There has always been a need for accurate indoor position systems, but the lack of affordable, standardized and interoperable solutions has been a major problem holding the market back.
Finally, it looks like this will change. During 2019, not one, but two important new specifications will be released that can totally change this market.
January 21st the Bluetooth SIG released the 5.1 specification. The most important new features are the direction finding methods Angle Of Arrival (AOA) and Angle Of Departure(AOD). This enables devices to be positioned by calculating the angle to units with known positions. This method is based on that either the receiving (AOA) or sending (AOD) device is equipped with a multi-antenna system. The device switch between the antennas and measure the phase difference.
IEEE 802.15.4z standard for UWB
Like Bluetooth, also the latest standard for UWB includes new features to improve its performance for localization. The UWB solution uses a different approach for positioning, it measures the time it takes for the radio signal to travel from one device to the other. With this time measured and the known speed of light, the distance between the devices is calculated.
So, which one is the most interesting one?
Bluetooth has a long and successful history of providing solutions that get wide adoption in consumer electronics. They understand the need of hard work with interoperability to be successful. UWB, on the other hand, has advantages due to its wide spectrum use that makes it less sensitive to interference.
When it comes to the use case to localize our most common consumer device, the phone, both technologies look very interesting. We see it as very likely that phones and beacons will adopt Bluetooth 5.1 since it solves a problem where Bluetooth has lacked performance.
Looking at the IEEE website it is also interesting to see that major phone manufacturers are the ones driving the new UWB standard. Apple and Samsung are the two most active companies in the work of getting the standards ready for adoption. This indicates that we likely will see UWB in phones at least 2020 and several sites reports that this will be the case.
What about accuracy?
Both claim to provide be able to provide indoor positioning with about 10cm accuracy with 4 fixed devices with known positions within range (around 30m). Naturally, this will depend on both the implementation and the environment.
We have a long and deep knowledge about Bluetooth and have already started working with UWB for indoor localization and we are ready to take on new challenging projects within this area. We would love to help you to be early on the market with these new interesting technologies.
// Peter Fredriksson