Bluetooth beacons nowhere precise enough
The packages consist of hardware and software building blocks that allow system engineers to rapidly prove a design concept before integrating the 3D real-time location system (RTLS) technology into industrial and consumer products.
For one, the Precise Inverted 3D design package comes with a SpoonPhone (featuring an Android API to access the location data) and the Inverted 3D software. With minimal hardware configuration, the software is capable of computing its 3D location based on the positions of six fixed tags.
The Precise Indoor GPS package enables additional SpoonPhones to locate themselves just by listening to the tags. This also allows the deployment of an unlimited number of self-locating devices.
Last, but not least, the Precise Location RTLS package tracks in real time a set of tags whose locations are made available through a simple server connection.
With these capabilities, BeSpoon aims its technology at both single devices and server-centric solutions tracking multiple items. In a device-centric application, a moving device constantly computes its location and orientation within a 3D space. In a server-centric solution, a central infrastructure tracks locations of many individual items.
Microwave Engineering Europe caught up with Jean-Marie André, BeSpoon’s CEO, to learn more about the company’s current prospects and market goals.
“Far beyond our initial technology breakthrough last year when we geo-located tags at distances over 800 meters while following IR-UWB’s standard regulation, with these tools we want to send a strong signal to the market that it is really easy to build your own RTLS with our turnkey solutions”, told us André.
“The SpoonPhone comes with plenty of bells and whistles, with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and many different sensors, our IR-UWB IC being one more”.
“Together with a few RTLS-enabled tags, it allows our customers to explore different use cases and check for themselves what the technology can do for them, before they go to the next level which is integrating our chips into their products”, André added.
The tags could be used for simple collision-avoidance, but BeSpoon shows many versatile asset-tracking or geo-fencing applications on its website, and most consumer-oriented use cases would require the BeSpoon chip to be integrated into the users’ smartphones (giving them precise distance and orientation relative to fixed tags).
“With a few base stations to cover a shop, able to accurately locate shoppers’ smartphones relative to fixed tags in a showroom, you could create virtual beacons and send timely and appropriate marketing material” told us André, “this would be much more precise and much cheaper than installing Bluetooth beacons”.
“Typically, this is what companies try to do with WiFi and Bluetooth signals through triangulation and proximity sensing. But for many applications it is too unreliable to be useful, only with a 50% chance of the person or object to be where the computations say it ought to be”, commented André.
“For geolocation, our solution is very cost competitive with Bluetooth and WiFi, much cheaper to implement because we have integrated everything into a piece of silicon. It is difficult to make cost comparisons as it depends on the application environment. Where thousands of square meters may be covered with a few of our base stations in a shopping mall, an industrial site with a lot of metal and water pipes may require more base stations”, André explained.
The pace of distance notifications can be set from 4 per second to one every 10 seconds, so depending on usage, by managing the sleep modes well, BeSpoon’s CEO is confident that they could have simple tags running for several months on a single coin battery.
André knows well that the mass adoption of BeSpoon’s RTL solution will only truly take-off with smartphones.
“We are in contact with all smartphone vendors, and it is only a matter of time before our technology makes its way into smartphones” said André, adding that it will certainly take another few months before they get such design-wins.
“We see more and more gadgets that are connected and for which location matters, such as autonomous hardware, these could be robots or drones. For the type of distance precision we offer, within 5cm, we’ve had several requests from drone manufacturers.
With two chips integrated across a drone’s wingspan and the user’s smartphone, they get even more precise about the drone’s location and orientation in space relative to the pilot, much more than with today’s GPS and inertial sensors and compasses, especially indoor.” André concluded.