Tracking system

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August 31, 2008 -- A resident of Beaumont, TX has his armband scanned as part of the tracking-system being used to identify residents using the transportation services offered by the city of Beaumont to evacuate the city in advance of Hurricane Gustav's landfall.
Tracking-system on a forklift
An M998 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) carrying a radar and tracking system shelter sits parked at an airfield during Operation Desert Shield. The shelter is used by the Marines of the 3rd Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) Platoon to track their Pioneer RPVs during flight.

A tracking system, also known as a locating system, is used for the observing of persons or objects on the move and supplying a timely ordered sequence of location data for further processing. It is important to be aware of human tracking, further details are listed below.


There are myriads of tracking systems. Some are 'lag time' indicators, that is, the data is collected after an item has passed a point for example a bar code or choke point or gate.[1] Others are 'real-time' or 'near real-time' like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) depending on how often the data is refreshed. There are bar-code systems which require a person to scan items and automatic identification (RFID auto-id). For the most part, the tracking worlds are composed of discrete hardware and software systems for different applications. That is, bar-code systems are separate from Electronic Product Code (EPC) systems, GPS systems are separate from active real time locating systems or RTLS for example, a passive RFID system would be used in a warehouse to scan the boxes as they are loaded on a truck - then the truck itself is tracked on a different system using GPS with its own features and software.[2] The major technology “silos” in the supply chain are:


Indoors assets are tracked repetitively reading e.g. a barcode,[3] any passive and active RFID and feeding read data into Work in Progress models (WIP) or Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) or ERP software. The readers required per choke point are meshed auto-ID or hand-held ID applications.

However tracking could also be capable of providing monitoring data without binding to a fixed location by using a cooperative tracking capability, e.g. an RTLS.

Yard management[edit]

Outdoors mobile assets of high value are tracked by choke point,[4] 802.11, Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI), Time Delay on Arrival (TDOA), active RFID or GPS Yard Management; feeding into either third party yard management software from the provider or to an existing system. Yard Management Systems (YMS) couple location data collected by RFID and GPS systems to help supply chain managers to optimize utilization of yard assets such as trailers and dock doors. YMS systems can use either active or passive RFID tags.

Fleet management[edit]

Fleet management is applied as a tracking application using GPS and composing tracks from subsequent vehicle's positions. Each vehicle to be tracked is equipped with a GPS receiver and relays the obtained coordinates via cellular or satellite networks to a home station.[5] Fleet management is required by:

  • Large fleet operators, (vehicle/railcars/trucking/shipping)
  • Forwarding operators (containers, machines, heavy cargo, valuable shippings)
  • Operators who have high equipment and/or cargo/product costs
  • Operators who have a dynamic workload

Person tracking[edit]

Person tracking relies on unique identifiers that are temporally (RFID tags) or permanently assigned to persons like personal identifiers (including biometric identifiers), or national identification numbers and a way to sample their positions, either on short temporal scales as through GPS or for public administration to keep track of a state's citizens or temporary residents. The purposes for doing so are manifold and span the spectrum from welfare and public security to mass surveillance.

Attendance management[edit]

One use of RFID technology is in tracking IDs of students and the students themselves.[6] Using RFIDs would resolve the decreasing attendance in schools by monitoring the whereabouts of students when they did not attend class. It is also used to efficiently check attendance. Perks of this tracking system is allowing students to check out library books buy food in the cafeterias. The RFIDs also act as a security measure to monitor any unwanted visitors or an emergency locator if a student cannot be found. In the Spring Independent School District, students have been using RFIDs for many years to check that students are staying in school during the day. Since they have instigated the system, attendance has increased thus schooling funding has increased as well.[7]

Debates over the Fourth Amendment have come up. Conservative students wish to keep their privacy and forbid to wear tracking devices, especially hackers can break into these systems to find out students’ information. Since many schools, such as those in the Spring Independent School District, require students to wear the tracking IDs, students argue that it is an immediate violation of their privacy.[7] Yet, the Fourth Amendment is not violated in these cases since students are not tracked in their homes.[8] Each school’s decision over GPS IDs varies as states develop laws against these IDs in schools and as students protest for their privacy rights.

Mobile phone services[edit]

Location-based services or LBS is a term that is derived from the telematics and telecom world. The combination of A-GPS, newer GPS and cellular locating technology is what has enabled the latest “LBS” for handsets and PDAs. Line of sight is not necessarily required for a location fix. This is a significant advantage in certain applications since a GPS signal can still be lost indoors. As such, A-GPS enabled cell phones and PDAs can be located indoors and the handset may be tracked more precisely. This enables non-vehicle centric applications and can bridge the indoor location gap, typically the domain of RFID and Real-time locating system (RTLS) systems, with an off the shelf cellular device.

