Indoor Positioning System Fire Fighters

Tracking for security and safety

Ever tried using GPS indoors? You probably noticed that it’s not very effective. Real-time tracking of personnel, vehicles, or assets indoors in high-risk applications require a high degree of reliability and accuracy. Using Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio technology, Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) can be invaluable for workplace safety in a warehouse or for perimeter security when married with video analytics. 

Indoor Positioning Systems, IPS, combine different communication technologies such as GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in detecting a user’s or object’s location inside a building. In shopping malls, for example, IPS may assist in guiding visitors and boost their experience. Read more about these applications in our previous article on the subject.

IPS applications in the area of safety and security – where the need for location accuracy, data reliability and speed is absolutely crucial – should, however, rely on other technologies, says Steve Rattray of Plus Locations Systems based in Huntsville Alabama.

“Bluetooth- and GPS-based systems are inexpensive and good enough for shopping malls. But applications that involve high-risk scenarios require a higher tracking and data-feed reliability.”

In delivering customized IPS solutions for industrial applications like distribution, warehousing and cold storage, Plus Locations therefore utilize Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio technology to be able to track people and objects in real time with an accuracy of around 1 cm.

Applications involve workplace safety and security, such as the ability to prevent accidents in warehouses.

Steve Rattray

“In cases where you need to project the speed of an object in order to prevent an accident from happening you have to be accurate and you can’t afford losing data, which happens with GPS indoors,” says Rattray.

Preventing accidents

UWB is a radio technology that uses short pulses of energy that enable very precise measurements of signal propagation time, and therefore precise distance measurement. According to Rattray, it is a technology that is coming of age:

“It has been a technology looking for a market, and functionality or applications that require absolute accuracy and reliability are now moving quickly to UWB.”


Overlaying CCTV video footage married with tracking and positioning data from an IPS system helps identify trespassers. Courtesy of Axis Communications AB. All rights reserved

The rationale behind investing in an UWB-based IPS is based on the staggering rate of workplace accidents in the distribution and warehousing sector, notes Rattray:

“In the US alone, there are up to 100 deaths in recent years mostly caused by forklifts toppling over or colliding with trucks, as well as close to 100,000 forklift accidents, costing business 135 million dollars, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

indoor positioning forklift

In this scenario, all pedestrians and forklifts are tagged for tracking. If a forklift approaches a blind corner and a pedestrian is nearby, a red warning light triggers an alert.

Preventing these tragedies involves fitting forklifts as well as employees with tags that let the IPS system monitor operations and intervene when something is about to go wrong.

The solution requires an IPS solution that is able to triangulate the location of a moving forklift and a moving person in real-time and warn the workers that an accident is about to happen.

IPS married with video analytics

Besides the obvious benefits to employee health and safety, the downtime following an accident takes a heavy toll on the business results, Rattray points out:

“Following a fatal accident, the facility is shut down for up to 48 hours pending a crime scene investigation.”

Rattray claims that some insurers of distribution and warehousing operations are now considering partially underwriting the cost of installing an IPS system at their policyholder, simply because they expect the system will reduce the number of claims: “The ROI is tremendous.”


Tags on personnel, vehicles, and assets enable real-time location tracking. Software then analyzes the activity and condition of tagged people and objects and converts object data into actionable intelligence. Decision-making notifications is available via custom dashboards or mobile applications enabling the user to maximize safety, security, performance, and productivity.

An IPS solution also aids security from its ability to identify and report in real time if there are unaccredited individuals on the premises or if they are using valuable equipment. Overlaying CCTV video footage with tracking and positioning data from the IPS system helps identify people who shouldn’t be there.

“The video feed may not reveal who the person in the footage is, but overlaying it with time-stamp data from an IPS system lets you identify who he or she is in seconds. And if the person is authorized or not.”


Mobile safety solutions provider, Guardly has taken security applications of IPS a step further. Whether you manage security operations at a shopping mall, commercial tower, campus or airport, Guardly’s IPS System can help you locate and neutralize threats, and respond more effectively to emergencies reported inside buildings. Watch a demonstration in the video below.

Besides improving safety and security, IPS provides reporting that may be integrated into the company’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and operational management systems.

Climate control applications

An IPS system collecting and reporting bio-medical data feeds will also bolster workplace safety in rough and demanding environments such as cold store warehouses.

The ability of IPS to track people’s movements can also be used for automated climate control in office buildings, turning off lights and reducing the temperature when the last person has left the building, and the opposite when – or even before – the first person arrives in the morning, thus saving energy costs in the process. 


By Jonas Rehnberg

About Plus Location Systems

Plus Location SystemsPLUS Location Systems provides value by generating accurate, real-time location data associated with your personnel, vehicles, assets and inventory, and performing application-specific analysis of the data to generate unique intelligence customized for your operational needs.  This process is achieved by deploying a combination of custom designed RTLS hardware, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, the PLUS software suite, and third party software.  Results are presented in a variety of ways, including dashboards, mobile applications, reports, and other indicator systems.


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