Location based tracker

Location based technology offers a variety of convenient services to consumers based on their location. It can also be used to track the exact location of people within a building.

Location based services (LBS) is any service or combination of services that relies on your real time location. They tell us where we have been, where we are and where we are going. Many of us access LBS through our vehicle’s GPS system or through applications in smart phones.

“If you’re driving to your local mall and you’re using a map on your cell phone, that program knows where you are,” says Tristian E. Lacroix, managing partner with Indoor LBS, a consulting firm specializing in mobile, location-aware technology solutions for research, marketing and business development. “Then, in relation to where you are, you can opt in for a service to receive advertisements for things that are either on your route or will be or that you just passed, say a McDonald’s, a Starbucks or a bank.”

Location based services that utilize targeted advertising to end users make up the fastest growing segment in the industry. But how can such LBS be utilized in security and access control?

“There are tons of ways that LBS is currently used in security applications and a whole lot more that we probably haven’t even thought of,” says Lacroix.

Asset tracking is a popular LBS available from many vendors and is used to monitor, track and potentially retrieve valuable items. Most commonly an item, such as a car or a laptop or a truck or train delivery, can be affixed with an RFID tag in order to monitor its location in real time.

Indoor solutions

But security applications involving access control become less straightforward when we move indoors, where GPS signals become less accurate or non-existent.

“GPS cannot get through the building materials of a structure and therefore we lose the signal. It’s just like when you drive into a parking structure: You immediately lose your GPS signal. It’s the same idea for other structures,” Lacroix says. “We have to get around that by coming up with an indoor solution.”

Tracking the locations of people and items indoors remains in its infancy, but it is evolving, says Lacroix. Many vendors are using their own version of a micro location for indoors, utilizing technology such as Bluetooth, RFID, Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and Wi-Fi.

“As an industry we are still trying to roll out a solution for indoor LBS that is affordable and accurate which can enable your location inside structures,” Lacroix says. Current solutions are expensive and require a combination of existing technologies to ensure an acceptable level of accuracy indoors, which is generally three meters or less.

The latest trend in the deployment of indoor LBS is to utilize Near Field Communications (NFC), the short-range high-frequency wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of information between electronic devices. NFC is emerging as more cost effective and has proven technology and security components.

NFC and other options

Because NFC technology is touted as being highly secure, a combination of NFC and
Wi-Fi could also provide a secure, accurate indoor access control solution, says Lacroix. But other combinations exist.

“For example, you could achieve it with Bluetooth technology. So, you would have nodes or receivers set up inside whatever structure your high assets are in. I can then track person A as he walks through my structure. Those nodes then relay the information from his, say, cell phone, and that goes to the node and then to the server. With that triangulation, I know where that person A is, not just where they’ve walked past.”

The technology could also be used to keep track of who is at which door in a secure structure.

But while technology to utilize indoor LBS for access control does exist, the fragmentation of the indoor market makes broad adoption slow going.

“We’re finding that each particular market is going to want their own type of indoor solution, so there are many different vendors of different types of indoor solutions,” says Lacroix. “Some are utilizing Wi-Fi, some Bluetooth, and some a combination. But there is currently no leader.”

But, says Lacroix, with technology constantly advancing, a wider use of LBS in access control should not be too far off. And it will likely be the end users who dictate which method the industry adopts broadly.

“What big companies and end users want in terms of a secure indoor solution will go a long way to determining what the industry is going to do,” says Lacroix. “If the end users tell us they want combo A, for example a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth or NFC, if they tell us that’s going to be the most cost effective and secure, then the industry will need to step up.”

By Rachel Sa


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