Accurate and secure micro-location
for next-gen IoT applications

From augmented reality to seamless interaction between robots and people in smart factories: the success of next-gen IoT applications will hinge on the ability of computer systems to pinpoint the location of objects in space. With our wireless RF and optical technology, Holst Centre is taking micro-location to the next level.

The level of precision needed by these new applications lies far beyond the reach of technologies such as GPS or current commercial Bluetooth versions based on RSS (Received Signal Strength). We need new approaches that not only achieve accuracy in orders of centimetres, but are also fast, low-power, affordable and secure. Especially security is a crucial point for micro-location technologies. To counter various forms of location spoofing or relay attacks, even advanced forms of cryptography fall short. What’s needed is a careful co-design of wireless technology and cryptographic features. We are looking at different technologies to enable micro-location that meets these requirements, and welcome new partners to join our pursuit.

Bluetooth micro-location

Bluetooth technology has been around for decades and is available on a wide selection of professional and consumer devices. Because Bluetooth technology is so widely employed in industry, today it’s already used to roughly measure the distance between two or multiple devices. However, true micro-location applications are currently beyond the capabilities of Bluetooth technology, achieving at best only a few meters of accuracy using signal strength (RSSI) techniques. For new applications such as contactless payment and keyless entry, higher accuracy and secure distance measurement capabilities are needed.

At Holst Centre we have further increased accuracy through novel algorithms that can enhance the accuracy to below 30 cm through phase-based distance measurements and smart signal processing. New algorithms can also help to increase the security of Bluetooth location tracking against location spoofing and relay attacks. To mitigate those risks, our researchers have developed a secure distance bounding protocol.

Micro-location through UWB

To further increase the accuracy to the cm-level and enable applications such as extremely precise distance measurement for AR/VR, ultra-wide band (UWB) could be the ultimate solution. For a long time, UWB’s high energy consumption seemed to impede its use for most applications. That problem has been solved mainly by recent hardware and software innovations that achieve a power consumption that’s up to ten times lower than that of current UWB solutions – and further boost accuracy below 10 cm, even in very challenging environments such as warehouses containing lots of metal objects. Moreover, by combining UWB with RADAR, next-gen micro-location could accurately assess both position and movement of any object. This could improve, for example, interaction in games and on the factory floor, where it’s useful to track where somebody is as well as what he’s doing.

RADAR and LIDAR micro-location

RADAR and LIDAR technologies can be used for passive micro-location applications – where the detected entity does not carry a tag or device. This can for instance be useful for medical applications where micro-movements that indicate respiration and heart-rate will be measured. Advances in RF architectures enable high-frequency (140 GHz), high-resolution and cost-effective CMOS RADAR solutions.

Furthermore, optical distance measurements enable next-generation ultra-accurate micro-location use cases. Our photonics technology integration paves the way from today’s bulky and high-cost implementations towards fully-integrated small form factors and low device costs.