Robot Camera Foreshadows an Era of Location-Aware Electronics

A French company called Move 'N See produces a line of camera robots. Their devices act as a smart tripod, holding a video camera and automatically moving and zooming the camera as people of interest move around a site.

The idea is simple but amazingly innovative. Photo selfies are easy to take, but video selfies are next to impossible. How can I video myself playing football or doing gymnastics, without setting the camera so far back as to be useless? Do spectators want to spend an entire sporting event carefully videoing their friend or relative moving around the field?

Enter Move 'N See's "personal robot cameramen." Their devices aim, pan and zoom a video camera as one or more people move around an area. The people of interest wear armbands whose locations are tracked, enabling the camera controller to know where to aim the camera. The camera controller also includes enough smarts to adjust the camera smoothly and to capture multiple people evenly. The armbands also have buttons that give a certain level of control to the person being filmed.

In short, Move 'N See's products enable selfie action videos.

Move 'N See's first product, called E-FULLMOTION, was designed for use outside. E-FULLMOTION's armbands include GPS receivers to track their location and send location updates wirelessly to the camera controller. But E-FULLMOTION only works outside, where GPS reception is available. How could such a product be developed to work indoors?

Enter Move 'N See's second product, Pixio. Pixio uses indoor location technology, in the form of UWB chips from DecaWave, to track armband locations indoors. UWB enables the Pixio camera controller to know where the armbands are to within 10cm, in real-time. UWB also uses much less battery power than GPS, and provides a wireless communications channel to communicate when players press buttons on their armbands. At the end of this article you'll see a great video that Move 'N See made of Pixio in action.

Pixio looks like a great product - incorporating indoor location technology to do something important for people. The technology is great, but the product is about video, not about technology. Pixio can be used to film not only sports but performing arts, conferences, children at play, and much more.

EVEN MORE EXCITING is the trend that is foreshadowed by Pixio. Grizzly Analytics believes that 2016 will be the year of location-aware electronics. Indoor location technologies are available in chip form, with high accuracy and low power consumption, designed and packaged for easy integration into electronic products. These products can be cutting edge, such as home robots, drones, smart homes or Internet of Things devices, or they can be smarter versions of routine products like cameras.

A new report from Grizzly Analytics analyzes chip-based indoor location technologies from 19 companies, including 10 that are delivering chips or components that incorporate indoor location into electronic products and devices.

Pixio is not the first location-aware electronic product on the market. For example, there are numerous products on the market that enable you to find your keys and wallets. (Here's one that we saw a while back.) But only now is location technology entering general-use products such as cameras.

As location chips become easier and easier to integrate into electronics, the sky's the limit for products that can work smarter and better using location awareness. Grizzly Analytics believes that 2016 will be the year in which location-aware electronic products make a huge splash in the market.

So if you are in the electronics business, you might want to take a look at chip-based location technologies and consider how you can use them. If you're not in the electronics business, you still might want to keep your eye on location technologies and the changes they're bringing. They're not just for tech products anymore....

Finally, check out this video of Pixio in action....

New report on Chip-Based Indoor Location Positioning Technologies

Grizzly Analytics just released its latest report, on Chip-Based Indoor Location Positioning Technologies. This niche-area report analyzes tech from 19 companies.

Why is chip-based indoor location technology interesting? Aren't the algorithms the same as those implemented in software?

First, chip-based location tracking can be incorporated into electronic devices, such as Internet of Things devices, Wearables, Smart Home devices, robots, drones, toys, and more. These devices don't have mobile operating systems to run apps, but they can do incredibly cool things if they can track locations accurately. New chips profiled in this report are delivering location positioning in a way that can be implemented effectively in devices - accurate, low power, small chips, easy integration, and more.

Second, some of the chips profiled are next generations of chips already in the market, either GPS chips, Wi-Fi chips or sensor analysis chips. If previous generations of these chips are already incorporated in today's smartphones, then the new generations of these chips, with indoor positioning capabilities, are slated to be incorporated into 2016's smartphones. This means that the chips profiled here are poised to bring indoor location to smartphones, soon.

