Adding more Smarts to Smart Wireless Lighting

Wireless Lighting. Smart lighting. These are phrases that are starting to reach market, at least among early adopters. To some it sounds like the obvious next thing. To others it sounds like techies making simple things complicated.  It’s certainly a new and growing trend, with several start-up companies and projects in the area, and some major electronics companies joining the fray.

“Wireless lighting” refers to systems in which individual bulbs can be controlled wirelessly. “Smart lighting” refers to systems in which individual bulbs can be controlled intelligently by a computerized control unit. In many systems the two are combined, with a computer controlling the light bulbs intelligently and wirelessly, and the terms are often used interchangeably.

Is smart wireless lighting the wave of the future, or a silly use of technology for no good purpose?

Looking at some of the start-ups in the area gives credence to the cynics. One project, for example, promotes the ability to adjust the lights in your room from your smartphone or tablet, having lights dim or flash when you get notifications on your phone, and have a set of lights flicker to the beat of the music you’re listening to. Another project uses smart lights to visualize data, changing color to reflect the weather forecast, the types of messages waiting for you, and so on. Are these really the goals and dreams that drive new technology? Will enough people want to have any of the above lighting features to enable a company to stay in business?

Bigger companies, however, are focusing on delivering real value with wireless lighting. For example, LG Innotek, a sister company of LG Electronics (LGEAF), is delivering wireless lighting in industrial settings, where site owners want to deploy lighting without having to run the electrical wires in the walls and ceilings. This benefit has made LG Innotek’s wireless lights valuable to a number of big industrial customers. They also add motion sensors to their lights, enabling them to act as security or emergency lights.

LG Innotek is now taking their wireless lights to a new level. The company is exploring the use of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio chips from a start-up company called DecaWave in place of its current wireless network. UWB has several benefits, including low power usage, but its most game-changing benefit is its support for indoor location positioning. DecaWave’s DW1000 chips, currently under exploration by LG Innotek, can determine their own locations relative to the locations of other chips in the area. With UWB-equipped lighting installed, other UWB-equipped objects or tags in the area will be able to determine their locations very precisely.

As a practical benefit, lights that contain location-positioning chips can be put anywhere, and they will register their own locations in the controller system. This means that controlling the lights wirelessly doesn’t require managing where each light bulb is placed, rather each light can position itself on a console’s map. This is a big time-saver in a big industrial site.

Wireless location-tracking lights can comprise a location-tracking system, to track the locations of people, equipment, carts, and other industrial equipment as they move around the site. A big challenge in industrial location systems of this sort is to deploy the location-tracking infrastructure, and if this is included in the lights, this requirement is handled.

Other companies are also looking at adding location positioning to lighting systems. Philips (PHG), for example, is also planning to add location to their personal wireless lighting systems. They are using Visible Light Communications (VLC) technology to transmit each light’s location to camera-equipped devices nearby. This has an advantage of working on more devices, since the visible light communication can be picked up by smartphones and tablets with their built-in cameras, but it won’t work when the lights are off, when power is off, in an emergency situation, and when there is smoke or other interference in the air.

In principle, visible light can in principle provide more precise distance and location measurements than most radio methods. When light is used in very short pulses, it can be used for high-bandwidth communication and can measure distances very precisely. But in practice, most visible light systems for indoor location can only handle signals from one light at a time. Such systems can determine their general location, usually right below the light whose signal they are receiving, and this is enough for a lot of applications. But such systems cannot do precise location positioning in the way that radio-based methods can, and certainly not achieve the 10cm accuracy that UWB-based methods can achieve.

Most importantly, the UWB wireless technology being explored by LG Innotek won’t only be for location positioning, but will also support the wireless control that LG Innotek has been delivering. While it’s transmitting information to turn lights on and off, the radio waves themselves will support highly-accurate location positioning. At the same time as industrial sites are selecting LG Innotek’s lighting for the cost benefits of wireless control, they’ll gain the ability to deliver location positioning.

So if you’re working on deploying wireless lighting around your site, it makes sense to deploy lighting that supports location positioning. Not only will your console know where your lights are automatically, but you can also track locations of people and things moving around your site. These benefits might not be as fun as having lights flicker to the beat of your music, but it’s a lot more tangible a benefit.

