Skip to main content

Innovative indoor location technologies based on sound and light - from MWC 2014

Going through my pictures and videos from MWC 2014, there are two innovative indoor location positioning technologies that I haven't written about. Both are still at an early stage, and it's not yet clear how they will compete or integrate with indoor location technology already developed by the more than 130 companies in the area. But bottom line, it's great to see new innovative approaches continue to be researched.

The first is from MTI, in Tokyo, who has developed location positioning technology based on inaudible sound waves. Their beacons emit sonic waves at around 20kHz, which people cannot hear but phone microphones can pick up. Smartphones used the sound waves they "hear" to trilaterate their positions. The key point is that they can do so without using any radio technology, using only their microphones.

As you can see in the video below, their system enables smartphones to track their location with high precision. This video was taken in a very crowded and noisy conference with lots of technology all around. Many indoor location systems, especially those based on Wi-Fi signals, were having trouble at the conference. MTI had a lot of beacons set up in their booth, one beacon every few meters as shown, but in general use they say that beacons are needs for every 10 square meters, and can be optimized further based on height and sound level.

Bottom line, their technology uses an esoteric and innovative approach to deliver sub-meter location accuracy, using smartphone microphones.

The second technology, from i2Cat in Barcelona, uses modified LED lights that encode their locations into the light that they emit. By analyzing the light waves and decoding the signals, smartphones can determine which light they're nearest. While this won't give sub-meter accuracy, it will very easily position as accurate as the distance between lights, which is enough for many applications.

i2Cat is not the first to offer location positioning based on modulated light - the best known company in this area is ByteLight, and at least three major mobile companies have researched it. i2Cat's innovation is that the light signals are sensed and decoded using the smartphone's ambient light sensor, not the camera. The ambient light sensor is how your phone makes the screen brighter in the sunlight and dimmer (to save battery) in the dark. Using the ambient light sensor uses much less battery power than using the camera, and enables i2Cat's technology to effectively and efficiently recognize and decode the location signals. Ambient light sensors can't decode as high a data rate as a camera can, but are sufficient for decoding an ID tag for each light. The company is still testing their technology on ambient light sensors of a variety of phones - it runs now on several Samsung Galaxy devices.

As the indoor location technology area continues to develop, it's great to see new technologies still being innovated. How they will fit into the broader ecosystem of location technologies remains to be seen.

Here is the video of MTI's sonic wave positioning system:

And here is the video of i2Cat's LED based positioning system:

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

Ultra-Wideband Poised to Enter Smartphones

Recent years have seen a constant increase in the speed at which software innovations reach market. One day’s new concept can be the next day’s innovative mobile application, the following day’s ten competing mobile applications, and the day after that’s built-in phone feature.
In hardware, however, innovation tends to go slower. Addition of new hardware chips or components to smartphones, for example, are a constant worry for smartphone manufacturers, who need to be 100% certain that the new innovation won’t in some way hurt the other functions and components of the phone.
Does adding a new chip affect in any way the electrical signals between the other chips? Does a new wireless component affect the radio waves of the core phone or wireless components? Do signals to or from a new antenna hurt the performance of other antennas in the device?
Early cellphones and smartphones often had concerns of this sort. Some early smartphones did not include vibrate-mode because the shaking int…

33 Indoor Location Technologies at Mobile World Congress 2017

The number of companies exhibiting indoor location technologies at the 2017 Mobile World Congress (MWC) skyrocketed to 33!

Before MWC started, we released our Guide to Indoor Location at MWC, with 23 companies:

During the conference we notified our guide recipients of 10 other indoor location exhibitors that we saw. (Sign up here to receive our guide and to be on our mailing list for next year's MWC.)

This is many more indoor location related exhibits that previous years. The area is growing by leaps and bounds! Our recent report on indoor location technologies analyzed and profiled almost 200 companies!

Here are some videos, so you can see the technologies in action, followed by a list of the other indoor location companies that were at MWC.

First up is Philips Lighting, with high-accuracy indoor location positioning based on LED light modulation and visible light communication (VLC) technology:

Next comes Estimote, makers of Bluetooth (BLE) beacons, who introduced self-mapping b…