The key element in machine autonomy is adaptability to dynamically changing environment based on the available information. Which solutions would allow automated machines and people to share the same working area without compromising safety and operational efficiency?

Currently automated cargo handling systems are designed for isolated areas with fences around. However, the trend is towards open operating environments and autonomous vehicles must all be location-aware because optimizing processes and improving safety require knowing the location of workers and other vehicles. Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) and collision avoidance solutions are in the core of smart and safe area control.

RTL systems apply a wide range of technologies from advanced cameras, radars, computer vision and lasers to RDIF (Radio Frequency Identification), Bluetooth and UWB (Ultra Wideband). Individual technologies have their limitations especially in the outdoor applications, and thus the commercial solutions often make use of several technologies. As an example, the safe working area with proximity control in a port environment is realised by a combination of passive RFID and radar technologies.

Novel technologies and area control systems are needed to minimize safety hazards when people and mobile work machines work on the same area. Technological challenges have also offered a breeding ground for start-up companies like Quuppa, Iiwari and Fidera. The market size of RTLS systems was 2.7 -3 billion dollars in 2019, and it is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. The increase in automation, need for asset tracking and developed technologies are drivers that impact on the demand of the RTLS and collision avoidance systems. By 2025, 40% of new things connected to Internet will know their location, up from under 10% today (Gartner 2020).

Got interested in RTLS and smart area control? Have a look to the “Location- and collision avoidance system technologies, providers and potential applications” – research report (download pdf). 

Antti Rantala & Helena Kortelainen; VTT

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