Evaluating Your Facility’s Needs for Indoor and Outdoor Positioning

By Don Millick

Posted July 13, 2022

From time to time during my work with customers, a question pops up: “What do you mean by ‘indoor positioning’? Can’t you track me outside?” 

For corrections and behavioral health facilities—the types of complex physical environments in which ATLAS technology excels—both indoor and outdoor visibility are often required, so the question is a valid one. 

Put simply, indoor and outdoor positioning make use of the same technology, just at different levels of granularity. Actall’s zone-based philosophy allows for coverage of facility areas large and small, and our system is built to scale up or down as needed. So, yes—we can track you wherever. 

Here’s a look at how Actall’s real-time locating system (RTLS) works, inside and out: 

Indoor Positioning in Complex Environments 

In a corrections context, planners and key contacts at initial stages of engagement with Actall are primarily concerned with ensuring safety and security for staff and inmates inside the facility itself—but we always emphasize how important it is to consider outdoor needs such as recreation yards and facility grounds. 

Looking ahead can be extremely helpful in evaluating a facility’s RTLS needs. For example, one customer had to go back to the drawing board, apply for more budget and dig additional utility trenches to address outdoor coverage needs that arose after the initial installation of Actall’s ATLAS technology inside the facility. While the customer’s long-term plans included construction of a recreation yard, the facility still required outdoor positioning in a short-term capacity to ensure staff safety. 

For these reasons, we always encourage clients to take a future-focused look when evaluating their RTLS outdoor tracking needs. That yard or garden may not be built out and operational at the same time as the facility itself, but if the need is identified and planned for, it will avoid headaches down the line. 

Granularity at Any Scale 

Once areas of coverage are identified and specs are drawn up, the onsite integration team places locators strategically—as close together or far apart as needed. These locators take in “pings” from active tags that corrections officers are wearing, for example. These pings show which zone officers are in, so if they request backup, it’s clear where it’s needed. 

The closer the locators are placed, the narrower the zone, and the finer level of detail or granularity there is in a specific location—elevating safety in facilities where coverage down to a room or cell is necessary. 

Open areas, such as a recreation yard where there is a high level of visibility, don’t necessarily need locators every 5 to 15 feet. But having them placed strategically (such as behind sheds or other sheltered, lower-visibility areas) means if a corrections officer needs backup, other officers will know quickly and easily which zone to go to. 
This kind of flexibility and scaling is by design: As coverage needs change due to facility renovation or repurposing, Actall’s systems are built to adapt with them. Our mission is to ensure facilities are equipped with solutions that meet their needs and keep staff safe, leading to fewer adverse incidents and an overall increase in on-the-job wellness—which means less turnover.