires extensive communication. By taking the time to engage with those whose workflows are impacted, they can ensure that the change leads to positive outcomes rather than friction or backlash.
The following best practices can enhance the benefits of a lighting-based RTLS:
• Focus on desired results: To get the most value from RTLS, an organization needs to understand which processes need to be improved. A well-defined outcome could be to reduce the time staff spend searching for equipment, or reduce bottlenecks to a critical workflow. Establishing the goal in advance allows the company to apply data to the problem, rather than collecting data and then looking for a problem to solve.
• Think big and start small: An advantage of using a lighting-based RTLS system is that once the building infrastructure is in place, companies can select a department, assets and workflows to improve. Building on early successes, they can then expand with new resources and more complex interactions.
• Plan for effective alerts and responses: RTLS can be especially valuable when generating alerts or notifications for predetermined events. For example, RTLS can notify facility managers when a highly sensitive asset has left a designated area, or when the facility is running low on a specific resource. But these alerts must be carefully designed to avoid alert fatigue or missed opportunities.
Broad business impact across all industries
The use cases for RTLS are broad and numerous, with new applications being launched all the time as visualizations and applications for RTLS data mature over time.
• Healthcare: Improving patient care and reducing operational costs are key KPIs for hospitals. An RTLS system can easily help nurses find valuable assets quickly so they can focus on patient care. These RTLS asset tracking systems also prevent lost or stolen equipment, impacting the bottom line.
• Stockroom: In warehouses, RTLS can have a tangible impact on worker efficiency and safety. By using time and motion data to optimize routes and processes, operations managers can reduce the time it takes to complete tasks and reduce the risk of potentially dangerous collisions. RTLS can also make it easier to track mobile assets such as forklifts for more efficient deployments.
• Education: With limited budgets, schools and universities investing in high-quality laboratory, sports or audiovisual equipment can typically use RTLS to ensure these assets are properly accounted for and secured.
The industrial applications for RTLS are endless. As business and facility leaders consider how to increase productivity and make their physical spaces safer and more efficient by 2023, using intelligent lighting as the foundation of RTLS applications should be a top consideration.