Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

UBIGNSS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 774656
Country: France
Domain: Space, Digital Economy

Pared-down system brings tracking closer to the mass market

French researchers have designed a system which makes GNSS signals more useful for providing tracking applications by overcoming challenges such as power consumption and cost. This development aims to make the most of new business opportunities for tracking assets that could soon start opening up in the emerging Internet of Things market.
Pared-down system brings tracking closer to the mass market
Anyone who has ever had to deal with losing a much-loved cat or a dog would probably welcome the chance to track their whereabouts. Researchers from the UBIGNSS project have brought position-tracking applications such as this one closer to the mass market by designing a pared-down system which could pave the way for cheaper, longer-lasting tracking devices.

Using GNSS for tracking is not new. But this is currently only viable for high-value goods or for situations where energy consumption is not an issue. The energy-hungry nature of GNSS receivers, plus their high cost, has so far prevented the development of a mass market for tracking applications.

The UBIGNSS team has rethought the traditional architecture for providing tracking functions to build one which shifts the processing power from the device up into the cloud. Thus the device only ‘senses’ the GNSS signal, doing a minimum of pre-processing of the data to determine what is essential and sends just a small nugget of data to a cloud-based server. This then takes care of computing the device’s position.

“It’s a question of removing anything not essential,” says Samuel Ryckewaert, technical co-ordinator of UBIGNSS and general manager at French geolocation technology specialists Ubiscale. “We try to do just the right amount of computing in the device to be able to do the positioning in the cloud.”

The system runs over a Low Power Wide Area or LPWA network, a new technology which, as the name suggests, combines low energy consumption with extended coverage and is well-suited to the needs of the Internet of Things.

Much less power

The result of all this paring down is that a tracking device on the UBIGNSS system would typically transmit just 10 bytes of data and use 10 times less power than those of existing state-of-the-art technologies.

“The concept is not really new, the technical innovation is in the way we have done the embedded software, the radio comms and the processing in the cloud to save energy,” says Mr Ryckewaert. During 2016-2017, the UBIGNSS system was tested in real-life situations, which included tracking goods moving around industrial sites and as a consumer device for motorcycles.

Demand for logistics

This was backed up by a feasibility study looking at the business case for this new system. “We studied what are the most relevant and challenging objects to track,” says Mr Ryckewaert. “We found that the biggest need is in logistics as all vectors in the logistics industry need tracking, but especially unpowered vehicles from containers to pallets.”

Another finding was that the savings in power consumption can be used in different ways for different users. Consumers are mainly interested in having small devices whereas business users are more concerned about how long a device lasts. “If you have a product that lasts five years, you need to make sure the device lasts this long as well so you avoid maintenance costs on the tracking system,” explains Mr Ryckewaert.

A third finding was that businesses and especially consumer users are extremely sensitive to price and that, as things stand, the price for value ratio remains a significant market barrier. Thus the UBIGNSS team will continue to work on ways of getting the costs down and increasing the value proposal of tracking systems.

Keywords

UBIGNSS, geolocation, tracking, tracking applications, GNSS, LPWA, energy-saving, Internet of Things, logistics
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