Next-Generation BLE and Ultra-Wideband Technologies Threaten to Wipe Out Growth for Traditional Real-Time Location System (RTLS) Solutions

30 Aug 2016

A host of next-generation BLE beacon and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technologies threaten to dramatically disrupt the real-time location system (RTLS) and asset tracking markets. ABI Research forecasts that new solutions by innovators like Bluvision, DecaWave, and UWINLOC, along with the arrival of Industrial IoT, will result in a combined RTLS and asset tracking market that more than triples from its current standpoint to reach $15 billion in 2021.

“For the first time, enterprises don’t have to choose between high accuracy, low cost, and ease of deployment,” says Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “Emerging startups like SINTRA, Quuppa, Quantitec, and MIST can offer all three using proprietary BLE and UWB. This poses a serious threat to current market holders, as traditional technologies, like active-RFiD, Wi-Fi, and legacy UWB, remain restricted due to its inability to meet the aforementioned criteria.”

These traditional technologies will still have a place, but it will be increasingly marginalized, particularly as smartphones and wearables become more predominant in industrial spaces. ABI Research forecasts a 5:1 ratio on new RTLS technology tags versus traditional RTLS technologies by 2021, with significant growth into new greenfield applications like pallet tracking, condition monitoring and inventory management. Companies like Zebra that offer a mixture of traditional and new technologies that can be implemented and managed together under one platform will do well in the new market dynamic.

And the divide between active RTLS and passive asset tracking is blurring. Retailers’ growing need for accurate, real-time in-store inventory data led to Impinj and View Technologies developing passive radio frequency identification (RFiD) RTLS solutions, with ABI Research expecting many more to follow given the huge potential of this market. Similarly, UWINLOC’s passive UWB technology offers high accuracy at passive RFID level costs, with near real-time location updates. However, it is important to point out that passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFiD remains the dominant technology in terms of volumes and revenues throughout the forecast period.

Moving forward, companies like Avery Dennison, which recently partnered with EVRYTHING, will develop solutions that can track items beyond the point-of-sale (POS) and throughout their lifetimes. This brings benefits like authenticity verification, customer engagement, re-orders, loyalty programs, and post-sale services via a BLE beacon community.

“The increasing demand for instant gratification from customers will drive new competitive business models, including on-demand load matching and the uberization of delivery, from companies like Cargomatic and Confreight,” concludes Connolly. “Longer term, wearables and robotics will lead to an even greater need for accurate, real-time location data to improve performance.”   

These findings are from ABI Research’s Next Generation Asset Tracking Technologies, Opportunities, and Revenues. This report is part of the company’s Beacons, Indoor Analytics & LocationEnterprise IT & OT Convergence, Semiconductors, and Transformative Technology sectors, which include research, data, and analyst insights.

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