Category Archives: Internet of Things

How Zigbee Pro Makes Life Easier for IoT Developers

The IoT has proliferated our everyday lives in a growing variety of ways. In 2021, there were more than 10 billion active IoT devices. That number is expected to grow past 25.4 billion by 2030. IoT solutions will generate $4-11 trillion in economic value by 2025.

Hundreds of manufacturers create IoT devices of all varieties—interoperability is necessity. In order to facilitate this, IoT developers generally adhere to a communications protocol known as Zigbee Pro.

WHAT IS ZIGBEE PRO?

 

Zigbee Pro is a low power, low data rate Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) protocol which streamlines device connections. The goal of the protocol is to deliver a single communications standard that simplifies the nauseating array of proprietary APIs and wireless technologies used by IoT manufacturers.

Zigbee Pro is the latest in a line of protocols. The certification process is facilitated by the Zigbee Alliance—now commonly known as the Connectivity Standards Alliance—which formed in 2002. The Connectivity Standards developed the first version of Zigbee in 2004 and gradually rolled out improved versions until the most current version in 2014.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Zigbee is composed of a number of layers that form a protocol stack. Each layer contributes functionality to the ones below it, making it easier for developers to deploy these functions without explicitly having to write them. The layers include a radio communication layer based on the IEEE standard 802.15.4, a network layer (Zigbee Pro), the application layer known as Dotdot, and the certification layer which is compliant with the Connectivity Standards Alliance.

One of the focuses of the Zigbee standard is to deliver low-power requirements. Battery powered devices must have a 2 year battery life in order to be certified.

ZIGBEE DEVICES

Mesh networking enables Zigbee networks to operate consistently across WiFi and Bluetooth. Each device on the network becomes a repeater, which ensures that losing one device won’t affect the other devices in the mesh.

There are three classes of Zigbee devices:

Zigbee Coordinator – The coordinator forms the root of the network tree, storing information about the network and functioning as a repository for security keys. This is generally the hub, bridge, or smart home controller—such as the app from which you control your smart home.

Zigbee Router – The router can run application functions as well as act as an intermediate router to pass data on to other devices. The router is generally a typical IoT device, such as a powered lightbulb.

Zigbee End Device – This is the simplest type of device—requiring the least power and memory to perform the most basic functions. It cannot relay data and its simplicity enables it to be asleep the majority of the time. An example of an end device would be a smart switch or a sensor that only sends a notification when a specific event occurs.

The Zigbee Pro protocol has become the gold standard for IoT developers. Many commercial IoT apps and smart home controllers function under the Zigbee Pro protocol. Examples include: Samsung SmartThings Hub, Amazon Echo, and the Philips Hue Bridge.

How the Internet of Behaviors Will Shape the Future of Digital Marketing

In the digital age, businesses need to leverage every possible platform and cutting-edge technology in order to get a leg up on the competition. We’ve covered the Internet of Things extensively on the Mystic Media blog, but a new and related tech trend is making waves. This trend is called the Internet of Behaviors and according to Gartner, about 40% of people will have their behavior tracked by the IoB globally by 2023.

WHAT IS THE IOB?

Internet of Behavior, or the IoB, exists at the intersection of technology, data analytics, and behavioral science. The IoB leverages data collected from a variety of sources, including online activities, social media, wearable devices, commercial transactions and IoT devices, in order to deliver insights related to consumers and purchasing behavior.

With devices more interconnected than ever, the IoB tracks, gathers, combines and interprets massive data sets so that businesses can better understand their consumers. Businesses leverage analysis from the IoB to offer more personalized marketing with the goal of influencing consumer decision making.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Traditionally, a car insurance company would analyze a customer’s driving history in order to determine if they are a good or bad driver. However, in today’s digital age, they might take it a step further and analyze social media profiles in order to “predict” whether a customer is a safe driver. Imagine what insights they could gather from a user’s Google search history or Amazon purchases? Access to large datasets enables large companies to create psychographic profiles and gather an enhanced understanding of their customer base.