Third, chips can often perform indoor location positioning more effectively, closer to the sensors or radios, without waiting for application processors to get around to running an app. Many of the chips profiled have a refresh rate of hundreds of times per second, much better than smartphone software can usually do.

If you want to know more, check out the report, or contact us at for more information.

TCS acquires Loctronix

Indoor location technology start-up Loctronix has just announced that it is being acquired by TeleCommunication Systems (TCS).


Seattle-based Loctronix has developed a wide range of highly technical methods for location positioning. Their algorithms improve both motion sensing and radio-based location measurement. The company had previously been working to have its technology implemented in chips or device hardware, because of the level at which their algorithms operate, but this appears to be pivoting in light of their acquisition by TCS.

A partial list of their innovative technologies include:

  • DAIN: Doppler Aided Inertial Navigation, including sensor fusion motion sensing and step estimator
  • SCP: Spectral Compression Positioning
  • RSS: Radio Signal Strength Profiler
  • MEP: Mobile Explorer Platform

TCS is quietly a true leader in mobile location systems, with systems deployed on both feature phones and smartphones worldwide, primarily in conjunction with carriers, but most often white labeled under other brand names. For this reason, people outside of the industry often have not heard of TCS's name, even if they have used TCS systems.

Most of TCS's location technologies to date have relied on well-known algorithms running on cellular networks. Acquiring Loctronix will give them a boost in hard-core technologies for both their traditional areas of radio-based positioning and also motion sensing.

TCS is a big player in the growing area of E911, determining the location of mobile callers to emergency numbers. While this is less "sexy" an area than routing store customers to the products they want to buy, it's a critical piece of the evolving mobile infrastructure, and one that has significant resources behind it. E911 is also mandated by governments worldwide, so it's a market that's sure to grow.

Grizzly Analytics wishes good luck to Loctronix in their new corporate home, and also to Loctronix in absorbing and deploying the advanced technologies they're acquiring.

TCS's acquisition of Loctronix is the latest of several acquisitions of indoor location companies in 2015. ByteLight was acquired by Acuity, HP acquired Aruba reportedly with an eye on their indoor location technology, and ShopKick was acquired by SK Telecom at the end of 2014. The area is heating up and coming to the fore of mobile innovation!

See here for more on Grizzly Analytics coverage of over 150 indoor location companies.

Acuity shows VLC indoor location solution based on ByteLight acquisition

At the recent PLACE Conference in New York I had the pleasure of seeing a demo of Acuity's indoor location positioning based on LED light modulation. Acuity acquired ByteLight a few months ago, and Acuity's indoor location solution is now incorporating ByteLight's technology.

We've discussed LED modulation for indoor location positioning before (here and here), and Acuity is not the only company bringing it to market. But the demonstration that I saw was very impressive, and Acuity is a huge player in the lighting space. The fact that a huge lighting company is focusing heavily on indoor location shows how strong the interest is in this area.

LED modulation is a technique that enables every LED lightbulb to transmit a unique identifier by making tiny changes to the lightwaves they shine. These tiny lightwave modulations cannot be seen by the human eye, but can be detected and decoded by the camera on a smartphone or tablet. Software on the devices can detect which ID's are being transmitted by nearby lights and calculate how far away and at what angle each of the lights are. The devices then use a technique called triangulation (or multilateration) to calculate their own 3D position and orientation.

Acuity reports that their solution can give indoor location position to an accuracy of 5-10cm, with vertical accuracy of 20cm. which is as accurate as any other indoor solution running on smartphones, and more accurate than most. This solution joins the ranks of other indoor location solutions delivering sub-meter accuracy. The tradeoff of the LED modulation approach is that mobile device cameras use a lot of energy, resulting in battery drain.

In these pictures we see the Acuity booth and their location positioning demo. See the demo in action in the video below.

If you look closely in this picture (click on it to see it full-size), we see an artifact of the LED modulation. The horizontal lines across the light do not show in pictures taken of other lights, and are due to the LED modulation that signals this light's ID.

The biggest trade-off in this approach to indoor location, of course, is the requirement to replace a site's lights with Acuity's LED lights, and to equip them with the Acuity controller that carries out the LED modulation. Acuity and others are promoting their solution in terms of long-term savings on electricity and maintenance, but it is still a cost that must be considered. 

