u-blox announced the release of two explorer kits aimed at letting product developers evaluate the potential of Bluetooth direction finding and high-precision indoor positioning. Designed for low power consumption, simple deployment and low cost of ownership, the XPLR-AOA-1 and XPLR-AOA-2 explorer kits make it easy to test the technology’s capabilities to enable a variety of applications including access control, collision detection, smart appliances, indoor positioning and asset tracking.
Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology has solved the problem of locating people or assets outdoors. Meanwhile, no technology has yet managed to achieve widespread adoption for localising people or assets in indoor environments such as warehouses. Recognising the growing demand for more accurate indoor positioning solutions, the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) released Bluetooth direction finding, offering a major improvement over previous RSSI (receiver signal strength indicator)-based solutions.
Bluetooth direction finding makes it possible to determine the direction that radio signals travel from a mobile tag to one or several fixed anchor points. Using angle-of-arrival (AoA) technology, anchor points comprising an antenna array that is connected to a Bluetooth receiver can detect the direction, or angle, to the mobile tag, which transmits a Bluetooth signal. When a constellation of such multi-antenna anchors is deployed, AoA technology can be used to triangulate the precise location of a mobile device or tag.
The two new kits showcase one of the first complete Bluetooth-based tracking solutions – from the tag to the cloud – to reliably offer sub-metre-level accuracy in indoor environments.
Comprising a u-blox C211 antenna board and a u-blox C209 tag, as well as the necessary software, the u-blox XPLR-AOA-1 offers all the required components to evaluate AoA technology. Applications include detecting whether a person or an object is approaching a door, avoiding collisions between moving objects, and directing a camera at a moving tag.
The u-blox XPLR-AOA-2 demonstrates the u-blox high-precision indoor positioning proof of concept built around Bluetooth direction finding. The kit comprises four u-blox C211 antenna boards, four u-blox C209 tags and all the software required to leverage AoA technology for diverse applications.
Both explorer kits use the u-blox NINA-B4 Bluetooth 5.1 Low Energy module featuring Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52833 system-on-chip (SoC). Running on the SoC’s embedded MCU, u-connectLocate software calculates the angles of the incoming signals with no additional processing required. In the case of the XPLR-AOA-2, a positioning software engine is included to triangulate the position of the tag.
To provide an optimal experience for the end user, u-blox is partnering with Traxmate, whose enterprise asset tracking platform is supported by XPLR-AOA-2. This solution offers a hardware-agnostic, cloud-based tracking system that makes it easier to set up the tracking environment, create buildings, upload floor plans and specify the placement of the anchor points. Users can use their offering to track the location of assets in real-time via the web or a dedicated smartphone app.
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