Quuppa are pioneers in the field of direction finding. By contributing to the standardization of it in Bluetooth 5.1, everyone can now leverage the benefits of interoperability.
The pioneering work on advanced angular and location algorithms and antenna array modelling began way back in 2004, eight years before Quuppa was established. They were among the first to offer complete real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, using off-the-shelf Bluetooth Low Energy SoCs from suppliers including Nordic Semiconductor. At this point the direction finding was achieved with proprietary methods, as there was no standardization.
At the beginning of this year, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG)—the association that oversees the development of the standard—announced version 5.1 of the Bluetooth Core specification. Quuppa were big contributors towards the new direction finding features, openly sharing their vast experience in the field.
Read more: Bluetooth 5.1 puts Bluetooth in its place
The standard enables interoperability, but it is not a complete solution
The standard first and foremost enables interoperability between two Bluetooth LE SoCs. It describes how they should behave to utilize Angle of Arrival (AoA) and Angle of Departure (AoD). More specifically, it includes the packet format, the continuous tone extension (CTE), timing for the antenna switching and sampling, and the presentation of IQ samples over the host controller interface (HCI). However, this is not a complete solution for a reliable and scalable location system. For example, the design and development for the antenna array, the algorithms for calculating the angles or location are not specified, as they will vary in complexity depending on the use-case.
With standardization in place, companies like Quuppa can now develop complete solutions with standardized direction finding enablers as one of the building blocks. This ensures interoperability, while providing value and differentiation in the solution.
The Quuppa solution
Today, Quuppa is mainly using the Angle of Arrival (AoA) method to offer complete RTLS solutions, for a wide range of applications, everything from smart buildings to industry environments, and from retail to sports.
The solution delivers vast benefits, including precise real-time positioning down to 10 cm, low latency (down to 100 ms), reliable tracking across large deployments and more. For example, in Quuppa’s home market Finland, this technology can be found in all major national league ice hockey stadiums. The indoor location solution produces real-time data about the puck location, and detailed data on how individual players move around the rink.
Quuppa delivers the fixed locators that determine the direction of the signal from the tags with accompanying software such as the Quuppa Positioning Engine, and everything else needed to plan, deploy, configure and simulate the system. Quuppa relies on tag partners to provide tags matching the requirements of all the various applications their customers may have.
To be compatible with the system, the tag partners integrate firmware provided by Quuppa. Firmware for Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC is available, and this is the SoC most tag partners prefer to base their tag design on.
AoD demo at the Quuppa partner event
The Quuppa partner event is an annual event where Quuppa brings together their partners to share experience and knowledge, to make new connections and to showcase new technology. The attendees are a good mix of SoC suppliers, tag manufactures, system integrators and end customers.
Quuppa is mainly using AoA in their solutions, but at this year’s event I got to see a demo based on Angle of Departure (AoD). AoD is mostly used in mobile-centric architectures, where the mobile device itself calculates its position by analysing received radio signals. The transmitters here have multiple antennas, while the receiving mobile device only needs one. AoD enables use cases such as indoor navigation/wayfinding, proximity marketing and advanced item finding.
In Quuppa’s demo, they emulated a smartphone using a Raspberry Pi, a small screen and a receiver with a single antenna. Then they had mounted battery-powered transmitters in the ceiling. The results were impressive. The position engine in the Raspberry Pi was able to calculate its position in real-time, so that users were able to walk around the room and see their location on the screen.
There are some AoD use cases that won’t require smartphone support. Robots and autonomous vehicles are two that spring immediately to mind. But right now, while Quuppa offers an AoA solution on the market, there is a need for smartphone support for the AoD solutions to be feasible. This will likely require new radio chipsets in the smartphone, but history tells us that smartphone vendors are eager to differentiate themselves from competition by adding support for new Bluetooth LE features.