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Time Domain to Release UWB-based RTLS Products

RTLS developer Time Domain will announce tomorrow that it has commercialized its products and is now capable of mass production. Time Domains RTLS systems use ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, a small-but-growing segment of the market that provides greater precision than the more common 433 MHz and WiFi-based RTLS technologies.
Dec 04, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

December 4, 2007—Time Domain of Huntsville, Alabama, will announce tomorrow it has commercialized a new product line that provides a technological alternative to other real-time location systems (RTLS). Time Domain's PLUS (Precision Location Ultra-wideband System) uses ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology instead of the 433 MHz and WiFi-compatible 2.45 GHz systems that currently dominate the RTLS market.

UWB operates at different frequencies and has different characteristics than 433 MHz and WiFi-compatible 2.45 GHz. UWB RTLS is widely considered more accurate than traditional RTLS -- but also more expensive, proprietary, and less mature.

"This is a technology and a product line for people who want to do more with their location systems than know where assets are in a building," Time Domain's vice president of worldwide sales and marketing Greg Clawson told RFID Update.

Time Domain's system operates in two modes, which provide different levels of location accuracy. The most sensitive mode is accurate to within 12 to 36 inches and can simultaneously monitor and locate up to 1,500 tags that are moving five miles per hour. The proximity mode provides less location precision but can simultaneously locate up to 4,000 moving tags.

"With this level of accuracy and throughput, plus software, you can start to do things that other RTLS systems can't, such as associate doctors with the patients they're seeing in a hospital, or associate workers with the assets they're using," said Clawson.

Time Domain's system can be used indoors or out, provides coverage through walls and other structure, and can scale to cover areas within a facility or entire campuses. The product line includes active RTLS tags, the first-generation antenna (more models will be released soon, according to Clawson), the PLUS reader, and several controller models. Readers can work in standalone mode or integrate with a controller. Controllers provide power-over-Ethernet and are available with different amounts of ports to manage up to 144 readers.

Time Domain has previously provided UWB-based RTLS systems, but soon will be able to support high-volume production for the first time, according to Clawson. The privately-held company recently received $25 million in venture funding which helped it to commercialize the product line.

Another UWB RTLS technology provider, Ubisense, also received venture funding early last year (see RTLS Provider Ubisense Lands $3M Funding).

Investors, vendors, and analysts are all showing confidence in the UWB market. It is currently a niche technology, but strong growth is expected. Healthcare and personnel tracking for emergency management are frequently cited as strong potential markets, along with industrial asset management.

"We think UWB has a very bright future, particularly for RTLS applications with high accuracy needs," Raghu Das told RFID Update. Das is CEO of IDTechEx, which produces research and events in the RFID and RTLS industries. Time Domain will make its product announcement tomorrow at the IDTechEx Active RFID & RTLS Summit, happening Wednesday and Thursday of this week in Dallas.

Clawson said experienced RTLS users and resellers recognize the accuracy advantages UWB systems have over 433 MHz and WiFi RTLS, and often implement UWB after first installing other systems. Time Domain also announced a new channel program to attract and certify resellers in vertical markets.
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