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RTLS Provider Ubisense Lands $3M Funding

Ubisense, a maker of high-precision real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, yesterday announced $3 million in funding. The investment marks the first round of private equity for the Cambridge, England-based company. RFID Update spoke with CEO Richard Green about Ubisense and its position in the market.
Mar 29, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 29, 2006—Ubisense, a maker of high-precision real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, yesterday announced US$3 million in funding. The investment marks the first round of private equity for the Cambridge, England-based company. RFID Update spoke with CEO Richard Green about Ubisense and its position in the market.

Ubisense's competitive differentiator in the increasingly hot RTLS space is the accuracy of its solution. While many RTLS providers claim accuracy to within a few meters, Ubisense says its technology can locate tagged objects to within 30 centimeters of their position. "We think there's a real gap in the market for people who want more than a few meters of accuracy," Green told RFID Update. "There's a whole bunch of applications that precision enables that [traditional] RTLS doesn't." Many of those applications involve tracking people in military or other safety-critical settings. This page on Ubisense's website features some of the many applications for which the technology is used.

The company has been focused on one personnel tag to date, but it plans to build out a suite of additional tags. "Part of the investment we've taken in is to develop more tags targeted at specific applications," said Green. He said he expects the company will have developed between three and five new tags within the next year. Currently tags cost between $50 and $100, but, as with passive RFID tags, that per-unit cost will fall as volume increases. "If we start getting serious volume commitments, that can drive down the cost considerably." Green said tags in the $30 range could be possible within the next 12 to 18 months.

The Ubisense technology uses ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. While UWB affords high accuracy, it means that Ubisense technology typically requires an infrastructure to be installed at client sites since UWB is not widely deployed technology. This can sometimes translate to higher total cost of ownership, according to Marcus Torchia, senior analyst with Yankee Group. Alternative RTLS solutions can piggyback on WiFi infrastructure, which enjoys high -- and increasing -- penetration. Green said that Ubisense looked closely at offering WiFi-based technology but instead decided to target applications that require more accuracy than WiFi can provide. "If the client wants to solve one set of locationing problems [that doesn't require precision accuracy], use WiFi. If they want to solve another set, use UWB." He noted that the Ubisense technology can often complement more traditional RTLS solutions. "We're talking to a number of those [traditional RTLS] vendors to see if we can partner together rather than compete."

Ubisense was founded in 2002. It currently employees about 75 people and has roughly 100 customers. By all accounts, the RTLS market is a fast moving, exciting one with still only a handful of players serving an ever-widening set of applications and verticals. Earlier this month, IDTechEx predicted that the RTLS market will grow to $2.7 billion in 2016, and last year Yankee Group predicted $1.6 billion by 2010.

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