Currently, A-GPS enabled handsets are still highly dependent on the LBS carrier system, so handset device choice and application requirements are still not apparent. Enterprise system integrators need the skills and knowledge to correctly choose the pieces that will fit the application and geography.

Operational requirements[edit]

Positional tracking in a virtual reality headset

Regardless of the tracking technology, for the most part the end-users just want to locate themselves or wish to find points of interest. The reality is that there is no "one size fits all" solution with locating technology for all conditions and applications.

Application of tracking is a substantial basis for vehicle tracking in fleet management, asset management, individual navigation, social networking, or mobile resource management and more. Company, group or individual interests can benefit from more than one of the offered technologies depending on the context.

GPS tracking[edit]

GPS has global coverage but can be hindered by line-of-sight issues caused by buildings and urban canyons. RFID is excellent and reliable indoors or in situations where close proximity to tag readers is feasible, but has limited range and still requires costly readers. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. This technology uses electromagnetic waves to receive the signal from the targeting object to then save the location on a reader that can be looked at through specialized software.[8][9]

Real-time locating systems (RTLS)[edit]

RTLS are enabled by Wireless LAN systems (according to IEEE 802.11) or other wireless systems (according to IEEE 802.15) with multilateration. Such equipment is suitable for certain confined areas, such as campuses and office buildings. RTLS requires system-level deployments and server functions to be effective.

In virtual space[edit]

In virtual space technology, a tracking system is generally a system capable of rendering virtual space to a human observer while tracking the observer's coordinates. For instance, in dynamic virtual auditory space simulations, a head tracker provides information to a central processor in real time and this enables the processor to select what functions are necessary to give feedback to the user in relation to where they are positioned.[1]

Additionally, there is vision-based trajectory tracking, that uses a color and depth camera known as a KINECT sensor to track 3D position and movement. This technology can be used in traffic control, human-computer interface, video compression and robotics.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Peter, Emmanuel. "COMPUTERIZED CRIME TRACKING INFORMATION SYSTEM CASE STUDY OF NIGERIAN POLICE, ENUGU". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Kamel Boulos, Maged N; Berry, Geoff (2012). "Real-time locating systems (RTLS) in healthcare: a condensed primer". International Journal of Health Geographics. 11 (1): 25. doi:10.1186/1476-072x-11-25. ISSN 1476-072X.
  3. ^ Clancy, Heather. "California security company uses barcodes to help track assets". CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  4. ^ "Cisco Unveils Wireless Location Solution and New Unified Wireless Network Software Release". CISCO. Retrieved May 22, 2007.
  5. ^ "10 tips for selecting a GPS fleet management solution". Phc News. Archived from the original on 2013-08-26. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  6. ^ Hadlock, Charles (Oct 14, 2012). "RFID chips let schools track students -- and retain funding -- but some parents object". NBC News. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b THE Journal 2008.
  8. ^ a b Warner 2007.
  9. ^ "RFID". RFID Journal LLC.
  10. ^ Jurado, Francisco; Palacios, Guillermo; Flores, Francisco (November 2012). Vision-Based Trajectory Tracking on the 3D Virtual Space for a Quadrotor. 2012 IEEE Ninth Electronics, Robotics and Automotive Mechanics Conference. pp. 31–36. doi:10.1109/CERMA.2012.13. ISBN 978-1-4673-5096-9. S2CID 2874317.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jensen, R. C. (2008). "Can I Come in?". T.H.E. Journal. 35 (10): S4–S6. New access-control devices are an important addition to the sophisticated work that one Texas school district is doing to protect its students.
  • Warner, D. J. (2007). "Call to Action: The Fourth Amendment, the Future of Radio Frequency Identification, and Society". Loy. L. A. L. Rev. 854. 40. Imagine a world where children all wear wristbands about the size of a Zippo lighter'-not as the newest fashion statement, but instead for security. These wristbands can transmit a signal with an effective range of over two football fields, narrowing down each child's position to within thirty feet. Furthermore, the system can track the children over a two square mile area surrounding their school. If a child walks off their path or does not make it to school on time, the centralized system automatically sends an e-mail or text message to the child's parents. ... In addition, cars near the children's school are fitted with the same technology, and if a vehicle drives near a child, a voice prompt will alert the driver ... While this scenario may seem fitting for the newest science fiction motion picture, the scene is reality in Yokohama City, Japan
  • Jurado, Francisco; Palacios, Guillermo; Flores, Francisco (2012). "Vision-Based Trajectory Tracking on the 3D Virtual Space for a Quadrotor". 2012 IEEE Ninth Electronics, Robotics and Automotive Mechanics Conference: 31–36. doi:10.1109/CERMA.2012.13. ISBN 978-1-4673-5096-9. S2CID 2874317.