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Why Real-Time Locating Systems is an Emerging Market

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) are used to automatically identify and track the location of things in real-time within a building or other confined areas. While numerous existing RTLS technologies, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and UWB have been available, they haven't captured the market potential.

According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, 87 percent of enterprises said they have not yet deployed RTLS technology within their business, primarily because of the significant barriers to adoption.

Most of the challenges of RTLS deployment mentioned in the ABI study point to the fragmentation of existing solutions, which impact the total cost of ownership, the complexity to implement, operate and maintain them. There are also uncertainties around reliability and maturity.

RTLS Technology Market Development

"All the barriers identified by the survey are currently constraining the RTLS ecosystem from developing and flourishing. Current solutions addressing this market today are struggling to generate scale as they are not ticking all the commercial and technology requirement boxes of end-users," said Malik Saadi, vice president at ABI Research.

According to the ABI Research survey results, which polled decision-makers across industry verticals, 56 percent of respondents selected 5G positioning, among several alternative technologies, as the preferred RTLS solution they are willing to adopt despite the fact the technology will not fully mature before 2025, at the earliest.

5G positioning will mature incrementally through the commercial introduction of 3GPP Release 16, Release 17, and Release 18 between 2022 and 2025. In the meantime, while there is demand for 5G positioning, there are still many limitations to be addressed before the technology is widely deployed.


According to the ABI assessment, the 5G supply chain must come together to deliver improvements on accuracy, reliability, scalability, terminal power consumption and cost, and many other key metrics demanded by the varied RTLS use cases.

Ultimately, 5G positioning is unlikely to replace alternative RTLS technologies anytime soon, however, for many industry verticals, the unique combination of communications and positioning, as well as seamless indoor and outdoor coverage, backed by the 5G ecosystem, will prove a strong value proposition.

Outlook for RTLS Applications Growth

"5G positioning can achieve its full market potential only if the entire supply chain, including operators, infrastructure suppliers, device vendors, and chipset suppliers can work together on end-to-end solutions. Otherwise, they could face the very same issue of fragmentation that has prevented alternative RTLS technologies from taking off," Saadi concludes.

That said, I believe it's similar to other emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, vendors of RTLS must find a viable market niche where their solutions enable specific business outcomes that are of immediate value to customers. Use cases within manufacturing, healthcare, warehousing, supply chain, transportation, and oil/gas or mining industry verticals may have upside growth potential.

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