Businesses can use the IoB for more than just purchasing decisions. UX designers can leverage insights to deliver more effective customer experiences. Large companies such as Ford are designing autonomous vehicles that change based on the city, modulating behavior based on vehicle traffic, pedestrians, bicycles and more.

GBKSOFT created a mobile application that collects data from wearable devices in order to help golfers improve their skills. The application records each golf ball hit, including the stroke, force, trajectory and angle, and delivers visual recommendations to improve their swing and technique. Insights gathered through data are translated into behavioral trends that are then converted into recommendations to improve the user’s game.

The IoB is all about collecting data that can be translated into behavior which helps companies understand consumer tendencies and translate them into meaningful actions.

CONCERNS

While there is quite a bit of enthusiasm surrounding the potential impact of the IoB for B2C companies, a number of legal concerns come with it. A New York Times article, written by Harvard Business School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff, warns of the age of surveillance capitalism where tech behemoths surveil humans with the intent to control their behavior.

Due to the speed at which technology and the ability to collect data has proliferated, privacy and data security are under-regulated and major concerns for consumers. For example, Facebook was applying facial recognition scans in advance of the 2016 election without user’s consent. Cambridge Analytica’s use of psychoanalytic profiles has been the subject of much derision. Momentum for data privacy regulation is growing and since the IoB hinges on the ability for companies to collect and market data, forthcoming regulations could inhibit its impact.

CONCLUSION

Despite regulatory concerns, the IoB is a sector that we expect to see grow over time. As the IoT generates big data and AI evolves to learn how to parse through and analyze it, it’s only natural that companies will take the next step to leverage analysis to enhance their understanding of their customers’ behaviors and use it to their advantage. The IoB is where that next step will take place.

How Bluetooth Became the Gold Standard of Wireless Audio Technology

Bluetooth technology has established itself over the years as the premiere wireless audio technology and a staple of every smartphone user’s daily mobile experience. From wireless headphones, to speakers, to keyboards, gaming controllers, IoT devices, and instant hotspots—Bluetooth is used for a growing variety of functions every year.

While Bluetooth is now a household name, the path to popularity was built over the course of over 20 years.

CONCEPTION

In 1994, Dr. Jaap Haartsen—an electrical engineer working for Ericsson’s Mobile Terminal Division in Lund—was tasked with creating an indoor wireless communication system for short-range radio connections. He ultimately created the Bluetooth protocol. Named after the renowned Viking king who united Denmark and Norway in 958 AD, the Bluetooth protocol was designed to replace RS-232 telecommunication cables using short range UHF radio waves between 2.4 and 2.485 GHz.

In 1998, he helped create the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, driving the standardization of the Bluetooth radio interface and obtaining worldwide regulatory approval for Bluetooth technology. To this day, Bluetooth SIG publishes and promotes the Bluetooth standard as well as revisions.

BLUETOOTH REACHES CONSUMERS

In 1999, Ericsson introduced the first major Bluetooth product for consumers in the form of a hands-free mobile headset. The headset won the “Best of Show Technology” award at COMDEX and was equipped with Bluetooth 1.0.

Each iteration of Bluetooth has three main distinguishing factors:

  • Range
  • Data speed
  • Power consumption

The strength of these factors is determined by both the modulation scheme and data packet employed. As you might imagine, Bluetooth 1.0 was far slower than the Bluetooth we’ve become accustomed to in 2021. Data speeds capped at 1Mbps with a range up to 10 meters. While we use Bluetooth to listen to audio on a regular basis today, it was hardly equipped to handle music and primarily designed for wireless voice calls.

THE BLUETOOTH EVOLUTION

The Bluetooth we currently enjoy in 2021 is version 5. Over the years, Bluetooth’s range, data speed, and power consumption have increased dramatically.

In 2004, Bluetooth 2.0 focused on enhancing the data rate, pushing from 0.7Mbps in version 1 to 1-3Mbps while increasing range from 10m to 30m. Bluetooth 3.0 increased speeds in 2009, allowing up to 24Mbps.

