Tracking technologies

Tracking technologies

Tracking technologies currently leverage a convergence of several types of technologies used to track inventory, livestock, or vehicle fleets. Similar systems can be created to deliver location-based services to wireless devices.

Five criteria are regularly used to rank the performance or effectiveness of a tracking device:

  • Robust hardware and service system without corrupted or missing data
  • Positional accuracy
  • Data update rate to service platform and latency (time delay on the determining of location)
  • User-friendly: Compact size and low weight, minimal system complexity

A variety of tracking technologies can be used to provide location-based services, including the following:

Positioning technologies- historically, a number of methods with varying precision have been devised to calculate the location coordinates. Dead-reckoning, Cellular positioning and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) are examples of these technologies with the last one being the most viable and popular option in the recent decade. Sometimes, a combination of two technologies – GNSS being the default option – may be used as a way for providing a backup mechanism when the signals of GNSS satellites are obstructed.

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) – (using Wi-Fi, for example). Wi-Fi positioning system (WPS), WiPS or WFPS is a geolocation system that uses the characteristics of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and other wireless access points to discover where a device is located. It is used where satellite navigation such as GPS is inadequate due to various causes including multipath and signal blockage indoors, or where acquiring a satellite fix would take too long. Such systems include urban positioning services through hotspot databases, and indoor positioning systems.

Bluetooth Positioning Technology – using Bluetooth technology to determine the physical location involves sophisticated infrastructure deployments. Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) measurement is an important technology can be used to estimate the distance between Bluetooth devices that are part of the system. Using this approach, meter-level accuracy can be achieved when determining the location of a specific device. However, by adding the direction finding technology, then the positioning system can use both signal strength and direction to calculate the location of a device and achieve much greater accuracy. Positioning accuracy down to centimeter-level can be achieved. The most popular Bluetooth positioning systems include Real-time locating systems (RTLS) and indoor positioning systems (IPS).

Low-power wide-area network (LPWAN: NB-IOT, CAT M1, LoRa, Sigfox) – This type of wireless telecommunication system is designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate among connected devices such as sensors operating on battery power. The intended usage of low power, low bit rate scenario distinguishes this type of positioning technologies from WAN systems that are designed to connect users or businesses which need to carry more data and are allowed to use more power. The LPWAN data rate normally ranges from 0.3 kbit/s to 50 kbit/s per channel.

Mobile tele-communication technologies (3G/4G/5G) – Mobile tele-communication has evolved rapidly over the past years. Since the start of this millennium, a standard mobile device has gone from being a simple pager to a complex smart phone. The evolution of tele-communication technology is quite amazing. Mobile phone can also be used as a tracking device to determine the current position of a user no matter in a moving or stationary condition. Mobile tracking technology can provide the distance between the mobile telephone and the base stations. This location service is normally provided by a location data processor included in a base station. The service provider can select three adjacent base stations surrounding the mobile telephone to determine the location of the mobile phone.

Selecting the right antenna for your tracking device

General guide for selecting the right antenna for your tracking device:

 Transmission frequency

The antenna must operate in an appropriate frequency range for the designated positioning systems. For example, for the GNSS positioning systems, different countries may operate different satellite systems; each system operates at different frequencies and across different bands. Make sure you know which satellite system your GNSS tracking device will be using, and the associated frequency bands.

Size and shape of antenna

According to the design and manufacturing technologies, antennas come in different shapes and sizes, with a different footprint on a circuit board. The location to install an antenna within a device and the assembly processes may also have significant differences. With a GNSS tracking device, you often want your antenna to be as small as possible. Unictron’s Antenna-on-demand Selector presents our offerings based on your requirements, allowing you to easily assess how it might relate to the final design of your device.

Material and form

The range of materials available to RF engineers designing antennas is rather extensive. Ceramic, PCB/FPC, LDS plastic materials, and various composite materials are all viable options for the manufacturing of antenna today. Depending on the other components in your tracking device, different materials will make for more efficient or less efficient transmissions. The environments your device will be functioning also influence choice of the material your antenna is made of. Think about the potential needs and applications of your tracking device and speak to Unictron’s wireless experts to discuss which materials would work best for your device.

Ground plane requirements

Unless antennas are built or installed on a housing or a mechanical structure, ground plane is an essential part for an embedded antenna to be installed on a circuit board. Ground planes are crucial if an antenna is going to reliably send and receive signal, but they require space, and space is precious on a portable tracking devices. Make sure you know how much space your antenna requires for an effective ground plane, and that you can incorporate that space into your designs. To ensure your ultimate design isn’t compromised, consult with Unictron engineers to assess antennas with a ground plane that works with your tracking device.

Minimizing interference

Mobile tracking devices are likely to be exposed to a range of environments, depending on where they are. Tall buildings, metallic objects, nearby wireless devices, and even the other components in a device itself can all potentially disrupt the signals transmitting or receiving from an antenna. When selecting an antenna for a tracking device, it is useful to know whether your design suits an antenna that can isolate interference, or whether you will have to find other ways of minimizing disruption to its signal. Careful positioning of your antenna is one of the key ways to avoid potential interference. Carefully review product datasheets and/or consult a Unictron antenna expert to make sure your antenna selection works with your device.

Directional or omni-directional

What kind of antenna is most suitable for your tracking depends on how and where the tracking devices will be used in the field. If your tracking device can remain consistently facing sky, then a relatively directional patch antenna is the most reliable one for your application. However, for a portable device which need to be able to transmit and receive signal whatever their orientation: whether they are facing up or facing down. Then you may like to choose an omni-directional antenna. This will in turn impact upon component selection and installation location as your antenna needs to send and receive signal with no disruption from nearby parts. Be sure to choose an antenna that will function compatibly with other components selected for your tracking device.

Why Unictron?

Unictron has long been one of the major antenna providers in Taiwan for devices used in location-based services. We are one of the major patch antenna suppliers to Japanese automotive industries. We are also one of the major antenna module providers for car manufacturers in Taiwan. Large variety of antennas with various designs and manufacturing processes are readily available. Unictron is also a well-known provider for receivers and trackers including the robust offender tracker for government authority in various countries. A variety of positioning tracking technologies has been used to provide customers with more reliable tracking solutions, which can provide positioning data outdoors or indoors. In the future, we will further develop smaller, lower power consumption tracking devices. In addition, we will continue to add heart rate sensors, temperature sensors, step-counting and other functions to wearable positioning trackers, which we plan to offer to healthcare and childcare centers for monitoring the safety of children, and nursing homes to monitor the elderly who are prone to accidents.

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