Nanotron Technologies GmbH
embedded location platform
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RTLS product family

Product Overview

nanotron provides high-throughput real time location systems (RTLS) with wireless transmission of vital data. System integrators can easily use our RTLS platform to rapidly develop tailor-made solutions with location awareness.

With its Chirp technology nanotron has simplified RTLS:

  • Ease of installation - no calibration or fingerprinting required
  • Anchors and tags ensure very good location accuracy and high system throughput at the lowest possible cost. Nanotron's flexible system approach always allows customers to choose the optimal cost-performance ratio.
  • Low investment costs
  • Ready for system-level integration

Typical applications include:

  • Tracking of people and assets in mines and tunnels
  • Work safety
  • Livestock management
  • Workflow management
  • Collision Avoidance Solutions (CAS)

 

RTLS - Location Server Software

nanoLES is the central software component of RTLS. LES stands for "location engine and server". nanoLES receives data packets of tags from anchors and calculates tag positions. These location results are delivered to VisiTool or a similar application developed by customer for visualization.

MClient The Management Client ("MClient" for short) is a software component of RTLS. It is connected to nanoLES and manages the database of anchors in the network. The database contains all anchor settings. All connected anchors can be discovered by MClient, see the figure below. The MClient also provides a live anchor monitor indicating the quality of links between the anchors. The update of anchor firmware can be done via MClient. The nanoLES server options can be changed in MClient.

Discovered anchors in MClient

VisiTool The main function of VisiTool is to provide a graphical display of the tag positions delivered by nanoLES. Depending on the input which VisiTool receives from nanoLES, it is possible to view the real time movement of the tags as well as the historical movement by replaying a previously recorded log file.

Tags in VisiTool displayed as red points


Different from nanoLES, MClient and VisiTool only serve as helpful tools for system integrators during development of their own RTLS systems. In the final stage of system integration, these tools will be replaced by custom applications with similar functionality.

RTLS - Anchors

Anchors are fixed devices in an RTLS system. Their main function is to receive blinks from location tags and forward them to the location server - nanoLES. Then nanoLES performs wireless synchronization of anchors and calculates the tag position using the location method TDOA (time difference of arrival). For 1D location application, at least two anchors are required for reliable location data. Theoretically, three anchors are sufficient for 2D location. However, our experience shows that at least six anchors are needed for 2D location in an RTLS installation to get reliable location data.

Nanotron provides several variants of anchor to meet different application requirements. The four of them are nanoANQ EM, nanoANQ, nanoANQ EA and nanoANQ XT, see pictures below.

Through their air interface, anchors support bidirectional payload exchange between the location server and the individual tags.

All anchor variants feature a power amplifier which is adjustable from 0 to 19 dBm for robust communication and long range.

The anchors utilize IP-based data and management protocols and feature a built-in DHCP client. Thus they can be configured remotely through their API over the network.

nanoANQ EM is an embedded anchor module which can be integrated to any communication substation by interfacing directly with an Ethernet MAC or PHY via RMII. The credit card size (85.6 mm x 54.0 mm) design supports any 2.4 GHz antenna through its two respective U.FL connectors for two independent radio channels.

nanoANQ features two SMA antenna connectors and an Ethernet port with PoE to connect to the network. At only 119 mm x 98 mm x 18 mm, the compact design of nanoANQ simplifies system deployment. Three power supply options are available: DC IN, USB and Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE). The DC IN supply can be provided by a wide range of voltages between 12 and 24 V DC.

nanoANQ EA features two SMA antennas and an Ethernet port with PoE to connect to the network. Two power supply options are available: DC IN and Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE). The DC IN supply can be provided by a wide range of voltages between 12 and 24 V. nanoANQ EA is delivered in a robust housing with IP 65 protection against dust, moisture and water. Power supply and CAT 6 Ethernet cables are connected through rubber-sealed openings at the back of the housing.

nanoANQ XT has almost the same design as nanoANQ EA. The only difference is that nanoANQ XT features two integrated antennas.

 

RTLS - Tags

In a real time location system, tags are wireless devices which send out blinks. These blinks are received by anchors and forwarded to the location server for calculating tag positions. Together with anchors and the location server, tags form the basis for monitoring presence and movements of both people and assets in real time location applications.

Nanotron has developed different kinds of tags to meet customer needs: nanoTAG, nanoTAG LP and nanoTAG RX, see pictures below. Through their air interface, the tags are able to support payload exchange with the location server. The tags have integrated antennas and a power amplifier which is adjustable from 0 to 18 dBm. Nanotron has developed different kinds of tags to meet customer needs: nanoTAG, nanoTAG LP and nanoTAG RX, see pictures below. Through their air interface, the tags are able to support payload exchange with the location server. The tags have integrated antennas and a power amplifier which is adjustable from 0 to 18 dBm.

