By Isaac Davenport, PhD, Chief Technology Officer
We’re not the first or the only RTLS solution on the market. No, we’re proud to be known for something else: Actall is the most accurate and scalable Real-Time Locating System for complex physical environments such as corrections and healthcare facilities—and beyond.
How? Actall engineers think creatively and develop hardware and software solutions specifically to give our customers the highest level of accuracy possible in knowing where their people and assets are at any given time. Through innovations such as dual frequency, variable locator density and advanced antenna technology, we’re able to provide customers a high level of accuracy and dependability, no matter the environment.
It Starts With Our Patent-Pending Dual Frequency Technology
For those who need a quick background on RTLS, the basic gist is that it’s a system that accurately locates people and / or assets through a variety of means. At Actall, we use an array of tags, locators, omni- and directional antennas at two different frequencies—the components are customized to a facility’s needs and can provide accuracy down to the room.
In architecturally dense settings, aka complex physical environments, the biggest issue we see in the RTLS space is getting signals where they need to go, quickly.
Thick walls, like those in corrections facilities, can prevent signals from penetrating, which can lead to lost and delayed alarm signals.
We solve for this problem through ATLAS, our RTLS solution that works on two different frequencies—2.4 GHz (the same frequency as Bluetooth or WiFi) for short-range locating signals, and 900 MHz for long-range transmission (close to the same frequency as cell phones). For example, tags on people or assets will ping at a frequency of 2.4 GHz in a way that doesn’t interfere with the facility’s WiFi but still sends a signal to nearby locators because of the strength of the very short ping. Long-range (LoRa) radio transmission at 900 MHz, on the other hand, allows signals to travel long distances to gateways or locators, largely separate from any competing frequencies in the building and not limited by dense walls.
Locator Density Helps Provide a High Level of Accuracy
Unlike other RTLS companies that offer one-size-fits-all solutions (spoiler alert: They don’t actually fit all needs), at Actall we provide scalability and customizability by placing exactly as many locators as your facility requires for the resolution level you desire. The more locators, the finer the resolution—so, if your facility requires accuracy down the room, we’ll install locators in each room. However, for coverage in outdoor spaces or cafeterias that may require less accuracy, we’ll install fewer locators or space them farther apart. It may seem like a simple fix to take this strategic approach, but it is unique in the RTLS space.
As I mentioned above, our 900 MHz signals allow us to send signals long distance—and we’re able to use locator density to our advantage here as well. We’re able to turn up or turn down the sensitivity of each locator to make sure signals don’t “step on” one another, ensuring accuracy in signal conveyance.
With Actall’s RTLS solution, we don’t need to rely on triangulation to provide locations, either, which saves time and helps keep your staff and those in their charge safe by ensuring the location of duress signals get out quickly and accurately. Triangulation can be foiled by thick walls, which are hard to penetrate, attenuate signals, and can significantly throw off triangulation.
Accuracy Via Directional and Omni-Directional Antennas
At Actall, we leverage both directional antennas and omni-directional antennas.
Think of directional antennas like a flashlight. These antennas have a focused beam that illuminates, or "listens to," a specific area that you point them towards while excluding anything outside of that beam. So, we can point them down hallways, or at doorways, or away from doors to get better localization, especially in those places where the walls are not helping to localize signals.
We can also use omni-directional antennas, which have enhanced sensitivity in all directions, since the antenna “listens” all around the space. So, if we had a large room, we might put an omni-directional antenna in the ceiling in the center of the room to pick up the whole room.
Using these two antenna types, we can tune the sensitivity of our locator coverage to help locate people and assets into the zones that our customers are interested in distinguishing between.
Ping Rate and Accuracy
The more often a tag “pings” a locator or sends a signal, the bigger the drain on the tag’s battery. Some of our customers, like those in certain healthcare facilities that are mainly concerned with alarm signals rather than constant, precise location determination, may only require a ping every 30 seconds or so. This helps them save battery life while delivering location accuracy when it counts most.
For facilities that require constant location tracking for safety or other reasons, we’re able to dial up the ping rate to send a location signal every two or four seconds.
In any case, no matter the ping rate, when the duress button on one of those tags is pressed, that sends a massive amount of data to our system with precise location accuracy, ensuring support staff is alerted quickly.
RTLS Solutions That Work
In our industry, accuracy and speed can save lives, create better care environments and help further establish strong cultures of safety. By prioritizing accuracy and continuing to improve our unique products, we’re able to deliver solutions that work in complex physical environments and facilities with dense architecture.
We treat each and every facility like the unique structure it is and provide exactly the right amount of coverage to ensure the utmost accuracy. Our team is ready to help answer any further questions, so please do not hesitate to reach out.