RTLS Explained

The term RTLS, or Real-Time Location System, has emerged as the term to define indoor positioning systems. Businesses, industries, and even healthcare are increasingly relying on RTLS to streamline operations, enhance security, and improve overall efficiency.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the depths of RTLS, exploring what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how it can help you!

Components of an RTLS system

RTLS utilizes a combination of hardware and software components to determine the precise location of objects or individuals within an enclosed area. Key components for an RTLS system include:

RTLS asset tag

RTLS tags or beacons

Most RTLS systems today require small (battery-powered) tags for positioning. These can be mounted on the asset that needs to be tracked. The majority of trackers are battery powered, with a lifetime of several years. For vehicle tracking, some trackers can draw power from the vehicle itself. Finally, some RTLS systems support smartphone localization as well, so no dedicated tag is required.

> Learn more about the Pozyx UWB tags

RTLS anchor

Anchors or receivers

While outdoor positioning can rely on GPS coverage, indoor positioning systems require some kind of infrastructure. Typically, anchors or receivers need to be installed. This typically requires power and/or Ethernet connection to be available.

> Learn more about the Pozyx UWB anchors

RTLS software

RTLS software

The RTLS software is a key part of the system where the actual locations are being calculated (positioning engine), and where the user is able to configure and manage an RTLS deployment. Once, installed, API's allow other systems to ingest the location data. The RTLS software is typically used by system or IT administrators.

RTLS application software

Application software

In it's most limited form, an RTLS will only provide location information. Either this data is integrated into some existing application such as an ERP or WMS, or it is fed to a dedicated RTLS application which will typically combine RTLS with indoor mapping, geofencing and analytics. These applications are typically used on a day-to-day basis by end-users such as operators, process engineers and managers.

> Learn more about the Pozyx Application software

Pozyx offers an industry-proven RTLS for both UWB and BLE which provides accurate indoor positioning at scale.

Learn more about the Pozyx RTLSBook a demo

Main use-cases of RTLS

The number of use-cases for an RTLS is very large. With Pozyx we have identified, and maintain a list of over 250 unique RTLS use-cases. Based on this list we have seen that most use-cases can be grouped in the following 4 categories:

1. Real-time visibility

The primary use-case for an RTLS is to provide better visibility of company assets. These assets could include equipment, vehicles, materials, work orders, containers, carts, personnel and so much more. Visibility could mean as much as knowing the exact location of an asset or knowing the exact amount of assets in a certain location. Without an RTLS, this visibility may be outdated or simply incorrect. A good example of this is the ERP system claiming negative inventory levels for a certain asset, which is simply not possible. With an RTLS, searching for assets is reduced from hours or days to seconds.

Visibility from an RTLS isn’t just limited to the location of assets itself. Using location-based triggers, you can also obtain visibility on certain events based on location. For example, whenever something enters or leaves a certain area, or when an asset is standing still for a long time and when it was last moved.

2. Data-driven analytics

Real-time location data contains a wealth of information that can be used for data-driven decision making or predictive analytics. Its value goes much beyond simply knowing the location of an asset. Where things are, for how long and how they move, in combination with the context of the facility can provide insights into operational patterns, resource utilization, and overall efficiency. This data-driven approach helps organizations make informed decisions to optimize processes, improve resource allocation, and enhance overall performance. Some examples location-based analytics are:

  • Detecting sick cows or cows in heat based on movement patterns
  • Determining the efficiency of a forklift based on its activity and number of trips
  • Understanding how frequently equipment is used to understand how much you actually need.

By analyzing historical location data, organizations can develop predictive models to anticipate trends, identify potential bottlenecks, and proactively address issues before they impact operations.

3. Safety, security and compliance

Employee Safety: RTLS is used to enhance workplace safety by tracking the real-time location of personnel, especially in hazardous environments. Some examples are:

  • In the event of an emergency, organizations can quickly locate and evacuate employees
  • Prevent collisions by warning operators that are too close to a moving forklift, AGV or other vehicle
  • Prevent an overhead crane of lifting materials over people's heads

In industries with strict regulatory requirements, such as healthcare and manufacturing, RTLS can help organizations comply with safety and security regulations by ensuring that assets and personnel are where they are supposed to be, and by providing audit trails for tracking movements and activities.

4. Location-based automation

More advanced use-cases use location information to automate certain processes. This is the so-called "if this, then that". Because of the real-time nature of an RTLS, these automations can happen in a timely manner which is critical for most processes. For example:

  • Automate bookings in the ERP system whenever an assets enters a certain area
  • Automatically turn off the lights and machinery when a room or zone is empty for 5 minutes
  • Automatically signal pickup for containers or patients based on their location

Applications of RTLS


Manufacturing is seen as one of the largest application domains for Indoor location services. Manufacturing facilities leverage RTLS to monitor the movement of equipment, raw materials, work orders, and finished goods. This ensures efficient production processes, shorter lead-times, safer work environments, and better quality compliance.

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the different layers of a positioning system

Warehouse management

RTLS has transformed warehouse operations by providing real-time insights into the location of inventory, reducing search times, automated booking, optimizing routes for pickers, and minimizing errors in shipping and receiving.