The era of pervasive location positioning

The acquisition of an early stage Israeli start-up company, KitLocate, by Russian Internet giant Yandex (YNDX), was treated as yet another small M&A in the press. Many articles reported the acquisition, summarized KitLocate's technology for reducing the power consumption of GPS-based mobile applications, mentioned that Yandex is maintaining the KitLocate office as an Israeli R&D center, and then moved to the next topic. Yet another acquisition.

But the implications of this acquisition are in fact much greater. Yandex's adoption and promotion of KitLocate's technology is ushering in an era in which mobile location-based services are pervasive, meaning that instead of being turn-on-turn-off, they are always on. This has huge implications for mobile technology and related M&A....

See the full article on SeekingAlpha: Yandex's Acquisition Of KitLocate Foreshadows An Era Of Pervasive Location Services
http://seekingalpha.com/article/2117603-yandexs-acquisition-of-kitlocate-foreshadows-an-era-of-pervasive-location-services

Broadcom indoor location positioning demo at MWC 2014

Catching up on some of the great technology I saw at the 2014 Mobile
World Congress (MWC) one month ago, here's a video of Broadcom's indoor location positioning technology demo. Broadcom makes chips, and this demo shows one of their chips tracking the location of a phone as it moves around.

UPDATED: The Samsung phone shown here is a Samsung Galaxy S4 that contains a Broadcom Wi-Fi chip, running special software to interact with a Broadcom chip inside the Wi-Fi access points used in the demo, which are also running special software inside. More on this below.

Broadcom's location positioning, in this demo, is based on a technique called Wi-Fi trilateration. This means that the phone starts with a database of locations of Wi-Fi access points, and calculates its own location based on the distances that it computes from each nearby access point. 

Broadcom's primary innovation here is that the trilateration is not done using signal strength, which tends to give only 8-10 meter accuracy in trilateration. Broadcom's system adds to the signals as they're sent from the access points and from the phones, in a way that enables much more precise determination of the distance of the phone to each access point. As this picture shows, a phone with a Broadcom chip measures distance to an access point very close to a professional measuring tool.

This demo uses only Wi-Fi trilateration, without any other techniques (sensor fusion, fingerprinting) integrated. This is why the arrow sometimes faces the wrong direction. This shows the power of their trilateration - presumably they could add sensor fusion as well.

The lack of fingerprinting is very significant. Many indoor location systems need to be fine-tuned for the specific site in which they're deployed, with sample signals collected every few meters throughout the site. This is how most software-only indoor location systems achieve their accuracy. But by working at the hardware level, Broadcom is able to achieve meter-level accuracy based only on a database of access point locations.

To learn more about the technologies used for indoor location positioning and the more than 100 companies researching them and bringing them to market, see our comprehensive report at http://www.grizzlyanalytics.com/report_2014_02_Indoor.html

Here's the video:




Two indoor location demos to see at MWC 2014

I'm blogging
now from the 2014 Mobile World Congress, MWC 2014, in Barcelona, so I'm writing quickly. If you or a colleague are at MWC, and are interested in indoor location technologies, there are two demos that you definitely want to see. (In fact, there are more than two, and I'll blog about others later. But the others will take more explanation, and I wanted to share these two now quickly.)

The first is in the official MWC mobile application. In the mapping section, you can see your own location and track yourself on the map as you move around. You can also navigate to specific booths you're looking for. As I wrote earlier, the location positioning in this app is based on technology from PoleStar, even though this isn't indicated explicitly since they were a subcontractor to a subcontractor.

The location positioning uses a combination of Wi-Fi fingerprinting, BLE beacons, and motion sensing.  The positioning isn't perfect, which isn't a surprise since the RF conditions at the conference are crazy and very dynamic, but it's definitely good enough to be effective in finding where you and and where you're going. You can judge for yourself in the video below.

The second is a much more precise location positioning demo from SK Telecom, in hall 3. This demo is more precise because they're using UWB (ultra-wideband) technology from a company called DecaWave. We've written more about DecaWave's technology and the benefits of UWB here. As you can see from the video below, UWB gives this demo much more meter-by-meter precision.