In 2011, Bluetooth 4.0 introduced a major innovation in BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). BLE is an alternate Bluetooth segment designed for very low power operation. It enables major flexibility to build products that meet the unique connectivity requirements of their market. BLE is tailored toward burst-like communications, remaining in sleep mode before and after the connection initiates. The decreased power consumption takes IoT devices like industrial monitoring sensors, blood pressure monitoring, and Fitbit devices to the next level. These devices can employ BLE to run at 1Mbps at very low power consumption rates. In addition to lowering the power consumption, Bluetooth 4.0 doubles the typical maximum range from 30m in Bluetooth 3.0 to 60m.

BLUETOOTH 5

Bluetooth 5 is the latest version of the technology. Bluetooth 5 doubles the bandwidth by doubling the speed of transmission. In addition, it quadruples the typical max range, bringing it up to 240m. Bluetooth 5 also introduces Bluetooth Low Energy audio, which enables one device to share audio with multiple other devices.

CONCLUSION

Bluetooth is a game-changing technology which stands to revolutionize more than just audio. IoT devices, health tech, and more stand to improve as the Bluetooth SIG continues to upgrade the protocol. After thirty years of improvement, the possibilities remain vast for savvy developers to take advantage of the latest Bluetooth protocols to build futuristic wireless technologies.

Cloud-Powered Microdroid Expands Possibilities for Android App Developers

Android developers have a lot to look forward to in 2021, 2022, and beyond. Blockchain may decentralize how Android apps are developed, Flutter will see increased adoption for cross-platform development, and we expect big strides in AR and VR for the platform. Among the top trends in Android development, one potential innovation has caught the attention of savvy app developers: Microdroid.

Android developers and blogs were astir earlier this year when Google engineer Jiyong Park announced via the Android Open Source Project that they are working on a new, minimal Android-based Linux image called Microdroid.

Details about the project are scant, but it’s widely believed that Microdroid will essentially be a lighter version of the Android system image designed to function on virtual machines. Google is preparing for a world in which even smartphone OS’s require a stripped-down version that can be run through the cloud.

Working from a truncated Linux, Microdroid will pull the system image from the device (tablet or phone), creating a simulated environment accessible from any remote device. It has the ability to enable a world in which users can access Google Play and any Android app using any device.

What does this mean for developers?

Microdroid will open up new possibilities for Android apps in embedded and IoT spaces which require potentially automated management and a contained virtual machine which can mitigate security risks. Cloud gaming, cloud computing—even smartphones with all features stored in the cloudare possible. Although we will have to wait and see what big plans Google has for Microdroid and how Android developers capitalize on it, at this juncture, it’s looking like the shift to the cloud may entail major changes in how we interact with our devices. App developers are keen to keep their eyes and heads in the cloud.

Although no timeline for release has been revealed yet, we expect more on Microdroid with the announcement of Android 12.

LiDAR: The Next Revolutionary Technology and What You Need to Know

In an era of rapid technological growth, certain technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things, have received mass adoption and become household names. One up-and-coming technology that has the potential to reach that level of adoption is LiDAR.

WHAT IS LIDAR?

LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, is a popular remote sensing method for measuring the exact distance of an object on the earth’s surface. Initially used in the 1960s, LiDAR has gradually received increasing adoption, particularly after the creation of GPS in the 1980s. It became a common technology for deriving precise geospatial measurements.

LiDAR requires three components: the scanner, laser, and GPS receiver. The scanner sends a pulsed laser to the GPS receiver to calculate an object’s variable distances from the earth surface. The laser emits light which travels to the ground and reflects off things like buildings, tree branches and more. The reflected light energy then returns to the LiDAR sensor where the associated information is recorded. In combination with photodetector and optics, it allows for an ultra-precise distance detection and topographical data.

WHY IS LIDAR IMPORTANT?

As we covered in our rundown of the iPhone 12, new iOS devices come equipped with a brand new LiDAR scanner. LiDAR now enters the hands of consumers who have Apple’s new generation of devices, enabling enhanced functionality and major opportunities for app developers. The proliferation of LiDAR signals toward the technology finding mass adoption and household name status.

