How Will Energy Harvesting, Battery Free, and Low Power Tags Impact the RTLS Market?

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1Q 2023 | IN-6864

Advancements in low power chipsets alongside energy harvesting solutions will facilitate a new wave of low-cost location trackers, but RTLS may not be the correct market for it.

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Low Power Innovations Within the RTLS Market


Energy harvesting, battery-free, and low power chipsets are poised to drastically impact the market for IoT (Internet of Things) and connectivity, facilitating the creation of wireless devices with extended battery lifespans without the need for a large battery; in other words, battery-free. This will enable the creation of a new category of ultra-low cost connected devices and tags. With many common applications of location in enterprise centering around asset tracking, the ideal battery life of these devices will be years, as opposed to months. Recent advancements in chipset design and energy harvesting technology have shown that it will be a fundamental component of enabling improved and scalable Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) and asset tracking deployments. This includes products such as Pod Groups’ ultra-low power cellular shipping tags and Wiliot’s Battery-Free or Battery-Assisted IoT Pixel.

RTLS has a Scalability and Maintenance Problem


ABI Research expects the RTLS market to grow strongly in the coming years, from a market worth US$7.4 billion in 2022 to over US$21 billion in 2027. Much of this growth is expected from verticals such as Manufacturing, Logistics, and Healthcare—key RTLS verticals with established use cases and known Return on Investment (ROI) looking to leverage a large number of tags with increased scale coming from larger deployments and less siloed multi-applications implementations. In order to accommodate for higher tag volumes, enterprises will be looking for lower cost tag solutions than currently available by reducing component costs and increasing battery life. With energy harvesting, devices can operate either without a battery or with a rechargeable one in order to operate, theoretically, forever. With the buy-in and operating costs of RTLS solutions being key barriers to adoption, tags being able to both cost less initially and last longer are desirable for reducing component costs, maintenance costs, and loss of revenue due to downtime.

Last year, energy harvesting technology company E-peas demonstrated an RTLS solution which leveraged wirelessly powered tags from tatwah and Quuppa, targeting asset tracking, warehousing, and retail applications. The new tags enabled reductions in size and weight while improving the operating temperature and battery life of the system by harvesting energy either through solar cells or ambient Radio Frequency (RF). E-peas’ solar cells have also previously been leveraged in Bluetooth asset trackers and beacons from Enerthing and Miromicro. Likewise, Wiliot’s technology has been applied to Bluetooth healthcare RTLS as a solution for tracking medical containers at a lower cost compared to traditional tags, supplied through partner Blyott. In March 2023, Atmosic announced their partnership with MircoZerr to integrate their low-power, energy harvesting System on a Chip (SoC) into Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) RTLS products. The solution is expected to produce tags for tracking in a variety of end-markets such as asset tracking, pallet tracking in logistics, and patient trakcing in healthcare. The tags are able to operate three to five times longer than competitive solutions, reducing the need for frequent and costly tag replacements.

Dedicated energy harvesting RTLS solutions are reaching the market as well. UWINLOC provided a unique solution with battery-less tags supporting accurate Ultra-Wideband (UWB) location, further reducing capital expenditure (CAPEX) buy-in by offering hardware as a service. The future of the solution is uncertain, however, given UWINLOC’s acquisition by ParagonID in January.

Battery-less May Be a Step Too Far


While reduced tag costs are desirable, it fails to address what is currently the bulk of the prohibitive cost of RTLS in installation and infrastructure maintenance. In fact, introducing any additional components which may be required for energy harvesting would result in a further burden on the already costly infrastructure, further emphasized by the stringent timing and reliability requirements for RTLS and the task of reliably supplying energy. Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, for example, cost mere cents and are invaluable for tracking high volume assets. Translating said system to one that can facilitate real-time location through high-power anchors and choke-point scanners proved to be ineffective compared to contemporary RTLS solutions. For the newer energy harvesting solutions to be able to support Real-Time Location, more thought has to be given to the impact this would have on infrastructure costs.

ABI Research expects that 336 million RTLS tags will ship in 2027, over half of which will be for high volume asset tracking and much of the rest, such as people tracking, vehicle tracking, and equipment monitoring, will benefit from improved battery life leading to longer tag lifespan. There is still ample opportunity to make use of many of the incremental advancements present in order to produce cheaper or more efficient products making use of ultra-low power chipsets, as seen from Atmosic, and using energy harvesting in order to recharge or extend the life of batteries. Earlier this year, Chinese Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Minew launched their T3 and i6 disposable tags, using a low-power SoC from InPlay, which retails at US$1, compared to’s Nano tag released in 2021 at US$5. While these lowest-spec devices are not the most flexible, we should expect tag costs to continue to drop across the board as newer low-power chipsets are incorporated into designs. This will lead to RTLS solutions not only being cheaper but also being able to address use cases where year-long battery life would be desired. ABI Research expects RTLS solutions moving forward to continue to increase in size and leverage higher volumes of tags to support larger, multi-use deployments. Efforts in allowing solutions to support higher tag volumes will be necessary in keeping RTLS viable .



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