These are two of more than a hundred indoor location technologies analyzed in the recently-updated 417-page Grizzly Analytics report on indoor location.

If you're at MWC, there are many more indoor location demos to be seen as well. I'll be blogging more about some of them soon.  Enjoy the conference!

Here are the videos. First the MWC app:

And now the SKT demo:


Looks like lots of action in the indoor location area this year... stay tuned for more!


Indoor Location technology deployed at MWC 2014

Sunday evening, on the eve of the week of this year's Mobile World Congress, a press release was sent out announcing that this year's MWC would have "one of the world's biggest Wi-Fi networks," with over 1200 access points covering over 240,000 square meters. This is enough to make anyone who's attended a previous MWC conference say "whew! about time!"

But deep in the press release is another, even more exciting, announcement: "GSMA is introducing new functionality in its GSMA mobile app... geo-localised routes." That's right - this year's MWC will include indoor location services, including mapping and navigation.

The press release doesn't elaborate, but the indoor location technology for the MWC Wi-Fi network and mobile app is being provided by PoleStar, a start-up company based on France with offices in the USA. PoleStar is one of over 130 companies profiled and analyzed in our recently-updated report on Indoor Location Positioning Technologies. The Fira Barcelona is the largest-ever deployment of PoleStar's NAO Campus platform.

We'll report more details on the exact technology deployed at MWC tomorrow, but in general, PoleStar's technology combines Wi-Fi fingerprinting, sensor fusion motion sensing, and their own "BlueSpot" beacons based on BLE (Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy) radio.  We've written about PoleStar's technology in our blog. We'll report as soon as possible on the exact technology deployed at MWC, and give our impressions of using it.

We hope everyone at MWC enjoys the conference - we always do!

For more on the 2014 Mobile World Congress, indoor location technology, and other innovative mobile technology, follow us on our blog or on Twitter.


Indoor location report grows from 268 pages to 417 pages



We've just released our latest Grizzly Analytics report on Indoor Location Positioning Technology. Our previous report, released in March, 2013, was 268 pages, and this newly updated report is a whopping 417 pages!

What takes almost 150 extra pages? First, there are around 50 additional start-up companies profiled, and several new major technology vendors as well, bringing the coverage to 135 companies total. Many of the major companies have more patent filings, ongoing research, or products in the area than they did previously.

Proximity beacons are receiving a lot more attention now than they did 9 months ago, ever since Apple announced iBeacon and a whole lot of companies, major and start-up, jumped into the fray. There are also a lot more high-accuracy positioning companies now, using UWB or other hardware-based techniques. And a lot more companies are offering valuable indoor services to the retail, healthcare, or other industries.

Want to know more? Check out the details of this report here:
http://www.grizzlyanalytics.com/report_2014_02_Indoor.html 


Two Internet of Things acquisitions in 1st two weeks of 2014

We're now 2 weeks into 2014, and we've had two acquisitions of start-up companies in the Internet of Things area. One of these deals, yesterday's acquisition of Nest by Google for around $3.2 billion, will get a lot of media attention because the buyer was Google. The other, last week's acquisition of ThingWorx by PTC for around $130 million, will get a lot less attention. But it's the two together that are huge news for technology trends in 2014.

When we published our first report on Internet of Things in July, 2013, people were saying things like "is the Internet of Things really going to happen," "will people really want it?" and "what's the point?" Now, a half a year later, the Internet of Things is clearly on the way, and people are discussing the implications and concerns.

Nest and ThinkWorx are two of the more than thirty companies profiled in our report. They each demonstrate a different approach to implementing the Internet of Things, and their acquirers are examples of two very different ways of bringing the Internet of Things to market.

Nest has built an intelligent and connected thermostat. Its intelligence enables it to learn the patterns in the home and adjust itself accordingly. For example, if homeowners turn out the lights and go to bed every night at 10pm, Nest can learn to turn off the heat slightly before they do so. Its connectivity enables it to be controlled from a homeowner's smartphone, for example, turning on the heat while driving home from work so that the house is toasty warm when you walk in the door. More recently they've branched into intelligent and connected smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Google's acquisition of Nest follows years of efforts by the search giant to enter the market directly. Their Android@Home and other related projects have been trying to bring utility meters and thermostats on-line for years. But this project failed and was shut down in 2011. With the Nest acquistion, Google has bought their way back into success in this new and clearly growing area. And Nest has found a home that can truly get them into a lot of homes.