There are two different types of LiDAR systems: Terrestrial and Airborne. Airborne LiDAR are installed on drones or helicopters for deriving an exact measurement of distance, while Terrestrial LiDAR systems are installed on moving vehicles to collect pinpoints. Terrestrial LiDAR systems are often used to monitor highways and have been employed by autonomous cars for years, while airborne LiDAR are commonly used in environmental applications and gathering topographical data.

With the future in mind, here are the top LiDAR trends to look out for moving forward:

SUPERCHARGING APPLE DEVICES

LiDAR enhances the camera on Apple devices significantly. Auto-focus is quicker and more effective on those devices. Moreover, it supercharges AR applications by greatly enhancing the speed and quality of a camera’s ability to track the location of people as well as place objects.

One of the major apps that received a functionality boost from LiDAR is Apple’s free Measure app, which can measure distance, dimensions, and even whether an object is level. The measurements determined by the app are significantly more accurate with the new LiDAR scanner, capable of replacing physical rulers, tape measures, and spirit levels.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI application is designed for the visually impaired to navigate their environment, however, LiDAR takes it to the next level. In conjunction with artificial intelligence, LiDAR enables the application to read text, identify products and colors, and describe people, scenes, and objects that appear in the viewfinder.

BIG INVESTMENTS BY AUTOMOTIVE COMPANIES

LiDAR plays a major role in autonomous vehicles, relying on a terrestrial LiDAR system to help them self-navigate. In 2018, reports suggest that the automotive segment acquired a business share of 90 percent. With self-driving cars inching toward mass adoption, expect to see major investments in LiDAR by automotive companies in 2021 and beyond.

As automotive companies look to make major investments in LiDAR, including Volkswagen’s recent investment in Aeva, many LiDAR companies are competing to create the go-to LiDAR system for automotive companies. Check out this great article by Wired detailing the potential for this bubble to burst.

LIDAR DRIVING ENVIRONMENTAL APPLICATIONS

Beyond commercial applications and the automotive industry, LiDAR is gradually seeing increased adoption for geoscience applications. The environmental segment of the LiDAR market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 32% through 2025. LiDAR is vital to geoscience applications for creating accurate and high-quality 3D data to study ecosystems of various wildlife species.

One of the main environmental uses of LiDAR is for soliciting topographic information on landscapes. Topographic LiDAR is expected to see a growth rate of over 25% over the coming years. These systems can see through forest canopy to produce accurate 3D models of landscapes necessary to create contours, digital terrain models, digital surface models and more.

CONCLUSION

In March 2020, after the first LiDAR scanner became available in the iPad Pro, The Verge put it perfectly when they said that the new LiDAR sensor is an AR hardware solution in search of software. While LiDAR has gradually found increasing usage, it is still a powerful new technology with burgeoning commercial usage. Enterprising app developers are looking for new ways to use it to empower consumers and businesses alike.

For supplementary viewing on the inner workings of the technology, check out this great introduction below, courtesy of Neon Science.

How AI Fuels a Game-Changing Technology in Geospatial 2.0

Geospatial technology describes a broad range of modern tools which enable the geographic mapping and analysis of Earth and human societies. Since the 19th century, geospatial technology has evolved as aerial photography and eventually satellite imaging revolutionized cartography and mapmaking.

Contemporary society now employs geospatial technology in a vast array of applications, from commercial satellite imaging, to GPS, to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Internet Mapping Technologies like Google Earth. The geospatial analytics market is currently valued between $35 and $40 billion with the market projected to hit $86 billion by 2023.

GEOSPATIAL 1.0 VS. 2.0

geospatial

Geospatial technology has been in phase 1.0 for centuries; however, the boon of artificial intelligence and the IoT has made Geospatial 2.0 a reality. Geospatial 1.0 offers valuable information for analysts to view, analyze, and download geospatial data streams. Geospatial 2.0 takes it to the next level–harnessing artificial intelligence to not only collect data, but to process, model, analyze and make decisions based on the analysis.

When empowered by artificial intelligence, geospatial 2.0 technology has the potential to revolutionize a number of verticals. Savvy application developers and government agencies in particular have rushed to the forefront of creating cutting edge solutions with the technology.