The tags are configurable through their wireless interface. The tag firmware supports TOA and TDOA RTLS systems as well as point-to-point and point-to-multipoint safety applications.

nanoTAG
nanoTAG LP
nanoTAG RX

nanoTAG with a rechargeable battery has been designed as a basic tracking and locating tag for Real Time Locating applications.

The tag features an application controlled push button and a status LED as well as a bi-color battery status indicator. The tag has a light-weight housing with a loop ring which enables it to be attached to a wrist strap or lanyard.

nanoTAG LP with a powerful battery (see picture below) and a much more ruggedized housing than nanoTAG has been designed for use in very harsh environments. LP stands for "low power" since the tag features an ultra-low power sleep mode to extend battery life. This tag can be worn as a personal batch-type tag or attached to assets or mobile equipment directly.

nanoTAG LP inside view

nanoTAG RX has the same ruggedized housing as nanoTAG LP and can be mounted to vehicle, assets or mobile equipment directly. Real-time MEMS sensor data is transmitted to the location server simultaneously with tag blinks. The on-board opto-coupler is used to switch or control assets remotely with a digital on/off signal. This allows for direct control from a user application via the location server nanoLES.

nanoTAG RX top view, before moulding
nanoTAG RX top view, after moulding

One obvious difference from nanoTAG LP is that nanoTAG RX has four fixed flying leads which are left outside after moulding (see pictures above). They are connected to power supply and an opto-coupler and have following functions:

  • Red - supply voltage (+ pole)
  • Black - electric ground (- pole)
  • Purple - opto-coupler emitter (- pole)
  • Yellow - opto-coupler open collector (+ pole)

 

RTLS Integration Kit

The RTLS Integration Kit consists of 8 anchors, 5 tags and the location software nanoLES. The kit demonstrates in an easy way how nanotron's RTLS works and gives system integrators the possibility to develope their own RTLS solutions with the help of this basic tool.

Hardware components of the kit are 8 nanoANQ EA's and 5 nanoTAGs, see picture below. Alternatively, nanoANQ board can be chosen. This is even more flexible since the anchor board can be integrated in any anchor products developed by system integrators.

Besides nanoTAG, other tag variants can be chosen as the tag for the kit according to application preference:

  • 5x nanoTAG - Indoor Applications
  • 5x nanoTAG RX - Vehicle Tracking Application
  • 5x nanoTAG LP - Harsh Environments
  • Custom Tag Design using DK+ Board (see product family "swarm")

RTLS Integration Kit

Before deploying anchors in an RTLS system, network infrastructure like Ethernet must be installed to allow communication between anchors and the location server.

The performance of an RTLS is measured in terms of system throughput and location accuracy.

Throughput is the number of location readings in a given period of time. The current air interface supports more than 250 location readings every second. Nanotron's anchors and location server have the ability to detect and process much more such that the overall system throughput may reach several thousands per second. With each location reading, additional payload such as temperature, air pressure, battery voltage, acceleration of tags can be transmitted.

Accuracy is measured as distance from or area around the real location of an item (e.g. tag). Most of the location readings for a given tag can be found within a small circle around its true position. With nanotron's RTLS platform, location accuracy of 2 m indoors and 1 m outdoors can be achieved. Generally, the performance outdoors is better than indoors due to less reflections.

RTLS Setup Tool - nanoLOC Ranging Kit II

nanoLOC Ranging Kit II ("RK II" for short) can be used as a setup tool for monitoring and improving the infrastructure setup of an RTLS application.

RK II consists of two easy-to-use wireless devices for ranging, zoning and link quality testing in actual indoor and outdoor application environments. Each device features a nanoPAN5375 RF module which integrates nanoLOC TRX Transceiver. The device works in one of the three modes: Ranging, Zoning and Link Qualitiy Indication.

Ranging Mode In this mode, RK II demonstrates nanoLOC's unique ranging feature in such a way that the two devices measure and display their relative distance with high accuracy in meters. Distances up to 2.4 km can be measured with RK II.

RK II Ranging Mode

Zoning Mode Using a set of customizable zones, the in-zone and out-of-zone status of the remote RK II device can be detected. The zone where it is located is displayed on the local device. If an out-of-zone status is detected, an audio/visual alarm alerts the user.

RK II Zoning Mode

Link Quality Indication In this mode, the quality of the communication link between the two RK II devices is shown as a percentage value, which is the rate of successfully transmitted packets.