What are Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)? | Symmetry Blog

Dec 19, 2018

For both the consumer and the industry professional, peace of mind is priceless. Being able to track the things we care for - knowing they are safe - is often a top priority. Many career fields are built upon that peace of mind and having the tools to reliably ensure it is the key to your consumer's confidence.

For the everyday tech user, there exist many tracking solutions to aid us in locating our possessions. Tracking apps like Apple’s Find My Friends help us find lost companions on a Saturday night, and devices like Tile help us find our lost keys and anything else we add the tag on. Although consumer tracking applications have only recently acquired the intrigue of IoT enthusiast, the industrial sector has been on the hunt for accurate location tracking for decades.

While in the past these highly accurate solutions have been bulky, impractical, and plagued by short battery life, newer technologies solve many of these issues, creating an intriguing new opportunity for OEMs in the IoT industry.

It’s time we improve upon the old.


Changing of the guard

For decades, companies have been using RFID tags for all their tracking needs. While many systems in place easily overlook RFID's limitations in inaccuracy and security, those looking for a better solution will find a new generation of real-time location systems (RTLS) that possess high accuracy and enable OEMs to create new advances in outdoor and indoor tracking.

Already, many industries rely on RTLS to make sure everything is up and running. Farmers are tracking their livestock to ensure proper grazing and behavior. Supply chains are integrating RTLS to track ongoing production throughout the entire floor. Live tracking also improves the efficiency of warehouses, where costs are dependent on time and accuracy.

Improvements made in battery life, pricing, and accuracy have made this technology available at a mass scale, but for many industry professionals, implementation has been an issue.


Ultra-wideband is the key

There are a variety of wireless standards that engineers can use to develop an RTLS solution. Well-established technologies like Bluetooth, infrared and Wi-Fi have already been implemented in past solutions, but each faces limitations preventing them from taking over the IoT market.

For example, tracking with Wi-Fi presents a challenge in energy consumption, since Wi-Fi tends to require a large amount of power to operate. On the other hand, Bluetooth presents variable signal strength, making it difficult to calculate the location of a Bluetooth location device by triangulation.

A unique solution that has been gaining storm is ultra-wideband (UWB), and recent trends reveal that UWB is the key to RTLS in IoT applications. UWB has proved itself to be better at high accuracy transmissions. A large advantage ultra-wideband has over other technologies is its ability to propagate through various mediums, making UWB the ideal technology for indoor RTLS where walls and other obstacles can block 2.4GHz frequencies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.


Ultra-wideband RTLS solutions for IoT

Providing reliable ultra-wideband tracking is no easy task. Luckily, Decawave has provided elegant UWB solutions to help engineers kick-start their RTLS designs.

Decawave develops semiconductor or solutions, software, modules and reference designs that enable real-time, ultra-accurate, ultra-reliable local area micro-location services. Their UWB wireless technology enables an entirely new class of easy to implement, highly secure, intelligent location functionality and services for IoT and smart consumer products and applications. Decawave is headquartered in Ireland, with regional headquarters in California and China, and a presence in South Korea, France and Japan.


DW1000 and DWM1000

DecaWave’s long-time staple, the DWM1000, has made it easy for engineers to implement indoor RTLS into their systems. With a 10cm degree of accuracy, very low power consumption, and high immunity to interference, RTLS has helped turn indoor tracking applications into reality.

Contained within the DWM1000 is the DW1000 chip, which DecaWave describes as “a complete single-chip CMOS Ultra-Wideband IC based on the IEEE802.15.4-2011 standard. DW1000 is the first in the DecaWave ScenSor family of parts, operates at data rates of 110 kbps, 850 kbps and 6.8 Mbps, and can locate tagged objects both indoors & outdoors to within 10 cm."



While the DWM100 has become a bestseller for many years, DecaWave has recently released their newest module, the DWM1001, which provides everything great about the DWM1000. Some of the most notable differences between the DWM1001 and the DWM100 is the addition of Bluetooth BLE capability (Nordic nRF52832) and a 3-axis accelerometer. The module also comes pre-loaded with a “ready to go” RTLS firmware stack and is shipped pre-certified!