Acuity is not the only companies delivering VLC technology in LED lighting. GE Lighting and others are delivering similar solutions, and Qualcomm QTI is delivering related technology, and others are researching the area. But Acuity is a company devoted to lighting, and bottom line, their technology looks great.

One interesting aspect of Acuity's solution is that they are also using BLE beacons to track a device's location, albeit less accurately, when it is in the user's pocket. This enables their solution to deliver geofencing, and "waking up" when nearing a particular area and notifying the user of a reason to open up the device.

LED modulation for indoor location positioning has been the subject of R&D for years, and it's great to see it continuing to reach market! Learn more about VLC and other indoor location technologies in this comprehensive report.

Now check out the video of the Acuity demo.....

Indoor location technology achieving sub-meter accuracy

Indoor location positioning is currently one of the holy grails of the mobile technology world. With hundreds of millions of people using mobile-based GPS applications every day, the demand is clearly huge for location-aware mobile apps. There are over 150 companies developing indoor location technology, and a number of well-known technology approaches, but bottom line, it's still reaching market.

One of the key challenges in developing and deploying indoor location technology is clearly how accurate it is. Many indoor location systems, including those based on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals, are accurate only to within 5-8 meters. In many applications this is fine. If I want my phone to know what store or coffee shop I'm in, 5-8m accuracy is sufficient to distinguish Starbucks from JC Penny. But if I want my phone to know if I'm standing in front of the pretzels or the potato chips in the supermarket, I need better.

As a side point, GPS outdoors is only accurate to within 3.5 meters or more, at least in its mobile device form. But when you're driving with your favorite GPS app, the app will do what's called "snap to road" to make the location positioning appear a lot more accurate than it is. This is why, for example, if your planned route is to exit the highway, and you choose to stay on the highway instead, your phone will think you've taken the exit until your position on the highway is sufficiently far from the exit ramp. So when we talk about accuracy in indoor location technology being only 5 meters, this is roughly the same as GPS, it's just harder to fake (er, compensate) indoors.

A newly updated report from Grizzly Analytics analyzes technologies from 25 companies that achieve sub-meter accuracy, meaning that the location calculated by the system is within one meter of the actual location. A previous version of this report, from 7 months earlier, covered only 17 companies, so the number of companies achieving this high level of accuracy is going up as the technology in the area matures.

Only two of the systems profiled in this report use the "standard" indoor location approaches such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth/BLE and motion sensing. It's simply very hard to get systems based on these technologies down to one meter accuracy, because of inherent challenges in estimating distance based on radio signal strength. Besides the two companies that succeeded using these approaches, virtually all those achieving sub-meter accuracy used other approaches.

The biggest change between the previous report and the newly updated report is the number of technologies that are based on cameras. Some companies are comparing the scenes seen by a device's camera to a database of scenes around a venue to see which location best matches what the device is seeing. Other companies use the running video stream from a device camera to plot the device's movement by measuring the changes in the scene. Camera-based approaches to indoor location used to be esoteric, but they are now increasingly achieving good results.

Many new systems, particularly industrial approaches that track tags instead of tracking smartphones, are using UWB. Unlike Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, UWB radio is engineered to enable much more accurate location and distance measurement. UWB-based indoor location systems started to reach market at the end of 2013, and more and more are coming out each month.

Finally, many of the systems delivering sub-meter accuracy, particularly on smartphones, are using new and innovative approaches. Some use entirely new methods of measuring radio signals, while others use innovative and esoteric kinds of signals that can be measured on smartphones. These are true areas of innovation, which are exciting technically and are more and more delivering great results.

Again, there is more to indoor location than sub-meter accuracy. Some approaches target tracking smartphones passively, regardless of the accuracy. Some approaches target low infrastructure cost and effort, at the expense of accuracy. Some are designed to self-learn a new environment, to enable universal applicability. But for those who need high accuracy, there are more and more sub-meter accuracy systems reaching market.

