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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

There are other activities in the manufacturing, industrial and logistics sectors that require very tight indoor positioning as well. Autonomous forklifts, for instance, can only operate—in an indoor setting, around people—if the location data is highly specific. By knowing the forklift's exact location, as well as its proximity to personnel or machinery, a company can prevent accidents, for instance.

With the Decawave and HERE solution, businesses can simply attach the UWB transponder to a piece of equipment or asset, or provide workers with a Decawave-enabled badge. The device emits its signal to gateway receivers deployed throughout a facility. That location data is then captured by HERE Technologies software, which uses the information to provide necessary content for customers, such as a dashboard to view where tagged items or individuals are located, historically and in real time. The data can also be integrated with a user's automated equipment to trigger actions, such as a forklift engine powering down if the system senses that it is within close proximity to another forklift.

Several manufacturers are currently testing the technology at their facilities, di Paolo reports. "Like any new technology," he says, "there's a period of investment in understanding through pilots." While initial interest is coming from industrial customers, the increased use of autonomous vehicles, in the long run, could lead to such use cases as the self-parking of cars in public lots in Europe, North America and beyond.

Consumer demand for personalized services in the hospitality industry is also driving interest in UWB-based indoor positioning from hotels, di Paolo adds. By understanding the locations of guests, for instance, a hotel could provide such services as automatically unlocking appropriate doors for an individual based on his or her location (as long as he or she has a Decawave-enabled badge or card). However, such service would require very precise location data, so that an event like unlocking doors would only occur if an individual were standing directly in front of the door.

Decawave offers several benefits that can be added to the HERE solution, Viot says, including a long battery life for the UWB devices (1.2 years in high-demand use cases, and five to seven years in lower-demand systems). He notes that Decawave UWB tags are already built into many cars for keyless entry, bringing them one step closer to being tracked by location, if a use case were to require it.

In construction, Decawave's chips are being used with Redpoint Positioning technology, by companies such as builder Skanska, for the purpose of ensuring worker safety. Skanska is using the technology at construction sites in Boston to identify where employees and moving equipment are located, enabling it to understand where potentially hazardous areas are located—and to warn workers accordingly.

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