Every environment in which humans and machines share the same spaces has potential safety and logistic issues.
In some places this is even more true than in others. Think, for instance, of warehouses, with people, forklifts, pallets and trolleys moving amongst large shelves that partially obstruct the view, creating dangerous "blind spots". Or, moving underground, consider mines, with their tunnels, carts and rails.
The risk of collisions and injures is unexpectedly high, even in modern factories. And penalty is extremely high in case of an accident. Furthermore, knowing how humans, equipment, tools and material move around an industrial site will lead to process optimizations, with less time spent searching for the right humans or things.
To precisely track workers' and machinery movements across plants, EIT Digital is launching LumiTrack, an innovation activity part of the organization's Digital Industry Action Line.
"Some tracking technologies already exist, but they are very difficult to deploy on a large scale, because of high maintenance and installation costs," project coordinator Xiangyu Wang, who works as research topic leader on asset tracking at Philips Research Labs, says.
That's why Philips Lighting and Indurad, the companies that act as business champions of the initiative for manufacturing and mining, respectively, have decided to take advantage of the pre-existing lighting infrastructure. "Light points are ubiquitous, are easy to setup and maintain, and are connected to a power source," Wang explains.
Furthermore, since many manufacturers are switching to LED-based lighting systems in their plants, to save money and reduce consumption, they could take the opportunity to add the tracking system as a new functionality on top of their newly purchased lighting systems.
How will it work?
Lighting based anchor nodes with radio transceivers will be deployed on sites. Vehicles and personnel will be fit with radio tags that communicate their position to the nodes in real time, using highly precise distance measurements.
From the technical point of view, both Ultra-wideband (UWB) and IEEE 802.15.4 radio technology are strong candidates. The former has lower range, but better scalability, the latter has better range, but is more difficult to scale. A combination of the two will ensure maximum accuracy as well as scalability. A pilot installation of the LumiTrack system will be deployed in October, with the first evaluations and conclusions to be drawn by the end of the year.
The launch of the product is scheduled for 2019.