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Nokia tweaks Bluetooth for indoor navigation

November 29, 2011

rick.merritt-November 29, 2011

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Nokia Research is courting partners and expanding Bluetooth as part of an initiative on indoor location-based services. The company aims to leverage its handset and mapping products to enable a wide range of services including indoor navigation and retail analytics.

"We want to take what's been done in navigation outdoors and bring it inside," said Fabio Belloni, a principal researcher in Nokia's radio systems lab that looks for new ways to use networks.

Nokia has two pilots using a new Bluetooth protocol in the works and has reached out to as many as 30 companies in an effort to set broader standards that ultimately may include Wi-Fi and other networks.

The company is leading work on a new Location Extension protocol to ride on top of Bluetooth 4.0. It could be issued as a standard by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in about 18 months.

Nokia designed a prototype based on a room outfitted with Bluetooth Low Energy antenna arrays that track devices with Bluetooth tags. The prototype uses triangulation to create 3-D maps of a room.

Researchers envision equipping malls, exhibit halls and other large buildings with the antenna arrays to help people people navigate though them. They also foresee large stores using tagged carts to track and study shopper behavior.

The Bluetooth arrays could be inexpensive, and ultimately they could be integrated as a feature into Wi-Fi access points the buildings already use, said Belloni.

Nokia gathered about 30 companies including chip and system makers and service providers to an event to roll out its concepts. It hopes to create a formal group that could help set global standards for such indoor navigation services.

The demo was one of several marking the 25th anniversary of the Nokia Research which is now setting up a new satellite office here. Another demo showed a flexible handheld OLED display users could bend to navigate through computer menus.

Nokia researcher Fabio Belloni (top) demos an indoor navigation system using a prototype Bluetooth tag (left) and Bluetooth antenna array (below).

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