One of the most exciting new trends in consumer electronics is taking a page out of a mobile industry playbook: indoor location technologies.
GPS has transformed mobile applications, with wide varieties of apps incorporating location into social networking, store finding, media sharing, news, and much more. Newer technologies, most famously Bluetooth beacons, have started to enable location apps to determine locations indoors.
What does this have to do with consumer electronics?
The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) includes several innovative consumer electronics devices that use indoor location positioning technology to deliver incredible functionality to their users. Many of them are doing so using innovative chip-based indoor location technologies, delivering better accuracy than is available on mobile. As the products you can see at CES reach market, the new trend of location-aware electronics can transform how people use electronic devices, as surely as GPS has transformed mobile apps.
Below are a few location-aware electronics products that you can see at CES. Each one is cool, innovative and useful in their own right. But taken as a group, they show how big a trend location-aware electronics will be in 2016.
Skye Electronics, a Chinese start-up company, has developed a drone that will follow you as you move around and video you from the air. Their product includes tracking device armbands that are worn by the user being videoed, and which are followed by the drone. Rather than using GPS, which would limit their product to outdoor use and would introduce tracking errors of several meters, Skye Electronics uses indoor location technology to track the armbands precisely, anywhere.
Paris-based SevenHugs has developed a radically different kind of universal remote control. Everyone knows about universal remote controls, right? Lots of buttons that let you select which device you’re controlling? Wrong. SevenHugs’ neweset product lets you point the remote at whatever you want to control, and figures out by itself what you want to control, using indoor location technologies. The remote determines its own location, the location of the controllable things in the vicinity, and the orientation and direction in which it is being pointed, and can easily determine what to do based on how the remote is held. It even changes its display screen to fit the controls of the device being controlled. You can see the SevenHugs remote at CES in the Eureka Park at Sands Expo.
If you play sports, and want to do more than have a drone capture your video, ShotTracker might interest you. ShotTracker tracks all the action on a basketball court. Not only are the players tracked as they move around the court, but the ball itself is also tracked, so that coaches and players can see exactly what happened post-game. ShotTracker developed a ball with an integrated UWB chip in collaboration with Spalding, to ensure the highest quality with added location tracking technology. Their highly accurate location positioning is handled by chips from Dublin-based DecaWave. You can see the newest ShotTracker system in action at CES in the Fitness & Technology area.
A shopper assistant robot, from a Taiwanese company called XYZ Robot, moves around a store with customers, offering assistance and pushing their cart. The robot’s indoor location technology enables it to find its way around the store and also to stay alongside the customer. Their shopper assistant guides you to products on your shopping list, pushes your cart and offers you promotions. By delivering this indoor location functionality in a robot instead of a mobile app, Kinpo enables their device to achieve much more accurate indoor location positioning than can be achieved by smartphone apps.
There are more location-aware electronics to be seen at CES, and even more reaching market from innovative companies worldwide. One notable location-aware product not at CES is the robot camera from France-based Move ‘n See, which uses indoor location tracking to take videos of people as they move around a site.
All of these location-aware electronic products, and others, use indoor location positioning technology to incorporate location positioning into their products. This report analyzes indoor location solutions available in chip form, for incorporation into electronic devices such as those above. DecaWave, mentioned above, is one of the leaders in bringing chip-based location technologies to market, but there are many others with very strong technology as well.
The spread of indoor location technologies from mobile to chips is enabling electronic devices to become location-aware, and is ushering in a tidal wave of location-aware electronics that will change how we use the next generation of electronic devices.
Regardless of which of these products you want to own, the trend is clear: location aware electronics are reaching market. So keep your eyes out for location-aware electronic devices at CES, and keep on imagining how location-awareness can transform the other electronics in your life.