May 24, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.
May 24, 2007—WhereNet announced it will release the first real-time location system (RTLS) tag that supports two different, standardized technologies in a single tag. The company's new WhereTag IV supports the ISO 24730 standard that WhereNet's legacy RTLS systems are based on, and also can be used with WiFi-standard wireless LAN technology.
"Now there is one tag that can go from one location technology to another seamlessly, so customers can choose the tracking technologies that are best for their specific applications," Tim Harrington, WhereNet's vice president of product strategy, told RFID Update.
The active tag can simultaneously support both technologies or be configured for either. Users can change the configuration at any time. The tag will become WhereNet's flagship and will be used in all new deployments after it becomes available later this year.
"It gives our customers so much more flexibility that we think it is the way to go forward," said Harrington.
WhereNet remains committed to ISO 24730 technology and maintains its longstanding position that ISO 24730 provides more accuracy and better performance than WiFi in challenging environments.
WhereNet has traditionally positioned ISO 24730 as the technology of choice for high-precision location tracking and for use in industrial and outdoor environments where RF coverage is limited. The company views WiFi as a technology primarily for carpeted and indoor applications. The technologies could be used together to provide tracking for "the last mile of the supply chain," according to Harrington.
More RTLS vendors support WiFi technology, and the segment has been helped by product development and support from Cisco to make RTLS easier to integrate with 802.11-standard Cisco WiFi networks.
"In all cases where location accuracy is critical to ROI, customers always choose ISO 24730. We see the dual-mode tag as something new in the market that will let companies do a different kind of tracking," said Harrington.
"Materials in a shipment could be tracked in production or the yard with ISO 24730 technology. When the truck with the shipment arrives at the dock door at a retail location or distribution center, there already may be enough wireless LAN infrastructure in place to read location tags," he said. "The location data could be used to send notification that the truck has arrived, record how long it was there, and when it left. We see the dual-mode tag as something new in the marketplace that will enable new kinds of tracking applications."
Harrington believes that many legacy wireless LANs aren't capable of doing RTLS applications under their current configurations. "To get good location data, regardless of the technology, you need input from at least three readers, preferably four. Cisco's implementation handbook recommends an access point every 70 feet for location applications," said Harrington. "Most WiFi networks are not that dense, so users are probably going to have to add equipment if they want to add RTLS to their legacy WiFi networks."
WhereNet tags can be read on WiFi networks with Cisco's Location Appliance, which can also process WiFi tags from other manufacturers. Earlier this week Cisco announced its first Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) for WiFi-based RTLS tags. The company also announced other enhancements to its Wireless Location Solution, including support from WhereNet, AeroScout, G2 Microsystems, and PanGo.