ThingWorx approached IoT from the other direction, building a comprehensive platform for building Internet of Things networks. The ThingWorx platform integrates sensors and devices, business logic, and storage, with a codeless mashup builder and REST API for programming how they all work together.

PTC's acquisition of ThingWorx brings the Internet of Things into much more mainstream IT. PTC develops solutions that are used by manufacturing companies to design, manage and improve their product development and manufacturing processes. ThingWorx will enable PTC to support companies that are building IoT products or are using IoT technologies in their operations.

These two acquisitions are only two of the many recent developments in Internet of Things. Three months ago ARM acquired another IoT company, SensiNode, in an ongoing battle between chip and mobile companies for control of the Internet of Things. Qualcomm and Intel have been very active in the area as well.

As 2014 gets started, nobody is doubting that the Internet of Things is coming. What will be next?

To learn more about the technology R&D and start-up companies underlying the Internet of Things, check out our comprehensive report (click here). Three out of the thirty companies we profiled have been acquired, and there's more to come.....

What will 2014 bring for indoor location technology?

Grizzly Analytics analyzes and reports on a lot of technology, but a lot of our attention recently has gone to indoor location technology. (If you're new to indoor location, you can think of it as GPS that works inside.) Here's a quick look at what we predict for indoor location technology in the new year:

Proximity beacons will be center stage for the first half of 2014:  Since Apple's iBeacon announcement, companies have been in a race to bring BLE-based proximity beacons to market. These beacons don't actually deliver indoor location positioning, since they don't tell you precisely where you are, but rather they tell you when you get close to a certain place, like a small store, a department in a store, or maybe a key product. Apple has a way of making a concept hot, so proximity beacons are bound to be big for a while. But more than that, they have the advantage of simplicity - they deliver a specific function, namely notifying an app on your phone when you're close to something significant, and they do it reliably. And proximity beacon functionality can even be implemented on an iPad without any additional hardware. Geeks may say that location positioning is much more powerful, and they're right, but the simplicity and reliability of proximity beacons, along with Apple's blessing, will push them into the market strongly.

Indoor location apps will flood the market mid-year:  At the same time as proximity beacons are reaching the market, however, the number of companies bringing indoor location solutions to market is skyrocketing. In the previous Grizzly Analytics report on indoor location technology we reported over 50 start-up companies in the area, and our upcoming report (coming out soon) will add more than 30 more. Deployments are in progress at malls, major stores, exhibition centers, museums, airports, and other big sites all over the world, and many are set to launch in the upcoming months. We expect a spike in the number of malls and big stores that show you where you are on an app as you walk around. (See here, here, here and here for some examples of these systems.)

Industrial applications will follow slightly after that:  In addition to the companies bringing smartphone-based indoor location to market, there are many companies developing technology for hardware-based indoor location. By the end of the year we expect this to start reaching market, with the chips being launched today integrated into devices 6-9 months from now. This will include systems for tracking employee keycards and office equipment, sports players on the court, people and equipment moving around hospitals, and much more. (See here and here for two out of many examples.)

By year-end, and into 2015, hardware support for indoor location will reach smartphones:  Major chip companies in the mobile area are already bringing chips to market that include indoor location technology, and by the end of 2014 we'll see these chips being integrated into phones by major phone manufacturers. This will include both technology similar to today's, based on Wi-Fi and motion sensing, and also technology that is more advanced. (See here and here for some examples, but other chip companies such as Qualcomm, CSR and Samsung have entered the area as well.)

Start-up acquisitions will continue throughout the year:  M&A in indoor location has already started, with acquisitions by Apple, Aruba and others. This trend shows every sign of continuing. We expect to see Google acquire at least one company, maybe two, to add some strength to Android and Google Maps indoors. Microsoft is also likely to enter the area, to strengthen Windows Phone and Bing Maps. But other likely acquirers include phone makers, network makers, mobile advertising companies, and more.