PLATFORM AS A SERVICE (PaaS) SOLUTIONS

Effective geospatial 2.0 solutions require a deep vertical-specific knowledge of client needs, which has lagged behind the technical capabilities of the platform. The bulk of currently available geospatial 2.0 technologies are offered as “one-size-fits-all” Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions. The challenge for PaaS providers is that they need to serve a wide collection of use cases, harmonizing data from multiple sensors together while enabling users to simply understand and address the many different insights which can be gleaned from the data.

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In precision agriculture, FarmShots offers precise, frequent imagery to farmers along with meaningful analysis of field variability, damage extent, and the effects of applications through time.

Mayday

In the disaster management field, Mayday offers a centralized artificial intelligence platform with real-time disaster information. Another geospatial 2.0 application Cloud to Street uses a mix of AI and satellites to track floods in near real-time, offering extremely valuable information to both insurance companies and municipalities.

SUSTAINABILITY

The growing complexity of environmental concerns have led to a number of applications of geospatial 2.0 technology to help create a safer, more sustainable world. For example, geospatial technology can measure carbon sequestration, tree density, green cover, carbon credit & tree age. It can provide vulnerability assessment surveys in disaster-prone areas. It can also help urban planners and governments plan and implement community mapping and equitable housing. Geospatial 2.0 can analyze a confluence of factors and create actionable insight toward analyzing and honing our environmental practices.

As geospatial 1.0 models are upgraded to geospatial 2.0, expect to see more robust solutions incorporating AI-powered analytics. A survey of working professionals conducted by Geospatial World found that geospatial technology will likely make the biggest impact in the climate and environment field.

CONCLUSION

Geospatial 2.0 platforms are very expensive to employ and require quite a bit of development.  The technology offers great potential to increase revenue and efficiency for a number of verticals. In addition, it may be a key technology to help cut down our carbon footprint and create a safer, more sustainable world..

AIoT: How the Intersection of AI and IoT Will Drive Innovation for Decades to Come

We have covered the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the years as they have gained prominence. IoT devices collect a massive amount of data. Cisco projects by the end of 2021, IoT devices will collect over 800 zettabytes of data per year. Meanwhile, AI algorithms can parse through big data and teach themselves to analyze and identify patterns to make predictions. Both technologies enable a seemingly endless amount of applications retained a massive impact on many industry verticals.

What happens when you merge them? The result is aptly named the AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) and it will take IoT devices to the next level.

WHAT IS AIOT?

AIoT is any system that integrates AI technologies with IoT infrastructure, enhancing efficiency, human-machine interactions, data management and analytics.

IoT enables devices to collect, store, and analyze big data. Device operators and field engineers typically control devices. AI enhances IoT’s existing systems, enabling them to take the next step to determine and take the appropriate action based on the analysis of the data.

By embedding AI into infrastructure components, including programs, chipsets, and edge computing, AIoT enables intelligent, connected systems to learn, self-correct and self-diagnose potential issues.

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One common example comes in the surveillance field. Surveillance camera can be used as an image sensor, sending every frame to an IoT system which analyzes the feed for certain objects. AI can analyze the frame and only send frames when it detects a specific object—significantly speeding up the process while reducing the amount of data generated since irrelevant frames are excluded.

CCTV-Traffic-Monitoring-1024x683

While AIoT will no doubt find a variety of applications across industries, the three segments we expect to see the most impact on are wearables, smart cities, and retail.

WEARABLES

Wearable-IoT-Devices

The global wearable device market is estimated to hit more than $87 billion by 2022. AI applications on wearable devices such as smartwatches pose a number of potential applications, particularly in the healthtech sector.

Researchers in Taiwan have been studying the potential for an AIoT wearable system for electrocardiogram (ECG) analysis and cardiac disease detection. The system would integrate a wearable IoT-based system with an AI platform for cardiac disease detection. The wearable collects real-time health data and stores it in a cloud where an AI algorithm detects disease with an average of 94% accuracy. Currently, Apple Watch Series 4 or later includes an ECG app which captures symptoms of irregular, rapid or skipped heartbeats.

