Posted by ABI Research
Of the 205 companies surveyed in ABI Research’s latest Location Technologies Supply Chain and Ecosystem Tracker, 24% of them are currently offering solutions covering both indoor and outdoor location services, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies. The growing need for seamless indoor and outdoor integration and supply chain visibility is expected to force more companies at the lower layers of the technology supply chain to create more flexible technology offerings.
Computing the position of a person or asset outdoors is usually done via Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, although in some cases auxiliary technologies like cellular networks or to lesser extent Low-Power Wide Area (LPWAN) solutions may also be used at lower tracking accuracy. However, for indoors, GNSS signals do not penetrate well and suffer from interference issues. For this environment, infrastructure based on short-range wireless anchor points are the best option for tracking end-devices in the vicinity. These anchor points can use a variety of location technologies, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Ultra-Wideband (UWB), RFID, or Wi-Fi. “As things stand, there is a hard line between the indoor and the outdoor technologies and services used for location use cases. Offering seamless tracking between these two environments raises the possibility of having unprecedented visibility into the supply chain, as any item can be tracked end-to-end between factories, warehouses, and retailers up to the point-of-sale,” remarked Henrique Rocha, Research Analyst at ABI Research. Some of the benefits from acquiring visibility into the supply chain include more efficient planning and less asset shrinkage, which quickly revert to business owners in the form of ROI.
Yet, 63% of location companies featured in ABI Research’s Ecosystem Tracker are involved with indoor solutions only. Indoor tracking is still more demanding than outdoor tracking in the industrial and logistics spaces as it often requires high accuracy and real-time tracking capabilities of individual assets, as well as on-site dedicated infrastructure. With a consolidating location ecosystem, however, it is expected that more companies will turn to offering full supply chain visibility solutions, which require seamless indoor/outdoor tracking. While several companies offer both indoor and outdoor location solutions separately, only few have managed to offer a single end-to-end solution providing seamless indoor/outdoor tracking capabilities. Examples of companies that have already taken the integration step and now offer seamless location sensors across indoor and outdoor environments include Estimote and Roambee. These sensors can be attached to individual assets or pallets or to a vehicle. One of the most common combinations for seamless asset tracking involves BLE communication for indoor tracking and GNSS for outdoor tracking, with an LPWAN like LTE-M used to relay location data.
Because different location technologies are often designed to operate in specific environments and address specific needs and use cases, an increasing number of technology suppliers are now opting for designing solutions compatible with multiple technologies to give their clients the flexibility to deploy these solutions across varied use cases and applications. Ubudu and Ubisense are examples of companies working with horizontal technology offerings or digital platforms compatible with different location technologies. This approach will also enable technology suppliers to generate scale, which will in turn help location infrastructure to be deployed at lower price points. “Manufacturing and warehousing verticals are some of the most technologically demanding in the asset tracking space. In this ecosystem, companies stand out only through scalable business models. One way of achieving scale is by implementing seamless indoor and outdoor tracking. Solution providers are not oblivious to this and by this time next year, we anticipate an approximate 30% growth in the number of companies offering indoor/outdoor location services,” Rocha concluded.―CT Bureau