New innovations will continue:  With all this action in indoor location, new methods will continue to emerge as well. Will approaches like modulated LED lighting succeed in the market? Will one of the cellphone manufacturers or mobile OS makers acquire technology that delivers indoor location even without Wi-Fi or BLE? Whatever happens, there's no reason to think that innovation in the area is complete.

Other mobile innovation will continue as well:  Indoor location is increasingly related to the Internet of Things, which will continue to develop in 2014 and 2015. See here and here for more. Gesture recognition is moving forward, with a number of big acquisitions in the past year (see here and here) that will likely reach market in the upcoming year. SmartWatches will have slow market adoption, but that will pick up at the end of the year as they become more user-friendly and accepted in the market. All in all, it will be an exciting year for mobile!

For more information on our upcoming update to our report on indoor location technology, e-mail info@grizzlyanalytics.com

Bosch's IoT subsidiary builds on years of active research

Bosch just announced that they are launching a new subsidiary company for Internet of Things products and services. The company will supply electronic components and related software services which can be used to make objects smart and web-enabled.  The company's initial focus will be on sensor-based smart homes, as well as sensor-based traffic & transportation.

In the company's press release, they add their prediction "by 2015 [there will be] more than six Billion 'things' connected to the Internet."  This joins Cisco's prediction of over 50 Billion connected things by 2020, IDC's prediction of over 212 Billion connected things by the end of 2020, Gartner's prediction of up to 26 Billion connected devices by 2020 (down from the 30 Billion they predicted a few months ago), and Ericsson's prediction of 50 Billion connected devices by 2020.

These predictions aren't new. At least five years ago Nokia was predicting "1000 connected devices per person in 2015." What's new is that whatever the numbers, the vision is becoming a reality.

Bosch's subsidiary company may be new, but their focus on Internet of Things, and their R&D and product offerings, have been active for years. At the CES show in January, 2013, they showed connected consumer security cameras, connected home solar panels, and more. And they've been researching IoT technology and IoT business models for years.


Bosch is one of dozens of technology giants engaged in active Internet of Things R&D, as profiled in our 148-page report on IoT R&D. The IoT area is developing daily, with new products and new technologies. Whatever the exact number of "things" is going to be, they're going to exist. Do you understand the Internet of Things enough to know how it will impact you and how you can prepare?





Short indoor location video from DecaWave chip launch

Grizzly Analytics was happy to be invited to the product launch of DecaWave's new chip for indoor location positioning in early November. Their chip uses UWB radio to precisely measure the distance between two chips. If their chips are put inside "beacon" devices in a room, and also inside "tags" on objects that move around the room, a system can track the locations of the objects moving around the room very precisely, to within 12-15cm.

We were unable to video a complete large-scale demo, because of the big crowd in the room, but we did get the following video that shows how precisely the system is able to track objects as they move around. The demo was done with four beacons in the corners of the room that are used to triangulate the locations of chips moving around the room. The demo as shown does not do any smoothing or post-processing of that triangulation.


DecaWave's chip is the latest in more than 50 solutions coming to market for indoor location positioning, using a wide variety of approaches. DecaWave's technology cannot be used on mobile devices until their chips are incorporated into those devices. But for industrial applications, and in the future if their chips are incorporated into mass-market devices, the precision that they offer is stunning.

Another company offering very high accuracy positioning is Quuppa (click here for a description and video).  Several others, including BeSpoon, are in the works. Most other indoor location solutions are less accurate, estimating locations within 5-8 meters, but have the obvious advantage of running on today's smartphones.

Apple's big gesture - Apple buys PrimeSense

After a long time of rumors and leaks, it's confirmed that Apple is acquiring gesture recognition company PrimeSense.

For those who don't know, it was PrimeSense's technology that powered Microsoft's original XBox (then Kinect) gesture-based gaming console. We predicted Apple's acquiring a gesture recognition company months ago, but expected that it would be one of the smaller companies.

This acquisition is the latest is a series of acquisitions in the gesture recognition area.  Google acquired FlutterIntel acquired Omek Interactive and Qualcomm acquired GestureTek.  In addition, Samsung has released gesture recognition of some of their latest phones and TVs, and many other companies are researching the area.

