I received a good "schooling" yesterday in the difference between radio frequency identification (RFID) and the RF devices used in real-time location systems (RTLS) for indoor positioning. I visited a company called Q-Track that is developing technology to monitor the location of people within a confined area using a radio antenna and an RF tag that a person wears. The radio antenna can receive signals from the tag within about a 10,000 square foot area and, based on an understanding of the RF wavelength, a location accurate to within about 2 or 3 feet can be determined. The "math" to calculate the location is not based on time of arrival nor does it depend on triangulation. It’s one antenna and a single tag that broadcasts a signal from the person wearing the device. My "schooling" came via Dr. Hans Schantz, chairman and CTO of Q-Track, an expert in ultra-wideband technology.
The cost of Q-Track technology fits somewhere between passive RFID and GPS. The infrastructure for RFID requires extensive use of fixed location readers and cheap tags, but a true position of the object is near impossible to determine. GPS, of course, has problems with indoor location tracking . Q-Track’s tag is about $50 alone but the ability to get an accurate location in real-time is its competitive advantage.
Applications? It is being looked at by a number of government agencies and power companies to track employees. One application by a nuclear power plant wants to monitor a worker’s workflow as they spend time in a radioactive environment. It’s also being tested in caves. Could it have been used in the recent mine disaster in Utah? Although the mine area was certainly bigger than current testing, this is one application that is under serious consideration by Q-Track.