Active vs. Passive RTLS Systems

Active and passive Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) primarily differ in the nature of the tags utilized and their interaction with the system. Active RTLS employs battery-operated tags that can send real-time location information and additional data, rendering them suitable for intricate tracking requirements. On the other hand, passive RTLS systems use tags without their own power source, which obtain energy from the reader’s electromagnetic field, providing an economical option for straightforward tracking needs.

Active RTLS Systems

These systems use battery-powered tags that emit signals regularly. 


  • Offers real-time tracking. 
  • Higher accuracy can be achieved with less infrastructure than passive. 
  • Can cover larger distances with fewer infrastructural needs. 
  • Tags can store and transmit additional data, such as sensor data and button-presses. 


  • Tags are generally larger due to the battery. 
  • Higher cost due to complexity and battery replacements. 
  • Systems require specialized maintenance. 

Passive RTLS Systems

Tags do not have their own power source; they reflect or absorb and re-emit signals from a reader. 


  • Tags are cheaper and smaller. 
  • Long-lasting due to no battery requirements. 
  • Many tags available with interoperable standards. 


  • Lower range compared to active tags, requiring more infrastructure. 
  • Less accurate, and may be unsuitable for real-time tracking without higher-density infrastructure. 
  • Infrastructure is more expensive (especially for retrofit) 

RTLS in Healthcare

To learn more and compare Real-time Location Systems in Healthcare settings read our article about various real-time location system options.

Click here to RTLS in Healthcare

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