We're most excited by software approaches to gesture recognition, especially micro-gestures. But Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense shows their choice of a hardware solution.

The $256,000 question, of course, is what Apple is planning to do with PrimeSense's technology. Many are speculating that they'll incorporate it into a new Apple TV product, noting that an iOS-based TV would essentially enter the gaming market at the same time. Others are speculating that it will be incorporated into Apple's laptop computer line, a similar direction as the technology by Leap Motion that is incorporated into laptops by HP.

We believe, however, that it's more likely that Apple will try to use the PrimeSense sensor to further differentiate its iOS devices. For example, Apple recently introduced its famous fingerprint sensor in iPhones.  These sensors can be used for device security and for transaction security, but more importantly they can be used by 3rd-party applications for any authentication or security purpose. Motion sensors in iDevices could serve to control the device's scrolling and selection, but more importantly, could open up a wide variety of innovative applications. Innovative apps are, as we all know, the differentiation that Apple craves for iDevices.

Could a PrimeSense sensor in an iDevice detect when a car got too close to another car? Detect the height and gender of someone approaching a wall-mounted iPad? Detect facial contours well enough to recognize faces? Perform therapeutic gait analysis by sensing leg and body motion? Detect when people are drunk?

The possibilities appear endless for applications of PrimeSense sensors in iDevices.

Apple's iBeacons poised to legitimize hardware-based indoor location (SeekingAlpha article)

Apple (AAPL) has a fascinating way of coming into a new area, developing a device or feature that has been done before but never achieved mass-market adoption, and being the first to bring this new device or feature to the masses. Sometimes they manage this because they implement the device or feature better than others, sometimes it's because they introduce their own new twist, and sometimes it's just because they're Apple. But the power of Apple to legitimize an already existing area when they enter it is seen time and time again.

A few months ago Apple launched a new concept that they called iBeacons. iBeacons are Apple's biggest foray to date into the growing area of indoor location services, and are aimed directly at one of the lucrative segments of this area, namely retail in-store mobile applications.

What Apple is poised to do is legitimize, so to speak, the use of new hardware beacons in indoor locations for the purpose of location-based applications....

Read the complete article on the SeekingAlpha site here:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/1816772-apple-ibeacons-poised-to-legitimize-hardware-based-indoor-location 

DecaWave - High accuracy indoor location with innovative wireless technology

Virtually all R&D in indoor location positioning falls into a few categories. Many systems determine location based on Wi-Fi signals, either using fingerprinting or using triangulation. Many are using sensor fusion (also called inertial navigation), tracking location movements using device sensors. And an increasing number are using Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, where devices track their locations based on signals from dedicated beacons that are deployed around sites, again using either fingerprinting or triangulation. With over 50 start-up companies in our comprehensive report on indoor location technology, and more starting-up every week, virtually all are using one or more of these approaches.

Enter DecaWave, a fabless semiconductor company developing indoor location positioning based on 802.15.4a-standard UWB (ultra-wide band) wireless technology. DecaWave's solution is hardware-based, so it's not something you can download to your phone today. Their chip is going to be launched in the market very soon.  With 10-15cm accuracy, it will bring a new level of location positioning to industrial applications, and is poised to reach mobile devices soon.

Most significantly from a technology perspective, DecaWave's solution implements a wireless technology that's designed from the bottom up, at the wireless wavelength and encoding level, to support location positioning.

802.15.4a is a wireless standard for peer-to-peer personal-area networks (PANs), running over ultra-wideband (UWB), which are wireless networks with a range of between 40 meters (in dense environments) and 300 meters (line-of-sight). 802.15.4a was designed specifically to include distance ranging, determining the precise distance that a radio signal has crossed, as a means of handling interference and reflections. DecaWave is about to be the first company to bring a chip to market that implements location ranging on top of 802.15.4a.

UWB radio, as implemented in 802.15.4a, has several inherent advantages over narrowband radio (including bluetooth and Wi-Fi) in its use for calculating location by time-difference of arrival (TDOA) or time-of-arrival (TOA) measurements. First, the transmission bursts of wideband radio are shorter, so their starts and stops can be measured more precisely. But more importantly, in real-world settings, where signals have interference, reflections, refractions, and often don't have line-of-sight, UWB signals will be more readable in the presence of distortions. This graph shows one example, when a reflected signal (shown in red) is received shortly after a primary signal (blue) is received.


