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Stanley Black & Decker to Shutter Its AeroScout Industrial Division

Companies in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics sectors will not be able to buy AeroScout tags and exciters after Oct. 31. However, Stanley will continue to offer AeroScout solutions to hospitals and other health-care customers.
By Claire Swedberg

In the past, AeroScout offered Wi-Fi based RTLS solutions, predominantly for the health-care sector, but also for customers in other sectors. When Stanley Black & Decker acquired AeroScout in 2012, Stanley Healthcare took over the management, marketing and development of the AeroScout health-care products, while Stanley Black & Decker's industrial group took control of AeroScout's industrial business.

Stanley Black & Decker's decision to discontinue its AeroScout Industrial product line may be an indication of challenges for the RTLS market in this sector. While health-care providers continue to acquire RTLS systems to track personnel, patients and high-value and critical assets (such as life-saving equipment and crash carts) to ensure they can find something or someone quickly, the industrial sector does not necessarily have the same needs, says Patrick Connolly, an ABI Research principal analyst.

RTLS solutions that employ Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are muscling into the industrial market for tracking assets, since a beacon-based solution can be deployed at lower cost. Like Wi-Fi RTLS tags, a battery-powered beacon transmits a unique ID. Users simply acquire and attach beacons to assets, and employ smart phones and tablets to receive the beacon's transmission. Most industrial asset-tracking application users do not require location-based data to be as precise as do users of health-care asset-tracking applications. Therefore the return on investment for a Wi-Fi-based RTLS system is considerably longer than it would be in a hospital, he points out.

Connolly says he has been told by large industrial companies that they are acquiring or have acquired hundreds of thousands of Bluetooth beacons for tracking of assets. So although there is a market for Wi-Fi-based RTLS in industrial deployments in which precise location is important, many other manufacturing or other industrial companies can accomplish what they need with the low-cost BLE alternative.

Zebra offers RTLS solutions for the industrial sector, and it has seen 100 percent increase in orders by industrial customers over the past year, says Jill Stelfox, the company's VP and general manager for location solutions. That's in part, she says, because Zebra offers beacon-based technology as well as hybrid solutions that combine passive UHF RFID and active Wi-Fi technologies, depending on the needs of the company's customers. More than 50 percent of its industrial customers, she says, are using a hybrid active and passive solution, or a beacon-based system.

"The fact is, there is a myriad of technologies that can be used to solve a problem," she says. "One thing that distinguishes Zebra is that we have all those technologies," that can be offered to customers as needed.

For instance, she says, a company might want a yard-management solution consisting of a passive UHF RFID reader at its gates to monitor who enters or leaves its property, but within its yard, an RTLS system with precise location data might be necessary. By blending the two technologies (passive UHF RFID and active Wi-Fi), the company can save money.

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