For OEMs looking to implement precise indoor RTLS within their IoT solutions, the DWM1001 is the best solution for their needs.


Features of the DWM1001:

  • UWB PCB antenna (6.5 GHz)
  • 6.8 Mbps data rate
  • ~60 m line-of-sight range
  • Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 BLE SoC
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Complete RTLS & network stack
  • Two-Way-Ranging (TWR) RTLS
  • AES encryption of data
  • Authentication: key generation & exchange

For details and to purchase the new DWM1001, visit the product page here (https://www.semiconductorstore.com/DWM1001-ScenSor/F/189/).



Symmetry Electronics has the MDEK1001 development kit available to get you up and running in just a few hours.

MDEK1001 provides customers interested in a scalable RTLS network solution, the necessary hardware, software and development environment to quickly evaluate its features and performance. The evaluation kit includes 12 encased development boards (DWM1001-DEV).

Evaluation and development kit based on DWM1001

  • Out-of-the-box wireless Real-Time Location System (RTLS) 
  • Quickly evaluate DWM1001 module capabilities 
  • APIs to customize the Firmware to your application 
  • Combine several kits and build your proof of concepts

Kit Contents 

  • 12 DWM1001-DEV boards configurable as anchors, tags or gateway (requires additional Raspberry Pi) 
  • Enclosures 
  • Quick Start Guide 
  • 1 x USB cable for flashing & debugging 
  • 12 x battery connectors for Li-Po batteries (batteries not included) 
  • Software - Available at www.decawave.com/support/software 
    • Embedded Firmware binaries (tag, anchor, gateway) 
    • Mobile Application (requires a Tablet or Smartphone running Android 6.0 or later) 
    • PC application Q4 2018
    • FCC & ETSI Certification: Q4 2018


Decawave brings intelligent real-time data to your application

Companies are adding more intelligence into their products and facilities to make businesses more efficient, workplaces safer, and services and solutions more innovative and valuable.

True intelligent services require real-time data across three vectors: what (actions), when (time) and where (location). But existing technology cannot accurately and reliably provide location information, especially indoors.

Decawave can provide the key missing elements – accurate, reliable, real-time location of people and assets, both indoors and outdoors.



They help make “smart” devices even smarter by delivering ultra-accurate, real-time location information for indoor and outdoor connectivity. They give contextual location data that enables improved access, control, decision making, and safety

  • Adaptive lighting/AC
  • Location-based speaker systems
  • Safety monitoring and access systems (children, pets, elderly)
  • Door locks and garage openers
  • Home networks and wireless connectivity
  • Payment security
  • Robotics
  • Sports analytics
  • Mobile accessories



From factories to warehouses, hospitals to retail, agriculture to mines, they deliver real-time, ultra-reliable location information that enables industries to digitalize and optimize virtually every aspect of asset and data management for greater efficiency and workplace safety.

  • Process/flow/layout optimization
  • Real-time view of work in progress
  • Zonal lighting and HVAC control
  • Asset utilization optimization
  • Robots and people navigation
  • Employee compliance monitoring
  • Isolated worker protection
  • AGVs/forklifts collision avoidance
  • Tools activation/deactivation
  • Asset theft prevention
  • Wireless network data security



The automotive industry is moving toward shared mobility and autonomous vehicles. They provide advanced location detection that enables improved communication technologies, advanced security and safety features, and greater convenience.

  • Secure car access (Passive entry/passive start)
  • In-car communication
  • Electric car wireless charging
  • Valet parking/convenience parking
  • Vehicle to infrastructure communication
  • Tire pressure monitoring system communication
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle communication
  • Pedestrian and cyclist collision avoidance
  • Smart city tolling and parking management


Looking to integrate Decawave products with your design? Our Applications Engineers offer free design and technical help for your latest designs. Contact us today!



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Why partner with Symmetry Electronics? Symmetry's technical staff is specially trained by our suppliers to provide a comprehensive level of technical support. Our in-house Applications Engineers provide free design services to help customers early in the design cycle, providing solutions to save them time, money and frustration. Contact Symmetry for more information.


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