BARTEC’s Extronics Acquisition to Meet Demand Growth for IIoT

Published: November 14, 2023

The two companies have seen increased demand for Industrial Internet of Things solutions. They plan to extend their product portfolios with wireless solutions supporting industrial site safety.

To expand hazardous worksite products and services via Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, safety solutions company Bartec is acquiring industrial IoT specialist Extronics. The acquisition is intended to grow Bartec’s portfolio of safety and equipment management systems used in hazardous areas. By combining their product portfolio, the companies can offer customers access to a wide range of IoT solutions that leverage Wi-Fi, GPS, radio frequency identification (RFID), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and LoRaWAN. Extronics will continue to operate as a division of Bartec out of its U.K. office.

Bartec, based in Germany, provides safety solutions for industries such as oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical industries, and mining. The company’s explosion protection systems and products are used in applications such as mobile worker management, analysis and measurement, intelligent factories, lighting and electrical infrastructure, industrial energy distribution, automation, and machine control in hazardous areas.

Recently, Bartec found demand for digital management of personnel and assets on the rise. “RTLS [real-time locating system] and RFID are technologies that Bartec has been watching for the last few years,” says Martin U. Schefter, Bartec’s CEO.

By acquiring Extronics, Bartec is taking what Schefter calls the “consequential next step … to become the world’s leading provider of digital infrastructure and equipment for hazardous areas.” By adding the IIoT solutions to its existing industrial safety products, the company predicts its combined portfolio to be the most comprehensive in the market, including industrial IIoT and tracking solutions and handheld devices for use in hazardous areas.

The expanded portfolio will include IIoT infrastructure and mobile devices. “The various divisions will work closely together here and, especially in R&D, we will be able to learn from each other and inspire to come up with innovations,” he adds.

Extronics – Two Decades in IoT

Extronics was founded in 1992 to offer asset management and personnel tracking systems as a reseller. In 2005, Extronics completed its first wireless pilot with BP. They formed a technology partnership with AeroScout (now part of Securitas Healthcare) to deliver RTLS tracking to process industries.

Today, the company develops solutions in-house and works with technology partners to build intrinsically safe products for use in hazardous areas, says John Hartley, Extronics‘ CEO.

John Hartley, Extronics‘ CEO

For instance, the company engineered and developed a range of worker safety tags known as iTAG X-Range to provide site-wide location tracking using multiple location technologies based on customers’ needs.  On the other hand, the company’s iTAG XB range of Bluetooth and Wirepas tags have been designed with technology partner HID Global.

Another solution leverages Extronics’ engineering and design for use in partners’ products. “Our iWAP range of wireless enclosure solutions are engineered and designed by Extronics to house any wireless device from any vendor,” Hartley says, adding, “In this solution, we provide the Ex-enclosure, and the customer specifies the wireless device they wish to use.”

The company’s standard RTLS solutions often include hybrid location technologies that leverage Wi-Fi, GPS, or BLE to determine the tags’ location. Systems have various connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN, and LTE. For example, the iTAG X-Range of worker safety tags can be located using GPS for outdoor areas and Wi-Fi or BLE for indoor hazardous areas. The company’s asset and personnel solutions frequently leverage its iTAG X10, iTAG X20, and the iTAG X30 worker safety tags. The company will soon launch iTAG X40 with the LoRaWAN tag and the iTAG XM soft tag for Android devices. The iTAG XA device will follow next for tracking assets.

In 2024, the company intends to release worker safety tag options using LoRaWAN connectivity (iTAG X40) and cellular-enabled (iTAG XM).

At the center of the solutions, the Extronics Location Engine (ELE) takes the available location data to provide “a dot on a map.” ELE includes an API and Web-Hooks so that users can connect their location data to any front-end platform.

Asset and Personnel Tracking On- and Offshore

Extronics’ RTLS products offer asset and personnel tracking solutions for several applications. For instance, personnel can wear devices that will help provide tracking in locations such as offshore vessels or oil and gas platforms. The technology has recently been of interest to companies to gain Person On Board (POB) information on such ships or platforms. Extronics’ BLE anchors and tags are often used to capture the location of people and assets for safety purposes.

Other everyday use cases include laydown yard asset management, stock inventory management, assets in and out of a work site, bulk materials management, and other applications across harsh and hazardous areas.

Depending on their application, customers can have a mix of technologies to accomplish real-time management of their sites or for worker safety. In indoor areas, Extronics’ customers often use their existing Wi-Fi access points with the company’s iWAPs to pinpoint the tag location via trilateration. To further increase the location accuracy, companies can install iTAG XB40 BLE anchors, creating a solution that reduces infrastructure costs as it requires no cabling and operates via battery power.

Extronics’ Wirepas-based solution (running on BLE technology) leverages battery-powered anchors to form a mesh network that receives transmissions from tags and relays it via the mesh to Extronics‘ location engine (ELE).

With the Wirepas technology, the iTAG XB10 and iTAG XB20 tags are worn by users or mounted on assets. Each tag sends data to the ELE via the Wirepas mesh network and the iWAP XN3 X2000 gateway. The ELE then identifies and displays the tag’s position on the site map.

In addition to the RTLS solutions, which can be used with assets, Extronics offers intrinsically safe, passive UHF RFID tags and readers as part of its AutoID solutions. The products in the range include battery-free UHF RFID tags and handheld or fixed readers.

“Our customers have improved operational efficiency and reduced the time spent finding key assets” with the RTLS or UHF RFID-based solutions. Hartley says.

Extronics had been aware of Bartec since its beginning, says Hartley. “As a business, Extronics has spent a lot of time and effort developing a quality set of products and solutions designed to help the process industry extend their digitalization goals into the hazardous area.” He adds that joining Bartec “means both companies can now offer the most extensive portfolio of products to the market, helping our customers succeed in all their objectives.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Bartec is extending its portfolio with the acquisition of IIoT company Extronics.
  • Both companies expect growth in real-time locating and RFID solutions to manage safety based on asset and employee locating.