Archive for the ‘cellular’ Tag

Location Tracking at the Mall

In my job as a Sales Engineer, one of the applications of wireless technology that I get asked about more and more these days is location tracking. At first, I used to get asked about how to track high-value assets. For example, hospitals would ask about how to track expensive (or rare) medical equipment. Or how to track items that were frequently stolen, such as wheel chairs. In this scenario, the equipment had to be tagged in order to track it’s location. Most often, this was done with an active RFID tag in 2.4 GHz which then ran across a wireless LAN as the data was being correlated at a central location server.

With the proliferation of Wi-Fi enabled devices such as smart phones and tablets, I now get asked about how to track the people carrying them. It seems that the general consensus is that tracking people offers much more valuable data than tracking physical assets. One such article that highlights this is one on Evan Schuman’s Storefront Backtalk entitled “Mobile Tracking At The Mall: The Potential Is Stunning”.

The location tracking mentioned in this article seems to be based on cellular frequencies. However, much more accurate location data can be accomplished via Wi-Fi. This is because there are more data points (Access Points) to triangulate from in a pervasive WLAN when compared to the number of data points (cell towers) in a mobile location tracking scenario.

As far back as a few years ago, the pre-cursors for these types of networks were being installed. Personally, I was involved in a project that deployed free guest Wi-Fi in the food courts of 65 malls across America. With their wireless LAN controllers, switches, and security devices already in-place, deploying a location tracking applications would simply consist of expanding the wireless footprint to include the proper density of APs, as well installing a location server or appliance.