Is the day coming soon where apps will help hundreds of millions of people get around malls, stores, exhibitions, museums, office complexes, and other sites, as they do outside now? For those applications requiring accuracy, we're getting closer every month.

PLACE Conference in New York City in June

Grizzly Analytics founder Bruce Krulwich will be speaking and moderating a technology panel at the PLACE Conference in New York City, on June 9. Contact us at for a discount code for $200 off the registration price, or to schedule a face-to-face meeting before or after the conference.

PLACE is the premier conference for indoor location technologies, particularly their use in retail.

See you there!

MTI's Indoor Location Positioning Based on Ultrasonic Sound at MWC 2015

Every year I love going to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Besides the hands-on time with new phone models and new technologies, I like to meet with people from all over the world, both in start-up companies and at major companies, that are developing innovative new technologies.

A year ago I reported seeing indoor location positioning technology from a company in Japan called MTI, based on an innovative approach using ultrasonic sound. In a nutshell, MTI deploys small speaker units that transmit ultrasonic sound signatures, that people can't hear but that can be received on a smartphone's microphone. Each speaker unit, acting as a beacon, transmits a unique signal. The MTI application on a smartphone will receive a collection of those signals, from all the speaker units within range, along with volume levels for each signal that indicates how far away the speaker unit is from the phone. Given a database of locations of the speaker units, MTI's system uses multilateration to estimate the location of the phone based on the signals from the speaker units and the known locations of those speaker units.

In 2014, MTI's technology was fairly raw, as can be seen on my video from then. One year later, at MWC 2015, MTI has a polished system that demonstrates indoor location position that is reliable (even in a very noisy environment such as MWC) and fairly accurate. Moreover, MTI has several deployments, and will soon be marketing worldwide. My video of MTI's technology is below.

MTI is a major company in Japan, but this indoor location solution was developed by a small 6 person team. Their progress from MWC 2014 to MWC 2015 is fantastic.

MTI is one of the first companies to bring ultrasonic based indoor location positioning to market, but they're not the only ones working on it. Ultrasonic is one of a dozen or so indoor location technologies, and MTI is one of over 150 companies, analyzed and profiled in the recently updated Grizzly Analytics report on Indoor Location Positioning Technologies. See the Grizzly Analytics blog for more technology from MWC and elsewhere.

Here's the video of MTI's technology at MWC 2015:

Will indoor location positioning reach a "tipping point" and spread through the market in 2015? Will everyone soon be using their phones to navigate around a mall as they now navigate around the countryside? Will Facebook and Twitter know which coffee shop you're checking into, instead of just knowing which shopping mall you're in? Indoor location positioning technologies, from MTI and over 150 other companies, are gaining more strength and market success every day.

Check back soon for more on indoor location technology and other mobile innovations. You can also follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Seeing Quuppa's indoor location technology at MWC 2015

I first met Fabio and Kimmo from Quuppa in 2012, before Quuppa existed, when they had spent years researching indoor location positioning technologies at Nokia Research Center. Less than a year after that they formed Quuppa, independent of Nokia, to bring their technology to market. At the time I called Quuppa "the newest and oldest in indoor location positioning."

Fast forward two and a half years. Their technology has reached market, it can now track both smartphones and BLE devices, and it's accurate to within 20-50cm. Before reading more about their technology, take a look at a video of their demo in action:

Grizzly Analytics has analyzed indoor location technologies by over 150 companies, and virtually all of the radio-based technologies operate by measuring the distance between the device being tracked and other radio devices, and using these distance measurements for either multilateration or fingerprinting. For example, the well known BLE beacons measure a device's proximity to a BLE beacon by measuring the signal strength of the signals between the beacons and the device being tracked, and using that signal strength to estimate distance. This is also how most Wi-Fi based systems work, using signal strengths as estimates for distance measurement. Some systems use more sophisticated approaches to measure distance more accurately than can be done using signal strength (such as most UWB-based systems and such as some chip-based approaches), but they're still measuring distances.

But Quuppa's system doesn't measure distance, it measures angles. Their unique locator beacons are able to measure the exact angles at which the signal from the BLE device reached the locator, and use those angles to locate the device accurately. One locator by itself can do a reasonable job of positioning, and two or more can achieve the accuracy they promise.

