Delivering on the Promise of Massive IoT Tracking and Location Services

Until recently, the Internet of Things has relied on technologies and services built for smartphones. Technologies ranging from radio modules and connectivity protocols to batteries and GNSS receivers were brought to the mainstream to create and connect handheld consumer devices. As the IoT has grown, these technologies have found a place either by being repurposed without modification into new use cases or, increasingly, through refinements as these use-cases become more specialized. LPWA networks, battery and antenna components, data analytics, and edge computing are among key advancements extending innovation into the IoT ecosystem.

Location is another area that has received particular interest. Legacy technologies, from standard GNSS to network-based positioning (e.g. Cell-ID or enhanced Cell-ID) are increasingly proving unfit in satisfying the requirements of asset tracking use cases needing low-cost, low-power and low-form factor devices. Beyond asset tracking, location is increasingly seen as a valuable piece of data even in applications where positioning is not the primary focus. Creating a fit-for-purpose location technology is a key boundary that needs to be crossed to power the next generation of IoT devices.

The supplier market is increasingly responding to this market need through new IoT-centered location products and services, ranging from low-power and low-footprint GNSS technologies to novel ways of establishing location using a radio communication module. These technologies have been built in response to the growing opportunity in massive IoT, in which WAN-based technologies will play a critical role in serving markets for asset tracking, metering and condition-based monitoring.

LTE/5G cellular connections are forecast to reach 4.1 billion by 2025 but could grow to even more given cellular’s wide area coverage and the massive investments into these networks. As a result, there has been considerable investment in new cellular location technologies to create new opportunities for cost-effective and power-efficient location on smaller devices. This can address the needs of current use cases more effectively than legacy technologies, as well as open opportunities for yet-unknown use cases.

This white paper from ABI Research and PHY Wireless introduces device-based positioning, a new approach to positioning over low-power LTE and 5G technologies. The paper examines the technology conditions that will drive the next generation of IoT devices, analyzes how the market for location services is evolving to meet these requirements, and explains how cellular positioning technologies are aiming to capitalize on this market. The study explores the benefits and limitations of device-based positioning relative to other technologies, as well as how this approach addresses changing market conditions. (14 pages)

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