U-Blox explorer kits aid positioning integration

  • October 13, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Swiss firm U-Box has developed explorer kits to make it quicker and easier for engineers to design and evaluate products requiring centimetre-level positioning capabilities.

Set to launch early next year, the ready-to-use XPLR-HPG-1 and XPLR-HPG-2 will combine technologies required to achieve highly precise positioning. As well as an open MCU, they’ll include high-precision GNSS positioning with real-time kinematic, dead reckoning, cellular, wifi and Bluetooth communications, and the necessary antennas. The kits are designed to integrate seamlessly with complementary U-Blox services, such as PointPerfect GNSS augmentation, and Ubxlib software that simplifies the developer experience across U-Blox products and services, particularly during component evaluation and prototyping.

The kits can help engineers working in areas such as micromobility and low-speed robotics to build, test and demonstrate early-stage proofs of concept more quickly.

The modular XPLR-HPG-1 kit will be based around the wireless MCU in the U-Blox Nora-W106, with its wifi and Bluetooth LE capabilities, and will give engineers flexibility to adjust their products to their precise needs, using Mikroe Click boards featuring a variety of U-Blox modules. The kit will include three Click boards, which incorporate either the Zed-F9R RTK GNSS module, the Lara-R6001D LTE Cat 1 module for global coverage and with built-in MQTT client, and the Neo-D9S L-band correction data receiver module. Engineers can purchase others based on the application. The kit’s source code will include example software for the Espressif IoT Development Framework based on Ubxlib software.

The compact XPLR-HPG-2 incorporates the Zed-F9R, Lara-R6001D and Neo-D9S L-band modules, as well as the Nina-W106 with its MCU, Bluetooth LE and wifi capabilities.

Having the blend of technologies available in a single explorer kit will give designers the ability to achieve cm-level positioning in a variety of scenarios. The GNSS receiver provides an initial position reading, which is then refined using correction data from the PointPerfect service, delivered using L-band satellite signals, as well as cellular and/or wifi communications.

“Centimetre-level positioning accuracy is becoming increasingly important for both consumer and industrial applications,” said Pelle Svensson, senior principal for product strategy at U-Blox. “It relies on getting GNSS technology working hand-in-hand with wireless communication capabilities, to link in with augmentation data services such as PointPerfect. Our aim with these new kits is to make the process as simple as possible for design engineers, by providing all the key technologies and services in one place. This will enable them to create rapid proofs of concept, and ultimately get the finished product into customers’ hands more quickly.”

Japanese firm Ricoh has chosen U-Blox’s GNSS expertise for its latest 360-degree camera, the Theta X, which comes equipped with the U-Blox Zoe-M8B module that delivers long-lasting GNSS performance for small battery-powered devices.

The camera lets users shoot high-quality 360-degree spherical images and videos in one click and visualise them immediately on a large LCD touch panel.

The Zoe-M8B enables the Theta X’s built-in GPS. The GPS (QZSS) and A-GPS automatically embed highly accurate location information to each image taken without the need for a smartphone or other external device. An icon on the LCD touch panel displays the availability of the GPS signals depending on the user’s location, ensuring the location information has been acquired before starting shooting.

Location accurate is down to a 5m radius. This makes it suitable for construction and architecture professionals who can digitise sites through 360-degree scenery imagery and capture any project phase, but also for the mapping industry, insurance providers and realtors.

The Zoe-M8B measures 4.5 by 4.5 by 1.0 mm and is a SiP (system-in-package) GNSS module with concurrent reception of up to three satellite constellations. The Super-E (super-efficient) mode guarantees power consumption as low as 12mW, and built-in SAW and LNA make it suitable for passive antennas.

“We chose to integrate the Zoe-M8B GNSS module into our Theta X because of the highly accurate location information it offers, alongside easy integration thanks to its small size, and low power consumption,” said Kenji Daigo, GPS function developer at Ricoh. “In other words, the module offers what we needed in terms of a small antenna design while not compromising on highly accurate positioning performance, a function essential to our customers.”