Until recently, Quuppa's technology could only track custom BLE tags and devices, because their technology requires slight changes to the BLE signals transmitted. But recently, the latest iPhone and Android devices enabled applications to access the Host Control Interface of their BLE chips. As long as an iPhone or smartphone running Android 5.0 or higher is running the Quuppa app, that app can transmit BLE signals in a way that can be tracked by the Quuppa locators.

As the video shows, their system can also track a wide variety of other BLE devices. These BLE devices also need a small software change to transmit signals in a manner that Quuppa locators can track. But any BLE devices that supports software changes of this sort can be Quuppa-enabled.

There's a lot more to say about Quuppa's technology, and more details reported in Grizzly Analytics reports. Bottom line, Quuppa's technology delivers accuracy around 20cm, with real-time response, and can track the latest smartphones and a wide variety of BLE devices.

The catch, of course, is that Quuppa's locators aren't as cheap as simple BLE beacons or existing Wi-Fi access points, so using their system isn't for the faint of heart. Quuppa says that the total cost of ownership over time will be comparable to other systems, but I think their system needs to be thought of as a high-end system for people who want great accuracy and response time, and are willing to pay for it.

Bottom line, Quuppa's innovative technology looks great.

Intel demos indoor location technology in new Wi-Fi chips at MWC 2015

Intel made several announcements at MWC 2015, including a new chipset for wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) in mobile devices. This new chipset, the 8270, include in-chip support for indoor location positioning. Below we explain their technology and show a video of it in action. With this announcement, Intel joins Broadcom, Qualcomm and other chip makers in moving broad indoor location positioning into mobile device hardware.

The transition of indoor location positioning into chips is a trend identified in the newest Grizzly Analytics report on Indoor Location Positioning Technologies, released the week before MWC 2015. By moving indoor location positioning from software into hardware, chips such as Intel's enable location positioning to run continuously and universally, without using device CPU, and with less power consumption.

Intel's technology delivers 1-3 meter accuracy, using a technique called multilateration, generating a new location estimate every second. While 1-3 meter accuracy is less accurate than some other technologies that deliver sub-meter accuracy, most systems with sub-meter accuracy require dedicated infrastructure or preparation on a site-by-site basis. Chip-based approaches like Intel's can work universally.

While many applications need sub-meter accuracy, universal and continuous technology can deliver indoor location positioning to a wide range of applications, including social networking, picture geotagging, friend-finding and location-sharing, location-based reminders, emergency call geolocation, and more.

Intel's chip uses standard protocols to access the locations of 802.11mc-compliant Wi-Fi access points in area, and uses 802.11mc's Fine Time Measurement to measure the distances between the device and each access point. Multilateration then gives the device's location, the place that is the specified distances from the various access points.

The video below shows their technology in action, moving around the Intel booth at MWC. It's important to remember that this technology demonstration is based only on Wi-Fi based positioning, and does not incorporate motion sensing or other complementary technologies. Presumably a production-ready system would incorporate sensor fusion motion sensing to deliver an even smoother and more accurate experience. Given that, this demo is even more impressive.

For more details on indoor location technologies from over 150 companies, see the latest Grizzly Analytics report on Indoor Location Positioning Technologies. For more on chip-based indoor location positioning, see a video of Broadcom's technology here and details of Qualcomm's chips here.

Here's the video of Intel's technology demo:

We're looking forward to having chip-based indoor location positioning of this sort in our next smartphones!

HP acquires Aruba, focus on indoor location tech

Wow. What does it mean when a giant company like HP acquires networking giant Aruba, and the 3rd paragraph of the Forbes article on the subject discusses indoor location technology:

With Aruba Networks contributing roughly $800 million to $1 billion in wireless revenue, the acquisition would only a small increase to the new HP Enterprise company’s revenue base. However, it would bolster HPs overall networking market share and provide a newer platform to support the best wave of mobility services. Aruba made several important acquisitions over the past two years that has positioned the company to support the future of WLAN growth. It acquired Meridian in 2013.  Meridian uses Wi-Fi triangulation to determine location indoors where GPS signals can’t penetrate  but also offers tools to build apps for businesses that want location-awareness as part of their mobile offering... This market is different from simply delivering connectivity. It delivers indoor location services and supports contextual identity based on the person, the device, the location and the type of traffic.
Indoor location technology is clearly on the radar screen of giants, as much as Aruba's $1B in revenue and their huge market share.

