U-Blox MoU expands GNSS services in Australia

  • July 20, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Swiss firm U-Blox and Position Partners, an Australasian provider of intelligent positioning technology, have signed an MoU to expand the availability of GNSS augmentation services in Australia and New Zealand.

The partnership with Position Partners is another step on the path to offering users global coverage of U-Blox’s PointPerfect GNSS augmentation service.

Position Partners is an established provider of real-time kinematic (RTK) GNSS augmentation data across Australia and New Zealand. The company was seeking to complement its AllDay RTK offering, which primarily targets construction, mining and agriculture applications requiring high-precision positioning technology, with a mass-market-focused offering that scales effortlessly and allows for more cost-effective distribution models.

Position Partners identified the PPP-RTK PointPerfect GNSS augmentation service as suitable for automotive, micromobiity and industrial applications. A key factor in favour of PointPerfect was the service’s broadcast nature, allowing it to be delivered to any number of users using one GNSS augmentation data stream. Moreover, pay-as-you-go distribution models increase the service’s attractiveness, ensuring that users only pay for the services they need.

The availability of mass-market high precision positioning has given rise to a slew of applications across automotive, industrial and consumer markets. The geographical fragmentation of GNSS augmentation services has, however, been a thorn in the side of product manufacturers, including car makers and their suppliers, who would benefit from being able to design their autonomous driving technology to use the same service in all markets.

By bringing the PointPerfect service coverage to Australia and New Zealand, the partnership with Position Partners will contribute to building such a globally uniform service. PointPerfect is already available in Europe and the USA and is in the process of expanding across key Asian markets.

“We look forward to offering customers and partners throughout Australia and New Zealand the U-Blox PointPerfect GNSS augmentation service,” said James Millner, positioning infrastructure manager at Position Partners. “PointPerfect will complement our AllDay RTK network service and open up new opportunities for applications such as field robotics, GNSS-enabled internet of things, safety and intelligent mobility.”

Franco de Lorenzo, principal product owner at U-Blox, added: “This partnership with Position Partners is another stepping stone towards our strategic objective of enabling new automotive, industrial and consumer applications with a globally available, mass-market-focused GNSS augmentation service.”

U-Blox has announced the Sara-R500E, its first cellular module with an embedded SIM (eSIM) chip. Offering LTE-M connectivity, it is designed for size-constrained applications with high requirements in terms of robustness and security, such as connected healthcare and asset trackers. The first variant of the module will offer out-of-the-box connectivity on a North American LTE-M cellular network.

ESIMs are increasingly gaining a foothold in devices offering cellular connectivity. Today, most such devices, including the vast majority of smartphones, still feature a plastic SIM card that contains all the attributes and features required to connect the device to the cellular network. As with the plastic SIMs they are designed to replace, eSIMs are provisioned with a profile that allows devices to connect to a specific mobile network operator.

The eSIM embedded in the Sara-R500E offers product developers and end-users advantages. ESIMs are more robust than standard plastic SIMs and cannot be stolen or removed, increasing the security of the device. By doing away with the components required to hold and connect plastic SIM cards, they enable smaller devices, reduce the bill of material and simplify manufacturing.

Finally, Sara-R500E streamlines sourcing by offering the module, data plans and the SIM from one house.

“Sara-R500E greatly simplifies logistics for device makers, as the eSIM is already integrated inside the module,” said Samuele Falcomer, product manager at U-Blox. “All the customers have to do is activate connectivity and choose the data plan that best fits their needs via the U-Blox Thingstream IoT service delivery platform. Particularly those customers that are too small to negotiate dedicated data plans with mobile network operators will benefit from a competitively priced offering.”

The fact that the module’s eSIM does not need to be inserted manually by the end-user allows product developers to design tightly sealed devices that meet IP67 and IP68 criteria. This makes the module suitable for rugged IoT applications such as smart meters, surveillance cameras and environmental sensors.

The module also offers the option to access U-Blox’s MQTT Anywhere service, which reduces bandwidth requirements for cellular data transfer, saving costs and power. U-Blox’s IoT location-as-a-service portfolio, including AssistNow for real-time GNSS assistance data, and CellLocate, for cellular network-based positioning, is also available.

Sara-R500E is pin-to-pin compatible with other modules in the Sara family and uses the Sara-R5 AT command interface, making it easy to drop into existing designs.

First samples will be available in September.