This means that UWB signals are more likely to be received reliably when there are real-world distortions in signal reception. This is one of several ways in which 802.15.4a is designed for positioning. DecaWave's solution is not only highly accurate, but it reportedly delivers that accuracy 99.7% of the time, instead of the 80-90% reliability of many other systems.

It's interesting to note that even Cisco, one of the biggest proponents of Wi-Fi, has acknowledged that 802.15.4a is better than Wi-Fi for location positioning. In this patent application, a Cisco Principal Engineer wrote that "the existing waveforms... for... 802.11 communication protocols do not allow for highly accurate or easily calculated TOA or TDOA location computations... There are other types of waveforms that are better suited... Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) waveforms are known to be advantageous for TOA or TDOA... such as is defined as part of the IEEE 802.15.4a communications protocol."

In industrial settings, DecaWave's technology is typically deployed in receivers and tags. Receivers are radio beacons, at fixed locations, similar to Wi-Fi hotspots or cellphone antennas, that receive signals from tags and calculate the tags' locations. The tags are small devices that are attached to things that will be tracked. In hospitals, the tags might be attached to patient wristbands or to portable critical-care medical equipment. In office settings, tags might be attached to employee keycards, to office equipment like projectors, or to mail carts.

Once a DecaWave receiver is deployed, it can measure the precise distance between itself and each of thousands of tags that are in its vicinity.
Each of these distance measurements is accurate to 5-7 a few centimeters. When three or more receivers are deployed in the same area, they can combine their distance measurements to determine each tag's exact location to an accuracy of 10-15cm.

Of course, we've reported beacon-based indoor location positioning before, including a very high-accuracy system based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) from Quuppa. Other companies with custom BLE technology include SK Telecom and WiseSec (more soon on the company that developed the technology in SK Telecom's system), and companies that have added BLE beacons to their existing Wi-Fi or sensor fusion solutions include PoleStar, SenionLab, Insiteo and others. Most of these BLE-based systems have the advantage of running on today's smartphones and tablets, although Quuppa's highest-accuracy system is also waiting for chipset changes.

But industrial deployments are only the beginning. DecaWave is reportedly in talks with network and device makers about including their chips in Wi-Fi access points, smartphones, tablets and more. Just imagine your phone knowing not only that you're in the supermarket, and not only that you're in the snack section, but that you're standing in front of the Ruffles and not the Lays. If indoor location positioning with 10cm accuracy were available in a wide variety of indoor locations, what kinds of novel location-based applications would come next?

Broadcom licenses metro indoor technology from NextNav

Chip maker Broadcom just announced that they are licensing metropolitan indoor location technology from USA-based NextNav.

NextNav, one of over 50 companies developing technology for indoor location positioning, has developed unique technology for enabling indoor positioning in metropolitan and urban settings. Their radio beacons are deployed throughout cities, and their signals can penetrate buildings and enable indoor positioning in places that GPS can't reach. Because they are deploying their beacons throughout cities, they have much broader coverage than Wi-Fi or BLE based approaches. They offer positioning in 3 dimensions, including altitude.

The press releases indicate that Broadcom is buying a commercial license to NextNav's technology, enabling them to add support for NextNav beacons to their chips, but are not acquiring the company itself.

Broadcom already offers chips that support a wide variety of indoor location positioning technologies, including W-Fi, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy, and MEMS-based sensor fusion (inertial navigation). This picture is from a demo that Grizzly Analytics saw 7 months ago at the MWC conference - the black device on the wall in the upper right is a beacon that their device was using (along with MEMS sensors) to determine positioning on the map. But these beacons, using BLE or other technologies, only reach within a short radius, and cannot offer the city-wide coverage that NextNav is envisioning.

Will Broadcom chips soon offer support for NextNav's Metropolitan Beacon technology? Is this a vote of confidence in NextNav's deployment? Will NextNav's technology be deployed in enough cities for this to give Broadcom an edge? Only time will tell. But the indoor location arena is continuing to heat up, and develop in new and interesting directions.....