You can read more about Meridian's indoor location technology here, and about Aruba's acquisition of Meridian here. Aruba has added new beacon technology to the Meridian base since those articles were written. Interestingly, HP themselves revealed some R&D recently on network-based indoor location technology. Details of the latest technology from Aruba, Meridian and HP is profiled in the recently updated report on indoor location technology.

Looks like indoor location technology is gaining in significance every day!

Newly updated report on Indoor Location Positioning Technology

Indoor Location Positioning Technology:
Research, Solutions and Trends
The indoor location area continues to explode. Mobile applications are reaching market that deliver the accuracy and reliability that users want. Chips are being made for next-generation smartphones and mobile devices that promise to bring universal indoor location positioning to the mass market. Proximity systems are changing how retail establishments understand and interact with their customers. New chips are poised to bring indoor location positioning to new Internet of Things and Smart Home devices and appliances. And new technologies are changing the capabilities, accuracy, and reliability of indoor location systems.

This newly updated report is the fifth in a series of reports on indoor location technologies. In past years, the biggest changes have been technological, in terms of approaches taken and how they were implemented. In this year's report, the biggest changes have been much more practical, in terms of achieving the accuracy that the market requires, integrating into back-end systems for retail and other industries, implementing in chips that bring the technology to mobile devices or next-generation appliances, and reducing the amount of work needed to deploy technology at particular sites.

This report details research and development from over 150 companies in the indoor location area.

You can learn more about this newly updated report, with a link to buy it, here:

When will Smart Homes get Smarter?

Also published on LinkedIn:

It’s a scant few weeks since a wide variety of visions of #BigIdeas2015 - big ideas for 2015 - were making the rounds, including my own vision of universal indoor location. One area that I didn’t see in any of the #BigIdeas2015 articles is Smart Homes, despite their getting a lot of attention at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and other venues. With so many companies working on Smart Homes, why isn’t it a big idea for this year?

I suggest that there needs to be more to Smart Homes than connected appliances. The original concept of Smart Homes involved homes that would adjust themselves automatically as people walked around.

The concept of smart homes was discussed almost 20 years ago, before the smartphone era, when Bill Gates made his famous home that customized itself to where people were in the house. Digital picture frames displayed different paintings depending on who was viewing them, and other controllers adjusted room temperature, music and lighting to fit the preferences of people in the room.

Since then, of course, we’ve gone through the mobile revolution. Computing in our pockets, and computing the reacts to our locations, is no longer innovative. Today’s visions of smart homes are tied to mobile. This makes sense - if we take out our smartphones to communicate, search for information, purchase things, read, watch TV, and much more, why shouldn’t we also take out our smartphones to check if our laundry is finished, turn up the heat, start the coffee maker, and other real-world actions? And if our smartphones notify of us messages, news, nearby events, and a whole lot more personalized things that matter to us, why shouldn’t they notify us when our laundry is finished, when the wine is chilled, when there’s a fire in our house, when there’s a leak in the basement, or anything else we need to know?

Most of the major electronics vendors have recently released updated visions of a smart home that connect smart home to our smartphones. Google acquired Nest, and is expanding their product line from connected thermostats into connected fire alarms and more. Samsung has released their vision of a smart home based on smart appliances that communicate with the user and with each other. Apple has patented technology that tracks users as they move around a house and controls lighting, security systems, garage-door openers, music, thermostats and kitchen appliances, all based on the locations and preferences of people in the house. Microsoft is researching a vision that combines appliance connectivity, sensors and automation based on peoples location. These are only three of the many smart home visions released by major technology vendors.

But if we compare the products and platforms that are coming to market to the early visions of Smart Homes, we see a glaring omission: The appliances and systems are no longer acting automatically and intelligently as people walk around the house. The location-based automation has been replaced by mobile interactivity and preferences.

