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An RFID Based Location Finding and Tracking with

Rusen Oktem, Elif Uray Aydin Nergiz Ercil Cagiltay
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department Software Engineering Department
Atilim University Atilim University
Ankara, Turkey Ankara, Turkey
E-mail: {rusen, eaydin}@atilim.edu.tr E-mail: nergiz@atilim.edu.tr

Abstract—This paper tackles an RFID based location finding and mathematical models at indoor environments. Location
tracking system. The system is an integral part of a navigation estimation algorithms have to offer either statistical methods or
aid being developed for guiding visually disabled people in a have to rely on vast amount of data in order to obtain a
store. The aid is composed of a portable hardware interface unit, sufficiently accurate positioning.
a standalone RFID unit, and a central processing unit. The units
interact via wireless communication to locate the position of the In the proposed system, a medium scale obscured indoor
user in a known indoor environment and tracking his/her environment is focused on, and an RFID based positioning
movement. An active RFID tag helps to estimate the location of a method is developed. RSS levels from three UHF transmitters
user and the user is guided to follow a route accordingly, via a are processed for estimating the location of the RFID tag. The
tactile compass. The system uses RF signal strengths and is based system is an intagrated navigation and information access
on Bayes Decision Theory. Initial simulation results with the system which enables not only navigation of visually impaired
system prove promising for location finding and tracking, people through aisles of a shopping store but also access the
especially when the tracked person is guided by a system. information about products. Instead of communicating through
sound, a special compass is used to direct the user. The system
Keywords-location estimation, RF signals, Bayes, RFID, also does not require the user to carry a computer system. In
classification, tracking. this system, the communication between the system and the
user through sound system is very limited to minimize the
interference with the visually impaired shopper’s perception of
I. INTRODUCTION environmental sound. The navigation system incorporates a
Navigation aids generally comprise either an outdoor or novel compass design, RFID tags, and wireless network to
indoor positioning system or both, for detecting the position of direct the user to the desired location in a building. The
the user [1-8]. The technology used in location estimation information access system includes a camera to read barcodes
depends on the type of the subject environment (indoor, of a product and wireless communication to inquire
outdoor, large scale, etc.) and also on the application. For information about that product through the bar code from the
example, GPS or GIS based systems are often utilized for large centre’s database. The system differs from existing projects in
scale outdoor environments [1,2,3]. On the other hand, a pair of that field in terms of usability and cost. Its main aim is to help
AM radio signal transmitter and a receiver, producing beep the visually impaired people do shopping without getting help
sounds when triggered, is preferred for the sake of simplicity from the environment.
and low cost, when a person wants to know the location of a
particular object in a small scale outdoor environment [4]. For II. MAIN COMPONENTS OF THE NAVIGATION SYSTEM
indoor environments, multiple ultrasound or infrared The navigation system consists of three main units: a
transmitters mounted on the walls or at the ceiling can be used
hardware interface unit (HWIU), a data collection and wireless
[2,5,6,9]. Such a system enables estimation of the location of
the receiver, by using received signal strength. However, line- communication unit (DCWCU), and a central processing unit
of-sight requirement of ultrasound and infrared sensors limit (CPU). Fig. 1 summarizes the general structure of this system.
their use in obstructed environments. Use of passive RFID tags
in a grid like structure is another alternative to estimate the
location with respect to the nearest transmitter [7]. The radio
signals do not require line-of-sight, and radio signal
transmitters are easy to integrate into wireless networks.
Hence, they have been particularly used for network based
location estimation purposes [10-12]. Radio signal based
location estimation algorithms exploit either received signal
strength (RSS), time of arrival (TOA), or related observations.
However, indoor environments possess various structures
which result in reflection, refraction, and diffraction of radio Figure 1. General Structure of the System
waves. Hence, such observations often deviate from assumed

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The hardware interface unit (HWIU) provides user A. Path Finding Algorithm
interaction via a touchpad, a generic tactile compass and a The path finding algorithm is developed to establish the
speaker. HWIU is the only device that will be carried by the following jobs:
user, and it will be presented to him/her at a preset location - Getting location information from the positioning algorithm
inside the store. User will receive verbal instructions from and the selected destination address from the user,
HWIU about how to use the device, and will provide the - Calculating the shortest path between the starting and
information about which aisle to go via its touchpad. DCWCU destination points,
receives this information from HWIU and transmits it to CPU. - Extracting the next direction (direction from the current cell
CPU computes a path for the user to guide him/her from the to the next cell) information and transmitting it to the HWIU.
initial location to the desired one. An RFID based data In our system, A* algorithm uses a starting point and a
collection system which is a part of DCWCU collects data to destination point to produce the desired path, if it exists.
tag the position of the HWIU. CPU processes that data to Each time the user request direction information the CPU
estimate the position of the user. By checking the pre-stored gets data from the data collection unit and estimates the current
path, CPU decides which orientation to direct the user to. This location of the user. Then it sends the direction information to
orientation information is sent to HWIU by DCWCU. Upon the compass unit, according to the previously defined path
receival of this information, the tactile compass points to the information. This process continues recursively until the
desired orientation to aid the user to follow the pre-stored path. destination is reached.
The data collection unit is an RFID based one working at The CPU also has an administer interface to setup the
433MHz range. Its operation is rather standalone, and is shopping store structure (shopping units, obstacles, walking
composed of three (or more) transmitters, an RFID tag, and a paths, start points and exit points) in the computer system
receiver. The transmitters broadcast at distinct frequencies. which is developed in Java, Netbeans environment. Through
They are mounted on the ceiling of the market area, in a way to the interface, the shopping store’s map can be entered to the
form a triangle as in Fig. 1. The tag is mounted on the HWIU, system by a graphical display as shown in Fig. 2.
hence is carried by the user. The tag receives signal strengths
from the three transmitters, tags them according to the signal’s B. Positioning Algorithm
frequencies, and transmits to the receiver in a predefined order. RSSI values collected at the CPU are measure of the
The tagged signal strengths are mapped to a signal strength power received by the RFID tag from a transmitter and provide
identification value (RSSI) which is proportional to the RSS, information as to location of the subject carrying it. The
and collected at the CPU via serial connection between the PC received signal consists of direct, reflected, scattered and
and the receiver. diffracted waves. For indoor environments, RSSI values are
CPU is composed of a PC, and software running on it. The assumed to follow the convenient empirical model expression
software has three main algorithms for: [14].
• path finding RSSI = A + B log(d ) (1)
• positioning where d represents the distance between the transmitter and
• barcode recognition [13] the tag, and A, B are parameters to be estimated. At ideal
The developed GUI which also controls the sequential conditions without the existence of any reflections, diffractions,
operations of the three algorithms is presented in Fig. 2. and scattering, the distance of the tag to the three transmitters,
hence the location of the tag, can be computed from Equation
(1), when A, B are known. However, in our application, this
empirical formula does not lead to reliable positioning and the
application calls for incorporation of statistical methods.