Healthcare is another major market for RTLS. In hospitals, RTLS is a lifeline for tracking medical equipment, managing patient flow, and ensuring the safety of both patients and staff. It aids in locating critical assets swiftly, enhancing response times during emergencies.

small chip
the different layers of a positioning system


Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) in retail are used to track and manage inventory, improve operational efficiency, and enhance the overall customer experience. RTLS enables retailers to monitor the movement of goods throughout their stores in real-time, optimize stock levels, reduce out-of-stock situations, and streamline replenishment processes. Additionally, RTLS can be leveraged for location-based marketing and personalized customer interactions, offering targeted promotions and improving store layout based on traffic patterns and customer behavior data.


Locating animals and people, tracking equipment, managing supplies, registering yield and observing animal behavior are just few of the examples in agriculture where real-time location is vital for (indoor) farms with livestock or crop production.

Specifically in combination with artificial intelligence (AI) applied on detailed animal location and movement data has proven to be extremely beneficial for improving animal reproduction outcomes, productivity, welfare and health. As such, animal tracking has become a major RTLS application.

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Main technologies for RTLS

In this section, we give an overview of the different technologies for RTLS systems, and how they compare to each other. In this comparison we restrict ourselves to the mainstream commercial technologies. For example, we omit technologies such as ultra-sound positioning as there are only few commercial systems available using this technology. We will see that many solutions come at a trade-off between several system parameters.

The choice of which positioning technology to select is not always a simple one. In fact, in many cases no single technology is able to provide all the requested positioning requirements. A solution for this problem can be the combination of multiple sensors. A typical example is the use of motion sensors such as the accelerometer or gyroscope. With these sensors alone it is not possible to obtain absolute positioning information, however, they can be used during tracking to improve the position estimate.

In the following, we give a non-exhaustive list of properties that are important when selecting a positioning system:

  • Accuracy
  • Infrastructure cost
  • Maintenance cost
  • Battery life
  • Update rate
  • Tag size
  • Scalability
  • Ease of installation
  • Positioning delay (real-time behavior)
  • Interference with other systems
  • Robustness in challenging environments
  • Range

UWB RTLS (ultra wideband)

Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a technology that specifically designed for indoor location applications. Today UWB is considered the golden standard for location systems with its high accuracy of 10-30cm, low power consumption and robustness in challenging environments with lots of metal. Furthermore, costs of this technology have significantly decreased in the past years due to the mass adoption of UWB technology in smartphones and vehicles. Because of this, UWB is now viable to track thousands of assets in large facilites without breaking the bank.

Learn more about UWB technology.

BLE RTLS (Bluetooth Low Energy)

Bluetooth is a well-known technology which has a wide range of (successful) applications. BLE was not initially designed for indoor positioning and is more of a by-product of the technology. The typical accuracy that can be achieved with standard BLE is around 5-10 meters. However, because the system relies on the signal strength to estimate the location, the results may vary significantly depending on the environments. Obstructions, metals, or people walking around have a strong effect on the signal strength. Regardless, BLE positioning remains very popular due to the low-cost nature of the technology.

Recently, the BLE standard added BLE direction finding capability to improve positioning performance. With this method sub-meter positioning accuracy is possible. This, however, does require dedicated infrastructure and does not work with standard BLE tags without modification.

RFID (Radio Frequency indentification)

RFID is probably the most well known and most widely used technology for track-and-trace applications. With passive RFID the 'tag' can be as simple as a sticker with a small chip and antenna inside costing just a few cents, which opens up the potential to track 'everything'. However, the downside of this is that it doesn't provide real-time tracking, as the RFID tag can only be detected when being scanned by a (short-range) RFID scanner. This makes RFID technology suitable for inventory control or for certain automations, but not for finding lost assets or for location analytics. One thing to note though, is that the robustness of RFID is relatively low, and in the presence of metal, there is no guarantee that you will actually detect all RFID. For this reason, RFID is less used in industrial environments.

WiFi scanning

WiFi tracking is very similar to standard Bluetooth in the way that it also uses the signal strength of the WiFi signal to determine a position. The accuracy is typically a bit worse than BLE with 5-10m of accuracy, although performance can greatly differ between providers. Obviously the advantage here is that existing WiFi infrastructure can be used. Unfortunately, the power consumption of WiFi is much higher than for BLE or UWB. Hence, it is mostly used to track devices that already have WiFi internally (like laptops or some equipments).

Stand-alone battery-powered WiFi trackers work in a slightly different way in that they will not connect to any WiFi network, but simply sniff which networks are around. Then, this information is offloaded through the cellular network to the cloud to obtain a position using the known locations of the WiFi access points. Because of the cellular network though, these trackers require a monthly connectivity fee and are limited to a few tens of location updates per day.

Developer tag in test environment

How Pozyx pushes the edge of RTLS

Pozyx develops and designs its products in-house.
This includes the electronics, the antenna design and housing and allows Pozyx to have full control over the final product quality.
With an in-house electronics lab and anechoic chamber, Pozyx guarantees top of the-line radio performance, resulting in the best possible range and performance.

In the final RTLS solution, Pozyx hardware and firmware are combined with algorithms and analytics software to translate the stream of real-time locations into smart data and value creating insights. Pozyx has also developed accompanying software that makes it easy to install and maintain any set-up.

Pozyx is a strong believer of industry standards and is an active member in various standardization committees such as Omlox to push forward interoperability and promote the eco-space around indoor UWB positioning.

See the Pozyx RTLS
in action
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