There are many problems (opportunities) that need to be addressed in order to progress to the next rung in the Internet of Things (IoT) ladder. One of these involves knowing where you are along with the location of other people and objects of interest in real-time.
All of which leads us to the concept of real-time locating systems (RTLS), which are used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real time.
In the case of outdoor RTLS deployments, the main system that springs to mind is GPS, but these signals use a frequency that does not pass easily through solid objects like ceilings and walls. When one attempts to use GPS inside a building, physical obstacles and other sources of interference make it difficult to determine locations with any level of useful accurately.
Other common wireless technologies — such as WiFi and Bluetooth — that can be used indoors lack the speed and accuracy demanded by many applications. One solution that does “tick all of the boxes” is ultra-wideband (UWB), which employs very low energy for short-range, high-bandwidth communications over a large portion of the radio spectrum.
As I mentioned in a column from November 2015 (see Using ultra-wideband for real-time locating systems ):
Early UWB systems tended to be physically large and to employ non-standard and/or expensive semiconductor technologies. More recently, it's proved possible to implement UWB using standard CMOS techniques. For example, the Irish fabless semiconductor company DecaWave has created a family of UWB parts called ScenSor based on TSMC's standard 90nm CMOS process.
Well, I just heard from the lads and lasses at DecaWave, and it seems they “hit a home run” recently in the 2016 Microsoft Indoor Localization Competition. This industry-wide competition was organized to bring together indoor location technologies and compare performance and real-time capabilities, and also demonstrate accuracy in indoor environments.
The guys and gals at DecaWave were pretty happy when three of the 23 competitors in the 2015 competition used their technology. Thus, we can only imagine how they feel about the fact that 11 of the 20 competitors in this year's competition used Decawave's technology in their 3D radio-based location solution, with several of these competitors placing in the top-five performance results.
I honestly believe that we are on the brink — let's hope it's not a precipice — of great things in Embedded Space (where no one can hear you scream). The ever-increasing sophistication — and the combination — of things like embedded speech, embedded vision, and real-time indoor/outdoor location systems mean that the world we inhabit may look very different in the not-so-distant future.
I don’t know whether to be excited… or afraid. What say you?