It has been an interesting year for RTLS (Real-time location Systems) and digital twin technology. After prolonged lockdowns and disruption to global supply chains, 2022 has been a resurgent year for many industrial technologies, and the advantages of these technologies are becoming more apparent. As many manufacturing, logistics, and mass transit companies struggle from worker shortages and tighter deadlines, savvy managers are looking for tech solutions that can ease the burden. And the growth projections for the RTLS and digital twin markets bear this out.

But it doesn’t stop there. While RTLS and digital twins grew out of manufacturing industries, they are now beginning to seep into a wide variety of industries, finding all sorts of new and exciting applications. In this short Year in Review, we will take a look at some of these changes, and the biggest stories to emerge from this evolving sector.

Growth in RTLS Demand

The RTLS market is currently set to grow at a rate of 25.1% CAGR, according to Mordor Intelligence. As more and more devices become internet connected by 2030, organizations are poised to boost productivity and drive better insights from mobile and wearable technology, even more than they already are. The reduction in workplace accidents and error-averting applications of location tracking technology is helping to drive new RTLS sales, as is the boom in healthcare applications since the pandemic (see below).

Growth in Industrial IoT adoption in the Asia-Pacific region is also fueling the growth in RTLS adoption across transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, governmental, and defense industries. With India’s manufacturing sector edging towards a USD 1 trillion milestone, there are also huge RTLS contracts forming around warehousing, shipping, and logistics.

RTLS in Sports

Top tier athletes and sports teams are always looking for ways to improve their game, and TV networks are always looking for ways to improve the sports fans’ viewing experience. RTLS has been helping on both these fronts over the past year in a variety of ways. First of all, we have seen the adoption of location tracking systems in basketball training and matches, used to analyse a player’s ball control technique and vital metrics, like speed and acceleration.

In the World Cup in Qatar we saw footballs making use of UWB technology so that every touch of the ball could be recorded. This data helped to make fast, accurate offside decisions while also creating imagery that could be projected onto live TV broadcasts and in-stadium monitors, allowing fans to understand referee decisions as they are being made. This may have even contributed to the Qatar World Cup being the most peaceful on record.

Growth in Healthcare RTLS

Healthcare has been one of the trickier markets for RTLS technologies to penetrate due to the complex nature of hospitals and care facilities and the high stakes involved. This year, however, we have seen a pronounced growth in healthcare providers seeking out RTLS solutions for a wide variety of projects.

RTLS is being used by many hospitals and care homes to track patients for the purposes of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks, which can put a huge strain on operations. Further cost-cutting is being pursued by using RTLS to optimize the flow of people and resources around hospitals, creating automatic schedules for equipment use and patient appointments. Even lawsuits are falling under RTLS cost-cutting initiatives, as hospitals consider monitoring operations via RTLS to help prevent claims of negligence.

Virtual wards are nothing new, but RTLS is now allowing a more seamless management of patients from centralized platforms. The Australian Government’s Health Department has claimed that, “Automated reporting will reduce the hours of labour that aged care staff spend reporting, and reduce related expenses”. Through the use of wearable sensors, patients will also be able to have their health monitored from home, alerting doctors to issues faster than in a traditional model. The resulting freeing up of beds for more acutely sick or injured patients is helping to clear patient backlogs. In Singapore, after successful trials, the Health Ministry has even started expanding their virtual ward pilots.

Digital Twins Take Off

According to a report by Future Market Insights, the digital twin market is currently worth US$9.5bn and will be worth US$72.65bn by 2032. While the transportation and automotive sectors currently hold the largest market share of digital twin technology, the spread to healthcare telecoms, real estate and retail is well underway. As RTLS and digital twin technology are closely linked, a similar growth pattern is expected in the Asia-Pacific region with a 40% CAGR being possible over the next few years.

Digital Twins of Cities

While digital twins are usually confined to production lines or auto plants or logistics centers, the notion of entire cities being twinned started to become a reality in 2022.  A team of researchers from the Faculties of ITC, BS, and ET have published a study that proved the usefulness of digital twins in city planning and coordination. The study’s lead author, Dr. Ville Lehtola said, “Digital twins have the potential to bring significant benefits to cities, by allowing city officials, residents, and businesses to access up-to-date information on the city’s infrastructure and services.”

The broad aim of digital twins being used city-wide is to save time and money and make urban environments more sustainable. This would involve the monitoring of traffic noise, solar radiation, road safety, mass transit systems, garbage disposal, and police and fire response times. Bringing data from these areas together for the first time could drastically improve urban quality of life.

While this remains hypothetical in most cities, in Birmingham (UK) a digital twin is already being implemented to benefit the eastern side of the city. The aim is to use the system as a digital “testbed” checking the impact of smart homes, clean air zones, and neighborhood growth strategies.

A Common Language for Digital Twins

Much of the digital twin technology currently available has been developed independently by a wide variety of companies. In order to harness the true power of digital twins, large digital twin projects will need to be able to integrate different digital twin technologies, but differences in languages and a lack of information sharing between different companies is acting as a barrier to progress.

In response, The Apollo Protocol team (a group containing members of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Centre, The Centre for Digital Built Britain, The Digital Twin Hub, The Alan Turing Institute and more) have put out a whitepaper calling for more cross-sector coordination, showcasing the benefits of cross-sector digital twins. Their first event, The Value Hack, took place on November 17th in Sheffield (UK), and identified existing and potential use cases for digital twins crossing between different sectors.

As you can see, it has been an interesting year for RTLS and digital twins. This space is developing at a rapid rate and the projections for market growth point towards massive benefits for manufacturing at large, as well as aerospace, healthcare, and mass transit. Ubisense posts regularly on topics surrounding RTLS, so feel free to bookmark this page and visit our blog in future. If you want to know more about RTLS, you can see our handy guide here.

Have a great 2023.