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Franzese, Anthony L.Real-time Location with ZigBee Hardware
MS, University of Cincinnati, 2011, Engineering and Applied Science: Computer Engineering

Mechanisms for tracking assets and inventory management are widespread and well-developed. Tracking is achieved by attaching “tags” with unique identifiers to assets and deploying “readers” throughout a facility to read the identity of the tagged assets. In general the tools and solutions for asset tracking are organized into one of two categories, namely: passive (RFID or optical barcode) solutions and real-time location systems. Passive solutions provide coarse-grained location services that record a tracked item’s movement past fixed position “reader” devices. Asset movement from location to location and into and out-of a facility are recorded. Passive systems are highly effective for inventory control and management and they are pervasive in the consumer products markets. In contrast, Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) provide pin-point location services that can identify an asset’s location at all times. RTLS systems generally require a much larger number of expensive readers distributed throughout the monitored facility to ensure continuous communication with the tags and to allow triangulation services to precisely locate the tagged assets. Thus, existing asset tracking systems provide either inexpensive coarse-grained location services (passive solutions) or high-cost pin-point accuracy services (RTLS solutions).

In many cases, the requirements for real-time asset tracking solutions do not require pin-point accuracy or continuous, second-by-second location service. For example, a solution tracking assets every 30 seconds to a coarse-grained location on the accuracy of 50-100 feet would be more than sufficient for locating wheelchairs or baggage carts in an airport, beds in a hospital, or baggage carts in a hotel. Passive solutions are ineffective because the readers can generally read only short distances (15 feet maximum) and RTLS solutions are far too expensive to be deployed throughout an airport or large scale facility such as a major hospital. This thesis examines the design of a coarse-grained asset tracking solution suitable for the needs of tracking wheelchairs in airports. The solution must be low-cost, self-organizing, and inexpensive. In this work a solution using ZigBee networking hardware is developed and analyzed. The result provides a solution where the tags are small enough to fit comfortably on wheelchairs and baggage carts and they can provide identifying broadcast signaling for at least one year using two AA batteries. The technology provides a self-organizing network where readers can be placed at reasonable distances (100-200 feet) from one another and that can provide asset tracking coverage over the largest airports in the world.


Philip Wilsey, PhD (Committee Chair); Fred Beyette, PhD (Committee Member); Carla Purdy, C, PhD (Committee Member)


Computer Engineering


ZigBee; RTLS; Asset Tracking; RFID; Real-time Locating Systems; Sensor Network