The technology is in place to show a message on my television screen when my laundry is done, but not to show the message on the particular TV that the laundry-doer happens to be watching. The technology is in place to blink the room lights when I get an e-mail, but not to know which room I’m in so that the right room’s lights are blinked for me. The technology is in place to adjust the thermostat based on my mobile, but not to do so automatically based on who is in each room at that moment.

Most of today’s indoor location tracking technologies, including Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi based location tracking on smartphones, is accurate to within five to eight meters. With mobile devices computing hard, this can be reduced to three meters, but very few systems have achieved better. In many applications this is sufficient, such as in a shopping mall where the goal is to know whether a customer is nearer to the Starbucks or the McDonalds. But in a smart home, this will not be accurate enough to deliver the experience that people envision.

If you want a digital picture frame to show an image based on the profiles of the people looking at it, then the technology needs to distinguish people standing near the picture from people standing elsewhere in the room. If you want the lighting and temperature of a room to be customized for those in the room, the technology needs to distinguish who’s in the room and who’s three meters away in the room next door.

More importantly, if you want your coffee machine to know who’s standing next to it, you need to be able to distinguish the person standing by the coffee machine from the person standing by the sink a few meters away. If you want your TV or picture frame to display notifications for the person looking at it, you need to be able to distinguish who’s looking at the picture frame from who’s standing a few meters away.

Bottom line, in a smart home, location accuracy matters.

Another concern with today’s location technologies is speed of update. Many people deploying beacon systems in stores and malls are finding that the technology only reacts to a person’s proximity after a delay of up to twenty seconds. Will a house feel smart if it only adjusts itself twenty seconds after people walk from room to room?

Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a new wireless technology that delivers much more accurate location tracking than is possible with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. UWB can track location to within five or ten centimeters, much more accurate than the three to eight meter accuracy of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. And UWB reacts almost instantly.

Ireland-based DecaWave has recently released a single chip implementation of UWB that delivers five to ten centimeter accuracy instantly. As this video and this video both show, DecaWave’s UWB chip can track the location of a person walking around, precisely and quickly. There are other companies developing UWB technology as well, some focusing on mobile devices and some bringing their own industrial products to market, but DecaWave is focusing on getting their chip into Smart Home and Internet of Things products.

There are also a small number of other indoor location systems achieving sub-meter accuracy, taking a variety of technology approaches. But most of these are designed around mobile usage or dedicated location-tracking devices, and are less amenable to chip-based implementation in home appliances and low-power devices.

Whatever your own vision of a smart home includes, knowing where people are in the house needs to be accurate and up to date. With cutting-edge location technology, giving the ability to react automatically to people as they walk around, appliances, lights and thermostats, and other elements of a smart home can truly be smart.

Location Poised to go Universal in 2015

This article was written as part of a series of articles on LinkedIn, on Big Ideas for 2015. You're invited to share and comment either on LinkedIn or here.
We've gotten so used to GPS on our smartphones - to being able to find any location and how to get there, to having real-time traffic reports and directions, to having pictures geotagged, and more - that we take it for granted. The location transformation feels complete. But GPS does not work indoors, and tends to drain smartphone batteries.
I think the biggest change in 2015 #BigIdeas2015 is that the location transformation will be universal. Location will work everywhere. Most importantly, once it works everywhere, it can work for us, instead of our having to work for it.
This is the key thing about location. When it only works outside, and when it takes a lot of battery and CPU, it's not really always available. It's available when we ask for it, when we run an app or invoke a phone feature that uses it. But it's not yet always there.
Imagine, though, if your phone knew where you were every second of the day, without killing your CPU or battery. Then you could be reminded as you approach a particular store in the mall that you want to buy something there, or can be told as you walk through a museum that a good friend of yours is one room over. Your phone can switch to vibrate when you enter a meeting room or theater, tag your Facebook posts with the name of the coffee shop your sitting in and not the one down the hall, remember where you parked in the underground parking lot, remind you to pick up some pages as you walk by the printer, remind you to call your wife as you leave the office, and much more. 
In short, until now location was about maps. In 2015 it will be about apps.
And after 2015 makes location universal on our phones, 2016 will make location universal in our other things as well. Not only will our phones know where we are, so will our door locks and vacuum cleaners, so will our TVs and entertainment systems, so will our lights and air conditioners, and so will hundreds of other things around our homes, offices and public areas. And our phones will know where our keychains, wallets, and other losable things are. Yes, it's a bit big brother-ish. Or a lot. So maybe it won't happen in public spaces. But in our homes, having our air conditioners and lights know where we are, and having our phones know where our keychains and wallets are, is just over the horizon.
There are hundreds of companies developing the technologies that will make location universal. And there are many different technologies that need to come together to make it happen. They're on the way.
A new technology called SLAM is working to enable location to work anywhere, without preparing a site or installing infrastructure. A radio technology called UWB is moving precise location into things all around us. Several new technologies are giving indoor location systems higher accuracy than ever before. And chip companies are adding indoor location tracking to chips in our phones, reducing CPU load and battery drain. And others are working on innovative ways to make indoor location universal.
At the dawn of 2015, we're standing on the cusp of the indoor location transformation, where location goes universal. Is there any mobile app or service, any day-to-day activities that we do on our phones or computers, or any routine activity that we do around our homes, offices, shopping centers or stores, that will not be effected?

