For most of us, positioning means GPS, primarily for navigation in our cars and in our smartphones, where it has been incredibly successful but constantly burning RF power while on. Run Waze for a while on your phone to feel this. We also expect high accuracy, especially for any kind of autonomy. However, there’s also a very big market for a different type of positioning, wherein accuracy to within a few meters is good enough, doesn’t need to be updated every second, and power is much more tightly constrained. Think of asset tracking for containers or rental bikes. Knowing that a package or pallet is on a ship in the middle of the Pacific, on a train, or in a truck doesn’t demand pinpoint accuracy. But the tracker isn’t useful if it runs out of gas in transit. That’s where snapshot positioning comes in — waking briefly every few minutes or hours for an update.
Even though supply chains may be shifting, there’s little reason to doubt that global supply chains will continue to be very healthy. Raw materials, components, and products will be shipped around the world. Online shopping saw a massive boost amid Covid-19 restrictions and will likely remain a popular option. Our need to track assets, both business and consumer, will therefore continue to grow as markets evolve. According to ABI, by 2025, asset management and location services — beacons, asset tracking, and people and animal tracking — should rise to over 1B units. Wearables such as smartwatches, smart glasses, and sport and fitness/wellness trackers — many of which also don’t need always-on positioning — should rise to nearly 200M units. Fleet management and digital cameras together could rise to 40M units.
Supply chain logistics need tracking
Because it will still be global, asset tracking must have wide reach and therefore support GNSS, the umbrella term covering GPS (still most widely used today), Beidou in China, Galileo in Europe, and Glonass in Russia.
Asset tracking naturally pairs with wireless connectivity, especially a low-power long-range solution like NB-IoT, Cat-M, or LoRa, to communicate back the position and for location assistance data. For in-warehouse location, additional assistance data can also be pulled from Wi-Fi (e.g., access point scanning), Bluetooth (e.g., via AoA/AoD positioning introduced in Bluetooth 5.1), and, with increasing popularity, UWB. Certain applications also value dead-reckoning assistance based on motion sensing.
Economics is an important consideration to enable asset tracking down to the package or pallet level. The unit costs must be aggressively low, ideally down to a disposable level, and the running cost (commissioning and service cost) must be tightly controlled.
This all points to the recipe for success. The ideal solution must deliver flexible global GNSS, it needs to provide a suite of wireless connectivity options and motion-sensing features, and it needs to be available in a highly integrated, low-cost, low-power silicon device with extensive customization through software.
CEVA, for example, has built the first embedded IP solution to meet this range of needs. Dragonfly is built on a flexible, low-power architecture to deliver GNSS snapshot positioning and NB-IoT cellular connectivity. It delivers a software-defined GPS solution running on an embedded CEVA-BX1 processor, with an optimized instruction set architecture) ensuring extremely low power. The company will be also adding support for the other GNSS constellations soon. It can also be augmented with CEVA’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth IP solutions and with CEVA’s MotionEngine Scout dead-reckoning software technology. A short demonstration video is available on YouTube.
For more information, please visit https://www.ceva-dsp.com/product/dragonfly/.
Published on EEWeb.