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New and more affordable technologies are responsible for an upswing in the adoption of real-time locating systems (RTLS), according to Cambridge, Mass.-based IDTechEx. The technology can be used to locate remote objects to within an accuracy of one millimeter, although a tolerance of several meters is sufficient for intermodal containers, says chairman Peter Harrop. "Although RTLS has been around for over 10 years, it really only took off in the last two years," he says. More than 100 hospitals in the U.S. have used it to keep track of staff and assets. Now, with the price of the technology coming down, "the market has widened even further." RTLS systems can even be used by parents to keep track of their children. Harrop cites reports that the market for RTLS will grow from $200m to more than $1bn over the next ten years. Various systems will offer ranges from a few centimeters to several kilometers. System prices are currently running from a few hundred to several million dollars. Aiding in the adoption of RTLS is the growing need of many industries to keep track of people and valuable assets. For example, says Harrop, tighter safety regulations and the threat of costly lawsuits are prompting oil rigs and refineries to keep tabs on personnel at all times. A typical airport is missing 15 percent of its passenger baggage trolleys at any one time. The development of industry standards will also contribute to the expansion of RTLS. One such standard allows tracking tags to "talk" to one another in mesh networks. Says Harrop: "The rule book is now being changed with dramatic breakthroughs almost every month."
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