PLACE Conference London and Qualcomm's LED-Based Location Technology

It was great attending and presenting at the PLACE London conference last week on November 17. Many technology vendors in the indoor location space, mostly start-ups but larger companies as well, were in attendance, and many large retail companies were there as well. It was the perfect audience to discuss indoor location technology and its impact on retail.

My panel on sensor technologies included representatives from CSR (recently acquired by Qualcomm), Meridian (a subsidiary of Aruba networks) and Pole Star, all companies bringing indoor location technology to market. Other companies presenting at the conference included IndoorAtlas, Qualcomm, Aisle411, LocalSocial, RetailNext, ShopperTrak and Indoorz. Big thanks go to the team from Opus Research for a great job in organizing the conference.

Of course, these dozen companies are only a few of the more than 100 companies in the indoor location area. But it was a great cross-sample of the market.

Several companies were talking about their SLAM-related technology, which enables indoor location technology to work in a new site without extensive customization. Grizzly Analytics has identified SLAM technology as one of the big new technologies that's poised to revolutionize indoor location systems.

One of the surprises, for me, was seeing a demo of a great technology from Qualcomm Technologies (QTI), which does indoor location positioning based on special LED lights. In their system, the LED lights use modulation to send signals that identify each light bulb and its location. Phones that sense the light, using their cameras, can combine (multilaterate) the signals from multiple nearby lights to determine where they are.

We've written before about indoor location systems based on modulated light. A start-up called ByteLight is bringing related technology to market, and a start-up called i2Cat is doing similar things using a phone's ambient light sensor. And others are working on lighting with built in wireless technology, that can also do location positioning. But Qualcomm has a great looking product, with fast and precise positioning, succeeding particularly well at combining the signals from multiple lights to get a very precise location fix. And Qualcomm has the corporate muscle to bring it to market.

Qualcomm reports that their system can track a phone's location to within 10cm in 3D. This puts Qualcomm's technology in an elite group of systems that delivers sub-meter indoor location accuracy, as well as being one of only a few technologies that is accurate in the 3rd dimension (height) as well.

Of course, the infrastructure cost of installing custom lighting is higher than that of BLE beacons. And using the phone's camera to track location will use more battery than many other approaches. But Qualcomm says they're solving the battery problem by intelligently turning their tracking system off and on. They are currently bringing this technology to market in partnership with Accuity Brands lighting, who already delivers lighting to many large retailers. For sites wanting high accuracy that works on a wide variety of smartphones, Accuity's product based on Qualcomm's technology is a very strong contender.

Of course, Qualcomm's technology was only one of a dozen discussed at the PLACE Conference, and each technology has its benefits and tradeoffs. If you're interested in staying on top of indoor location, you should definitely attend a future PLACE Conference. And see the Grizzly Analytics reports on sub-meter accuracy indoor location and on self-learning SLAM technologies to learn about more cutting edge technologies.