Industry Insights

Finding Things & People With Indoor Positioning Systems

Business Explanation, Key Questions, and Example IoT Use Cases for Medical Equipment in Hospitals and Parts in Factories

Calum McClelland

In my article What is Indoor Positioning?, we looked at Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) from a business perspective and identified the following four fundamental applications of indoor positioning:

  1. Finding: The ability to know where a given thing/person is in real-time, so you can go find it/them
  2. Tracking: The ability to gain insight into how things/people move through a process, so you can identify bottlenecks and/or improve customer service
  3. Preventing: The ability to trigger alerts when things enter/leave certain areas, so you can prevent loss and theft
  4. Measuring: The ability to gain insight into how things/spaces are being used, so you can ensure compliance with laws and/or optimize how those things/spaces are use

In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into finding things and people, with a business explanation, key questions you should ask, and example IoT applications that include finding medical equipment in hospitals and finding parts in factories.

This series is focused on the business perspective for indoor positioning systems. If you’re interested in the different technical approaches and how they work for indoor positioning, check out this excellent Indoor Positioning eBook.

Business Explanation: Finding With Indoor Positioning Systems

Businesses spend countless hours and millions of dollars just trying to find things. Whether those things are medical equipment in a hospital setting, a critical part for a manufacturing line, or something else, the inability to find a particular thing or person needed can be a huge loss of efficiency. 

Some businesses buy many more assets than they need just to ensure that they can find those assets when necessary. Some businesses employ people whose full-time job is to manually search for things. It doesn’t haven’t to be this way!

Indoor positioning systems can enable you to know in real-time which room a particular thing/person is or where in a room that thing/person is.

Key Questions: Finding With Indoor Positioning Systems

To help determine the right technological approach for your specific needs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How precise does the location need to be? Is it good enough to know that the thing/person is in a given room or do you need to know the specific location within a room?
  • How big are your rooms? Warehouses are basically one large room, whereas a hospital may have many smaller rooms. In conjunction with the previous question, this will help determine what technology is needed.
  • How large (square footage) is the indoor area that needs to be covered? The larger the area, the more infrastructure will be needed and the more costly the solution is likely to be.
  • What is the current cost of manually searching? This can be measured in different ways, for example the salary of a full-time person responsible for finding things. This is important because it’ll help put an upper limit on the price of purchasing an IPS.

Example IoT Use Cases: Finding With Indoor Positioning Systems

#1 Finding Medical Equipment in a Hospital

Where is an extra IV pump? Where is an extra bed? When nurses need to find medical equipment, it’s usually pretty important to find it right now. Today, nurses waste precious time simply searching for the medical equipment they need, time that could be better spent actually caring for patients.

For finding medical equipment, knowing that the equipment is in a given room is good enough because rooms are small and the equipment is relatively large. Hospitals have a large square footage, but the costs of searching are also very high so the increased infrastructure costs will be worth it.

#2 Finding Parts in a Factory

On a manufacturing line, thousands of parts might be needed to build a complex machine (e.g. a tractor). If a key part is missing, it can stall the entire manufacturing line and lead to millions of dollars lost. Factories often employee people who look for parts full time.

For finding parts in a factory, the rooms are likely large and the parts may be relatively small, so just knowing which room a part is in won’t be enough. It’ll be important to know where in a particular room the part is hiding. Although this will mean higher cost for higher precision, the costs of searching are also very high which make the investment worth it.

Check Out the Other Indoor Positioning Applications

We just covered one of the four applications for indoor positioning systems in this article, check out the others for business explanations, key questions you should ask, and example use cases for each:

  1. Finding Things & People with Indoor Positioning Systems
  2. Tracking Things & People with Indoor Positioning Systems
  3. Preventing Loss & Theft with Indoor Positioning Systems
  4. Measuring Occupancy with Indoor Positioning Systems

Calum McClelland

VP, Operations & Projects

Calum is VP Operations & Projects at Leverege and graduated from Brown University in May 2016 with a major in Philosphy. Striving to change himself and the world for the better, Calum values active living, life-long learning, and keeping an open mind.

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