Geolocation technology on the cusp of a revolution

13 June 2017
The Internet of Things relies on GNSS for location and timing information. © GNSS Market Report Issue 5 (2017).

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including Galileo, play a key role in the Internet of Things. Information on positioning, velocity and timing is driving growth in a wide array of context-aware applications, from drones and driverless cars, to asset tracking.

Geo IoT World (Geo-location – Internet of Things) held its second conference to explore the latest developments in geo-location and analytics systems in Brussels on June 6-8. The three day conference brought together inventors, companies and users.

Justyna Redelkiewicz, Head of Sector for location-based services and IoT for the GSA outlined the three main directions of change for positioning technologies in IoT. The first is the development towards ubiquitous positioning, aiming at locating people and objects at any time, everywhere.

A good example of this trend is the development of tracking for school buses and children inside these buses developed by ITCRAFT Navigation Solution: the system allows, among other functionalities, “real-time tracking of bus movements,” “viewing routes with bus stops and school location,” and “detection of students by scanning [their] iBeacons.”

Read this: GSA, mobile industry leaders explore the future of location at infoShare 2017

The second development is automation of the positioning systems. To achieve fully autonomous vehicles (cars, vessels, buses) the vehicle's positioning system has to be able to sense the environment and react to it in real time. This feature, called ambient intelligence, is the subject of a lot of research activity in both industry and academia.

Privacy and security are also critical issues. Positioning systems must be secure so that they are not hackable, this is particularly important in the field of transport. In other areas, privacy can be an issue; many of the devices will need to anonymise the data they use.

Industry trends

Uptake of these technologies is beginning to boom, technology analyst Bruce Krulwich of Grizzly Analytics said that the technology is on the cusp of hitting the world in a very big way. Up until now the technology wasn’t quite there in terms of accuracy, cost and ease of use; geolocation has now turned the corner and wide adoption is expected.

On trends in the industry, Redelkiewicz said that the main focus now is to bring to the market multiple-frequencies to achieve greater accuracy. We may expect the first dual band mass market chipsets to be launched in the coming two years.

There is a trend as well to combine GNSS with other solutions better suited for indoor tracking and navigation (e.g. Bluetooth beacons) so that users can have an integrated navigation and tracking experience, like office-to-office navigation, that allows a smooth transition from outdoors, where GNSS stays the preferred solution for location, to the interior of buildings and vice-versa.

Another trend is the mutualisation of location services, which makes it possible to reduce the power consumption and cost of devices. In this trend, the CROWDLOC platform was awarded with the “IOT Solutions empowered by GNSS” prize by the GSA for their innovative solution for tracking items that habitually get lost, such as pieces of baggage, cars, bicycles and even pets. The main goal of their solution is “[lowering] the cost of location tracking by five to eight times compared to existing solutions on the market.”

Also read: Digging Deeper: An Inside Look at GNSS Market Trends

“One of the problems is that end users are almost dazzled by the different options,” says Steve Statler, an expert on geolocation “We saw a huge wave of early adopters but some are waiting to see which technologies work best. We have a huge ecosystem and people are starting to see value added solutions.”

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Updated: Jun 13, 2017