Demand for seamless indoor-outdoor location tech on the rise

29 May 2019

ABI Research noted that of the 205 companies it surveyed for its Location Technologies Supply Chain and Ecosystem Tracker, 24% of them are currently offering solutions covering both indoor and outdoor location services.

The researcher cited growing need for seamless indoor and outdoor integration and supply chain visibility forcing more companies at the lower layers of the technology supply chain to create more flexible technology offerings.

Computing the position of a person or asset outdoors is usually done via Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, although in some cases auxiliary technologies like cellular networks or to lesser extent low-power wide area (LPWAN) solutions may also be used at lower tracking accuracy.

But GNSS signals do not perform well indoors suffering from difficulty to penetrate well and interference issues. Location technologies like Bluetooth low energy (BLE), ultra-wideband (UWB), RFID, or Wi-Fi are best suited for these environments.

“As things stand, there is a hard line between the indoor and the outdoor technologies and services used for location use cases. Offering seamless tracking between these two environments raises the possibility of having unprecedented visibility into the supply chain, as any item can be tracked end-to-end between factories, warehouses, and retailers up to the point-of-sale,” remarked Henrique Rocha, research analyst at ABI Research.

Some of the benefits from acquiring visibility into the supply chain include more efficient planning and less asset shrinkage, which quickly revert to business owners in the form of ROI.

ABI Research noted that 63% of location companies featured in its report offer indoor solutions only. Indoor tracking is still more demanding than outdoor tracking in the industrial and logistics spaces as it often requires high accuracy and real-time tracking capabilities of individual assets, as well as on-site dedicated infrastructure.

With a consolidating location ecosystem, however, it is expected that more companies will turn to offering full supply chain visibility solutions, which require seamless indoor/outdoor tracking.

While several companies offer both indoor and outdoor location solutions separately, only few have managed to offer a single end-to-end solution providing seamless indoor/outdoor tracking capabilities.

One of the most common combinations for seamless asset tracking involves BLE communication for indoor tracking and GNSS for outdoor tracking, with an LPWAN like LTE-M used to relay location data.

Because different location technologies are often designed to operate in specific environments and address specific needs and use cases, an increasing number of technology suppliers are now opting for designing solutions compatible with multiple technologies to give their clients the flexibility to deploy these solutions across varied use cases and applications.

“Manufacturing and warehousing verticals are some of the most technologically demanding in the asset tracking space. In this ecosystem, companies stand out only through scalable business models. One way of achieving scale is by implementing seamless indoor and outdoor tracking. Solution providers are not oblivious to this and by this time next year, we anticipate an approximate 30% growth in the number of companies offering indoor/outdoor location services,” Rocha concluded.

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