Although this device is still in development, we expect to see more coming out of the wearables segment as 5G enables more robust cloud-based processing power, taking the pressure off the devices themselves.

SMART CITIES

We’ve previously explored the future of smart cities in our blog series A Smarter World. With cities eager to invest in improving public safety, transport, and energy efficiency, AIoT will drive innovation in the smart city space.

There are a number of potential applications for AIoT in smart cities. AIoT’s ability to analyze data and act opens up a number of possibilities for optimizing energy consumption for IoT systems. Smart streetlights and energy grids can analyze data to reduce wasted energy without inconveniencing citizens.

Some smart cities have already adopted AIoT applications in the transportation space. New Delhi, which boasts some of the worst traffic in the world, features an Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) which makes real-time dynamic decisions on traffic flows to accelerate traffic.

RETAIL

AIoT has the potential to enhance the retail shopping experience with digital augmentation. The same smart cameras we referenced earlier are being used to detect shoplifters. Walmart recently confirmed it has installed smart security cameras in over 1,000 stores.

smart-shopping-cart

One of the big innovations for AIoT involves smart shopping carts. Grocery stores in both Canada and the United States are experimenting with high-tech shopping carts, including one from Caper which uses image recognition and built-in sensors to determine what a person puts into the shopping cart.

The potential for smart shopping carts is vast—these carts will be able to inform customers of deals and promotion, recommend products based on their buying decisions, enable them to view an itemized list of their current purchases, and incorporate indoor navigation to lead them to their desired items.

A smart shopping cart company called IMAGR recently raised $14 million in a pre-Series A funding round, pointing toward a bright future for smart shopping carts.

CONCLUSION

AIoT represents the intersection of AI, IoT, 5G, and big data. 5G enables the cloud processing power for IoT devices to employ AI algorithms to analyze big data to determine and enact action items. These technologies are all relatively young, and as they continue to grow, they will empower innovators to build a smarter future for our world.

The Future of Indoor GPS Part 3: The Broadening Appeal of Ultra Wideband

In the previous installment of our blog series on indoor positioning, we explored all that Bluetooth 5.1 has to offer.  This week, we will examine what may be a major wireless technology of the future: Ultra Wideband.

In September 2019, the inclusion of a U1 chip was listed among the innovations announced with the  iPhone 11. The U1 chip provides Ultra Wideband (UWB) connectivity. Those knowledgable on UWB recognize that the inclusion of the U1 chip is a major step toward UWB becoming a household name technology like Bluetooth and WiFi.

HISTORY

UWB signifies a number of synonymous terms, including impulse, carrier-free, baseband, time domain, nonsinusoidal, orthogonal function and large-relative-bandwidth radio/radar signals.

Guglio Marcone, UWB innovator

Guglielmo Marconi, UWB innovator

UWB was first employed by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901 to transmit Morse code sequences across the Atlantic Ocean using spark gap radio transmitters. Development began in the late 1960s with pioneering contributions by Harmuth at Catholic University of America, Ross and Robbins at Sperry Rand Corporation, and Paul van Etten at USAF’s Rome Air Development Center in Russia. In the early 2000s, UWB was used in military radars, covert communication, and briefly in medical imaging applications such as remote heart monitoring systems. Its adoption lagged until commercial interests began exploring potential innovative uses.

MODERN USAGE

via Sewio

via Sewio

UWB is a short-range wireless communication protocol. It differs from WiFi and Bluetooth in that it uses radio waves operating at a very high frequency. Ultra Wideband alludes to the wide spectrum of GHz of the waves it utilizes, 5000 MHz or higher. Wi-Fi and LTE radio bands are about one-tenth as wide, typically ranging from 20 to 80 MHz. UWB is like a radar that can lock into objects to identify their location and transmit data.

Apple describes UWB technology as providing “spatial awareness”—it can continuously scan a room and precisely lock onto specific objects. One of the major applications for it in the iPhone 11 is the ability for the user to point their device at another device to target it for an Airdrop.

