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Using LiDAR for real-time location systems: Introducing the concept of TfAT

August 10, 2022  |  TonyRigoni

Enterprise and industrial assets – especially fleet equipment – are increasingly expensive, marking just one reason why monitoring and tracking these assets is paramount. 

Asset tracking is extremely important – especially in a situation like a warehouse or a loading dock. Think about the number of packages a major online retailer is handling at each of their warehouses every single day, for instance. Not only do you need to keep track of all these packages and the pallets they come on, but you also need to ensure that all the people in your space aren’t crashing into each other or spending too much time in one area. Improving tracking, safety, traffic flow and productivity all requires the right asset tracking system.

All of this needs to happen in real time. Conventional tracking efforts can do some of this, but there’s other situations where they won’t suffice. Into this scenario enters the concept of Tag-free Asset Tracking ™(TfAT).

Evaluating the standard tracking options 

So far, companies have used a variety of tag systems for asset tracking. The most common ones are barcodes or wireless, including Wi-Fi, RFID, BLE or UWB (ultra-wide-band tags). And while each of these serves a certain purpose, they won’t work for all situations. Each of these types of tags has drawbacks, the most glaring of which is the requirement that you attach a tag to each item you wish to track, whether it’s a forklift or an employee or a pallet or something else. Think of it like the beacon you have on your keys at home that helps you find them when you put them in a different place. You must put a tag on every single asset. This also requires replacing batteries for each of these tags when they run low.

To have the coverage you need for a large warehouse, it will require the installation of many readers, too. Sometimes that’s just not possible. 

Another problem is that there’s often an abundance of steel shelving in warehouse settings, which can impact the accuracy of radio tags – all that steel can cause interference with the radio waves.

There’s also a matter of privacy. For some companies, they want to be able to track their employees’ movement for flow management purposes, to ensure there are no collisions and that spaces are being set up appropriately for the work being done in them. However, this obviously comes with privacy concerns that must be considered. You need a way to track this information that isn’t collecting or storing personal data/identification. 

Introducing Tag-free Asset Tracking (TfAT)

Quanergy’s LiDAR-based solutions enable the tracking of all moving assets – forklifts, mobile robots, people and so on – without the use of tags and with a high degree of accuracy in real time. No other technologies out there today can do this.  This is Quanergy’s Tag-free Asset Tracking concept or TfAT.

With LiDAR-enabled TfaT, real-time location systems (RTLS) benefit from the following attributes:

  • No tags are needed, which saves on deployment costs​
  • No batteries to recharge or change lowers maintenance costs​: The batteries for BLE-based asset tracking tools might last a month or even six months, whereas UWB-based tools often need to be charged daily depending on update rates.
  • High accuracy of down to < 1m​: A lot of existing systems are accurate for a more general area, of perhaps 5-10 meters, but Quanergy’s LiDAR-based system can pinpoint a far more specific area. 
  • Real-time tracking – < 200ms updates: You don’t have to choose between trying to conserve battery life and getting real-time updates.
  • Superior classification ability: The system can tell the difference between a person, forklift, vehicle or other​ object
  • Large sensor coverage area of up to 15,000 m² (165k ft²)/sensor​
  • Immunity to steel interference, which means to no multipath returns ​
  • No personal information collected or stored; no video used
  • Works indoors and outside with IP69K protection, in pitch black or full sunlight 

It’s important to note that TfAT isn’t meant as a replacement for current, existing asset tracking systems, but rather, as a complement. Where those existing systems fall short, TfaT fills those gaps. And that means for RTLS providers, TfAT is another tool in their strategic toolbox – a means to offer customers even better service and coverage than ever before. 

LiDAR and TfAT

Today, industrial automation isn’t just a competitive advantage but a requirement. It improves productivity, accuracy and safety while also saving time and money. LiDAR is an incredibly useful and adaptable technology for all facets of warehouse automation.

The average person on the street would still associate LiDAR only with autonomous vehicles, but we demonstrate every day that it is capable of so much more.

According to ABI Research, there will be a total installed base of 16 million LiDAR sensors in smart spaces, security and industry verticals by 2030. This rapid adoption is fueled by the fact that previous solutions can’t compare with LiDAR.

With all the advantages noted above, it’s easy to see why Tag-free Asset Tracking is a great supplement to standard practices. It’s a technology whose time has come.  

Tags:  Industrial