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UWB Brings Mapping Services Indoors

HERE is partnering with Decawave to enable its mapping services to identify the locations of individuals and things within 10 centimeters inside buildings. Several manufacturing companies are now testing the technology for tracking forklifts and monitoring work-in-progress.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 10, 2018

Mapping and location services company HERE Technologies is bringing precise location and mapping services indoors, with positioning information using ultra-wideband (UWB) technology provided by Decawave. The teaming of Decawave's technology with HERE's mapping services will enable users to pinpoint the locations of goods or individuals via UWB transmissions, the companies report. With the system, the partners explain, HERE's services will provide 3D location to within about 10 centimeters (3.9 inches).

Decawave is an Irish firm that makes UWB transceiver chips used for RFID and real-time location system (RTLS) applications. The company's DW1000 UWB transceiver chip complies with the IEEE 802.15.4-2011 standard. The chip, which measures 6 millimeters by 6 millimeters (0.2 inch by 0.2 inch), uses a very low energy level to transmit short- and medium-range (about 70 to 250 feet) and short-duration transmissions (up to 6.8Mbps) to gateway receivers.

HERE, based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, captures location content for such applications as road networking, building, parks and traffic management. The company is also working to create self-driving technology. It has maps in approximately 200 countries.

The partnership enables HERE and Decawave to offer a solution, including modules and cloud-based software, that is easy for users to deploy, regardless of a company's size. Traditionally, says Mickael Viot, Decawave's marketing VP, an RTLS deployment might require multiple vendors from system integrators to hardware providers, and could incur high installation costs. Viot says he has spoken with customers who have indicated that they need a solution in which the services, infrastructure, integration and hardware can come from a single source.

"Customers don't want tags or anchors," Viot says. "They want data. We're trying to bring out-of-the-box experiences for customers, with some flexibility." The two companies began working together about a year ago, he recalls.

In the meantime, HERE has been working for several years to build out its mapping services to include indoor location, according to Erminio di Paolo, HERE's head of tracking. The firm has worked with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solutions, but both have some shortcomings for indoor mapping, he explains. With Wi-Fi technology, the positioning can be to within about 5 to 7 meters (16.4 and 30 feet)—or 3 to 5 meters for BLE (9.8 to 16.4 feet)—but not tighter than that. However, he says, Wi-Fi and BLE technologies each work well for such purposes as indoor wayfinding.

In recent years, though, HERE has been working with commercial and industrial customers that require much more granular location data so that they can benefit from the mapping and location services. For instance, in the case of manufacturing, di Paolo says, "We need very high positioning accuracy" that could enable users to understand exactly where a part under assembly is located—in proximity to robotic tools, for instance. With very specific location data, he adds, users could accomplish tasks such as linking a particular person to a specific tool, so that a company would know who was operating a given tool if it later ended up inoperable or missing.

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