Real Time Locating Systems To Skyrocket
Some industry insiders believe the real time locating systems (RTLS) market will grow to $500 million by 2003.
For an industry to grow from zero to $500 million in sales in three years is a monumental feat by almost anyone's definition. Three years ago, real time locating systems were relatively unheard of by most members of the AIDC (automatic identification and data capture) community. Today, major AIDC vendors, such as Symbol Technologies and Telxon, are partnering with the prominent players in the RTLS industry.
Who Are The Players?
The two standouts in RTLS technology are PinPoint Corp. (Bedford, MA) and WhereNet™ Corp. (Santa Clara, CA). Both companies have demonstrated their products at major trade shows during the past three years. But the truth is, both companies have been involved mainly in R&D (research and development) and pilot tests. This year, that seems to have changed.
Dan Doles, president and CEO of WhereNet, told me recently the only factor limiting RTLS sales growth will be the vendors' abilities to reach the market. "The market for the technology is there," said Doles. "Until recently, WhereNet has been involved mostly in R&D. Consequently, it has been unable to establish a viable distribution network. But that is changing. We have opened six new regional offices and have increased our employee count by 20%. We have also opened a laboratory/office in Rogersville, TN."
What Is RTLS?
RTLS technology uses RFID and RF LAN (radio frequency local area network) technology, along with specialized software, to track assets within a confined area. Strategically positioned RF access points receive transmissions from RFID tags on items in a warehouse. RTLS software locates the items using information received from these access points.
PinPoint was one of the first companies to demonstrate RTLS technology. It called its technology 3D-iD (three-dimensional identification). PinPoint CEO and President Ron Remy told me, "We have tested systems in eight beta sites. They have been very successful and well-accepted by end users. We are out of the R&D stage. We must sell and support our product. Call-in leads have been strong. Our sales force is busy, and we are finding applications we never expected. Partnering with a leading mobile computing vendor such as Telxon will be a big boost in our marketing efforts."
The Market Channel
Both Remy and Doles believe RTLS technology is well-suited for VARs and integrators. However, they do not agree that the technology is currently ready for the VAR channel. Doles told me that RTLS vendors must create and nurture the market for their products. "VARs will play an integral role in RTLS sales," said Doles, "but only after vendors have successfully promoted the technology. Once we have created the market, VARs can help increase sales and expand our list of viable applications."
Remy, on the other hand, intends to capitalize on partner Telxon's marketing channel immediately. "We view this as an opportunity for VARs and integrators to expand their profits. And, our product is a natural fit with other components in AIDC systems, such as those sold by Telxon."
Tapping Into The Growth
Frost & Sullivan, a research and statistics company, is most often cited as the source of the zero-to-$500 million growth figure in RTLS. If its estimates are true, it certainly makes sense to check out this technology. I have seen it demonstrated by both companies, and I recommend the technology to Business Solutions readers. Understand there will be some training involved, but it will be worth your while. This is well-suited for industrial applications, including relatively small manufacturing environments.
Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola are both using the technology in their manufacturing facilities. Fortune 500 companies are often early adopters of technologies that soon become a part of our daily lives. I believe this is the case with RTLS.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at Editor@corrypub.com.