INDOOR POSITIONING

The primary usages of UWB are expected to be in indoor positioning, location discovery, and device ranging according to IDC research director Phil Solis. Compared to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, UWB is extremely low power and the high bandwidth makes it perfect for relaying mass amounts of data from a host device to other devices around 30 feet away. Unlike Wi-Fi, UWB is not particularly good at transmitting through walls, but its robustness against interference and high data rate (110 kbit/s – 6.8 Mbit/s) enable ideal, ultra-precise indoor positioning.

The inclusion of the UWB U1 chip in the iPhone 11 paves the way for applications in indoor mapping and navigation, smart home and vehicle access and control, enhanced augmented reality, and mobile payments that are more secure than NFC.

MASS ADOPTION

As new applications continue to emerge and the demand for indoor positioning increases, the major hurdle UWB faces is a lack of existing infrastructure. Apple and Huawei, the two largest smartphone makers in the world, are developing UWB projects, including chip and antenna production. Apple’s decision to include it in the iPhone 11 is the first time a UWB chip will be deployed on a smartphone. As trendsetters, it stands to reason that UWB will only grow in popularity from here and mass adoption may be inevitable.

Stay tuned for the next entry in our Indoor Positioning blog series which will explore RFID Tags!

The Future of Indoor GPS Part 2: Bluetooth 5.1’s Angle of Arrival Ups the Ante for BLE Beacons

In the last installment of our blog series on indoor positioning, we examined an overview of the top indoor positioning technologies. This week, we will examine the most precise and popular method: Bluetooth BLE Beacons and how Bluetooth 5.1 enables them to be the most popular indoor positioning tool on the market.

As the world transitions into a wireless society, Bluetooth technology has evolved and gained more and more popularity. Apple’s decision to remove 1/8th inch audio ports from their devices, while irksome to many consumers, was a definitive move in the direction of Bluetooth.

The growing market for indoor positioning has incentivized an evolution in the landscape of Bluetooth technology. The first consumer bluetooth device was launched in 1999. This year, the world is forecasted to ship more than 4.5 billion Bluetooth devices worldwide. Behind the scenes, manufacturers are using Bluetooth technology for asset tracking and warehouse management. Bluetooth 5.1 technology, in concert with Bluetooth BLE Beacons, is the most popular indoor positioning method.

Nordic nRF52840-Dongle

Nordic nRF52840-Dongle

BLUETOOTH 5.1

Announced in January 2019 by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Bluetooth 5.1 is the latest and most powerful iteration of Bluetooth technology yet.

Bluetooth 5.1 can connect with other devices at a distance of 985 feet, quadruple Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 5.1 improves upon Bluetooth 4.0’s indoor positioning capabilities with Angle of Arrival (AoA) and Angle of Departure (AoD) features. When used for indoor location, Bluetooth 5.1 can provide up to 1-10 centimeters of accuracy with very little lag. At 48MBps, Bluetooth 5.1 is twice as fast as Bluetooth 4.0.

In addition to being faster and more powerful, Bluetooth 5.1 is the continuation of Low Energy LE, consuming less power than previous iterations of Bluetooth.

INDOOR POSITIONING

Bluetooth BLE Beacons are attached to objects, vehicles, devices, etc. and used to track their location. Bluetooth BLE beacons enable Bluetooth devices to communicate with IoT products and other devices. The top suppliers in the  beacon space include Kontakt, Blukii, Minew, Gimbal, Estimote, and EM Microelectronic.

AoA and AoD features are at the core of what enhances positioning technologies in Bluetooth 5.1.

Angle of Arrival diagram via ScienceDirect.com

Angle of Arrival diagram via ScienceDirect.com

In AoA, the  device or tag transmits a specific direction-finding packet using one antenna. The receiving device receives the incoming signal with multiple antennas, each antenna receiving the signal at slightly different times relative to each other. An algorithm factors in the shifts in signal and yields precise coordinate information.

AoD flips the scenario. The device sending the signal has an array of antennas and transmits a packet via the antenna ray. The receiving device then makes an IQ sampling of its antenna to determine the coordinate calculation.

USE CASES

Enhanced indoor positioning enables a number of use cases. In sports stadiums and music venues,  a locating hub near the center of the arena can receive signals from devices using AoA technology and determine location coordinates. Keys, perhaps the most commonly lost object, can be embedded with a sensor and located using a locator hub equipped by a smart home.