Consider an experimental study where the outcome
(observation) is a feature vector x corresponding to a pattern.
Assume that there exist N classes C1 , C2 , " , C N where the
observed pattern belongs to either one of these classes. The
Fig. 2. The Graphical User Interface problem is stated as finding the class Ci, to which the observed
pattern is most likely to belong [15]. For this purpose, often a
discriminant function g(x) is used as:

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classify x in Ci if gi(x) > gj(x)
∀j ≠ i Note that the signal strength transmitted by each
transmitter is independent from each other. Hence, the
conditional probability distribution model for the feature
The discriminant function gi(x) is often defined as;
vector x given class Ci can be expressed as;
gi (x) = ln( p(xCi )⋅ P(Ci )) =ln( p(xCi )) +ln(P(Ci )) 3 § 1 ·
(2) 1
p(x Ci ) = ∏ exp¨− ( x − µ ) 2¸

(2π )1/ 2 σ li ¨ 2σ li2 l li

p(x C ) P(C ) l =1
where i
and i refer to conditional probability © (3) ¹
density function and probability of the ith class, respectively. σ 2
The statistics li and li conditional variances and
conditional mean vector are evaluated by computing sample
variances and sample means for each class and each
transmitter, by use of the recorded measurements.
We assume that the person carrying the RFID tag starts
navigating in the environment from a known location at
time t = 0 . This is the location where the navigation aid will be
presented to the user and will be activated. The observations
(feature vectors) are received at constant time intervals ∆t
(around 1 sec). At every ∆t interval, the previous location of
the person is assumed to be known. Furthermore, the central
system processing the RSSI levels wirelessly sends a direction
(out of 8, north, south, east, west and the ones in between) to
the hardware unit carried by the user. The direction is signaled
to the user via a tactile compass, of which knob is sensed by
the thumb of the user. Hence, we also assume that the user is
most likely to follow this signaled direction than moving to an
unpredictable direction. Based on this assumption, (2) is
updated as;
gi (x) = ln( p(x Ci )) + ln(P(Cik ))
Substituting (4) into (5), we obtain the decision function as
3 ª 1 § 1 ·º
gi (x) = ¦ln« exp¨ − 2 (xl − µli )2 ¸» + ln(P(Cik ))
l =1 « (2π ) σli
© 2σli
1/ 2 ¨ ¸»
¬ ¹¼ (5)
P(Cik )
where refers to the transition probability, that is,
probability that the user used to be in class Ck in the previous
time of reading and displaced to class Ci, at the current time of
reading. xl is the observed RSSI at the current location for the
Fig. 3. Part of the subject environment. ‘s represent lth transmitter. Then, given the previous location of the RFID
transmitters. tag, the current location of it is estimated as the Ci that
Let us assume that the received signal strength gi (x) ≥ g j (x)
, ∀i, j ∈ A, i≠ j (6)
identification levels from the three transmitters by the RFID
where A refers to the set of available classes.
tag constitute feature vectors x. The indoor environment
shown in Fig. 3 is divided into 120cmx120cm (2Ȝx2Ȝ) square IV. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS
grids. We assumed each grid as a class. For each class, we
The results of this proposed system tested through
recorded 52 measurements from each transmitter, at the
experiments with positioning algorithm. The proposed
corners and at the center of the class, and when the person
positioning algorithm is tested in the indoor environment
carrying the tag, and hence the tag antenna is facing different
presented by Fig. 3. In tests, the following apriori information
orientations. We investigated the histograms of these
are utilized:
recordings for each class and decided to use Gaussian
• The statistics (conditional mean and conditional
distribution assumption.
variance) of the feature vectors are available.

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• The subject’s displacement at ∆t time interval is aid to be designed for guiding visually impaired people in a
limited. store. Location finding is based on Bayes decision rule, where
an observed feature vector is classified to a class among the
• Three readings from each transmitter can be recorded
set of available ones. The classes are modeled as accessible
by the CPU at each ∆t time interval square grids in an indoor environment. The simulation results
• The locations of NON ACCESSIBLE classes are show that the user can be tracked at a high performance
known by the tracking system. especially when a guidance favoring a certain route exists.
Table I presents the test results with certain routes. It is This work is supported in the scope of project ID 105E130 by
further assumed that the subject carrying the RFID tag is the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey
navigated to follow a certain route (which is provided by the (TUBITAK).
path finding algorithm), hence a bias favoring a certain class
exists. Then, the transition probabilities between classes are References
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