Higher Precision in Real-Time Indoor Location with Ultra Wideband Technology (Geospatial World)

Decawave and Runtime recently announced support for the open source Apache Mynewt Operating System (OS) on Decawave’s DW1000 Ultra-Wideband (UWB) transceiver. While the developers of real-time location (RTLS) applications are excited to benefit from the resultant open and reusable development environment and a framework for device-to-cloud lifecycle management and messaging, we decided to know more about the concept.

It was a pleasure to interact with Mickael Viot, VP of Marketing, Decawave and James Pace, CEO, Runtime and gain invaluable insights into real-time indoor location.

So, what exactly is ‘real-time indoor location’?

Just like GNSS, the core concept is very simple – it is about enabling fast, accurate and reliable location of people and devices, but indoors rather than outside. However, the underlying ultra wideband (UWB) technology allows you to not only know where you are in absolute terms like GNSS does, it also enables you to know where you are in relation to other devices, and for the system to know where all devices are at any given time. This dramatically opens up use cases for the technology that go far beyond simple location and navigation.

Which industries are adopting the technology fastest?

It’s hard to choose just one or two – access to accurate, reliable real-time location is a concept that seems to have caught the attention of businesses across a wide variety of markets. At the same time, people are using the core technology in ways that we wouldn’t have predicted when we first started.

The industrial market has been at the forefront from the start – being able to locate and track parts, equipment and people in industrial environments, from warehouses to factories to mines, can deliver huge value in terms of efficiency, capital usage and security. But we are also seeing significant growth in less obvious places. In automotive, we enable manufacturers to use precise location as a handshake that ensures dramatically increased security for vehicles. In retail, businesses are utilizing UWB not only for store navigation, but to improved logistics and to drive effective, highly targeted marketing. In consumer technology, companies are finding many novel uses for the technology – from remote controls that allow you to control things just by pointing at them, to luggage that follows the owner under its own power.

How is this technology better than others?

Very simply, it delivers a set of capabilities that no other technology can come close to. The numbers speak for themselves – it is accurate to within 10cm, 99.9 percent of the time and arrives in microseconds. That alone is unmatched, but then add multi-way communications capabilities and the ability to deliver relative AND absolute positioning and the combination is unbeatable.

What is the role of open source in indoor location applications?

Open source really acts as a catalyst for applications. It speeds development and enables customers to get their new products and services to market faster.

How can this help in providing more effective location-based services?

A bit of context may help here. Decawave has delivered RTLS solutions across 40 different verticals and sold more than 5.5 million chips to date. The diversity of applications is exciting, but it also represents a real challenge. Almost every customer to this point has required a bespoke hardware platform with combinations of MCUs and wireless technologies like BLE to interface with handheld devices, GNSS for seamless location indoor and outdoor, or long-range radio technologies for data backhaul. Open, portable software means developers can spend less time on reinventing the foundational underpinnings and more time on building value add new capabilities.

Please tell us about the recent announcement of Decawave and Runtime and how will it enable location-based applications and service?

Decawave and Runtime recently announced support for the open source Apache Mynewt Operating System (OS) on Decawave’s DW1000 Ultra-Wideband (UWB) transceiver. This means first of all that customers can leverage a modular, reusable OS in their development for speed. They can also now easily mix and match the short- and long-range network transports that are the best fit for the capabilities they want to deliver into the market. Finally, they can leverage Runtime’s Device Platform for device lifecycle management, end-to-end security, and messaging at scale. We believe the combination of those parts will make delivering market-ready, scalable solutions into the market an order of magnitude easier than before.

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