Bluetooth BLE Beacons, harnessing Bluetooth 5.1, remain the most cost and energy-efficient method of attaining precise indoor positioning locations.

Stay tuned for the next entry in our Indoor Positioning blog series which will explore the wonders of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology!

The Future of Indoor GPS Part 1: Top Indoor Positioning Technologies

GPS can help you get from A to B, but what can it do to enhance your indoor retail experience?  Over the next several entries, the Mystic Media Blog will endeavor on a five-part deep dive into the top indoor location technologies and how they will help form the retail experience of the future.

GPS has become ingrained in our everyday lives. Zoomers will never know of a world without GPS, the world of Mapquest and just plain old maps.

While Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps can take you from your home to your favorite retailer, finding your way around large stores remains difficult. As a business owner, you want to make the act of navigating the store as easy as possible so that your customers have a positive experience finding what they want. Indoor GPS can solve that problem.

In the past five years, indoor positioning has blown up. The global market for indoor location technology is projected to hit $40.99 billion by 2022, a significant increase from $5.22 billion in 2016. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 42%. With $2.4 billion anticipated in annual spending on beacons and asset tracking by the end of 2020, IPS or Indoor Positioning Systems are here to stay.

Here are the top IPS technologies in use today:

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BLE 5.1 BEACONS

Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are tiny battery powered devices that can connect to bluetooth-enabled devices like smartphones.

When it comes to indoor positioning, the more precise the positioning, the larger the investment required to achieve it. Bluetooth Low Energy beacons have become a technology stack because they require relatively inexpensive hardware to achieve an accuracy of up to 1-3 meters. BLE 5.1 beacons have improved upon that, providing 1-10 centimeters of accuracy with minimal lag.

BLE is extremely power efficient and cost-effective, minimally draining a phone’s battery  when connected, and can be used within WiFi access points or lighting infrastructure. Since they infrequently require maintenance, they are often used in high-traffic venues.

Locatify-UWB-Ultrawideband-RTLS

ULTRA-WIDEBAND (UWB)

Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a radio technology utilizing low power consumption for a high-bandwidth connection. UWB has extremely precise locating abilities, dialing in to locate objects within one centimeter.

In September 2019, Apple announced the iPhone 11 includes a “U1” chip with UWB technology; however, UWB technology is currently not widely available. Many consider it to be the future of indoor positioning technology, but the lack of existing infrastructure will likely delay mass adoption. Regardless, for applications like warehouse tracking where ultra-precise positioning is required, UWB is an ideal solution.

RFID

RFID TAGS

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID is a simple technology with a tag and a reader. The reader extracts data from the tag using radio-frequency electromagnetic field and identifies the object the tag is attached to.

Although RFID is often used in combination with other technologies for more precise indoor location, the market for RFID is gradually increasing. It’s currently slated for growth in the apparel and shoes space, with great potential in other markets such as healthcare and automotive.

augmented-reality-indoor-navigation-development

AR-BASED NAVIGATION

Indoor navigation utilizing Augmented Reality technologies can do more than just help you navigate a store, it can totally revolutionize the retail experience.  AR can create virtual paths and arrows to help navigate the store. For businesses, AR can improve internal processes by making it easier for staff to navigate offices and warehouses.

This technology is enabled by placing visual markers which can be scanned by the users using their mobile device’s camera. The phone will then guide the user through the retail experience and can be customized to help them find what they need.

In May 2019, the number of AR-enabled devices around the world reached 1.05 billion. Apple and Google are actively working on improving ARKit and ARCore, their AR software development frameworks. Beyond simply helping customers and staff navigate stores, AR will pave the way for personalized shopping experiences unlike any we’ve seen before.

CONCLUSION

While BLE Beacons are currently the leader in the marketplace, many technologies are competing to pioneer the most advanced and accurate indoor location technologies. Given the countless applications, the future is looking bright for indoor location applications! Tune into our next indoor positioning blog when we take a deep dive into BLE 5.1 beacons.