U-Blox uses Bluetooth for indoor positioning

  • March 21, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Swiss firm U-Blox has announced an antenna board for Bluetooth direction finding and indoor positioning applications.

The Ant-B10 is designed for integration into commercial end-products, enabling low power, high precision indoor positioning. It can speed up evaluation, testing and commercialisation of Bluetooth direction finding and indoor positioning products.

Bluetooth indoor positioning uses the angle of arrival (AoA) of a Bluetooth direction finding signal emitted by a mobile tag at several fixed anchor points to calculate the tag’s location in real time with sub-metre accuracy. The technology, which benefits from Bluetooth’s ecosystem and interoperability across platforms, is gaining traction due to its low cost, high accuracy and relative ease of installation and maintenance.

The self-contained Bluetooth Low Energy antenna board is for direction finding and indoor positioning. It has an antenna array comprising eight individual patch antennas, and is built around the firm’s Nina-B411 Bluetooth 5.1 module. After processing incoming RF signals emitted by mobile tracker tags in the module’s radio and angle calculation processor, it outputs the calculated angle of arrival without requiring any additional processes.

The release also includes the XPLR-AOA-3 explorer kit. It features an application board, which offers developers a quick and easy way to evaluate and test the Ant-B10 antenna board, as well as U-Blox’s direction finding algorithm. An off-the-shelf pin header on the application board allows for easy bring-up and testing of the Ant-B10 and third-party antenna boards. And connecting the two boards yields a ready-to-use AoA indoor positioning anchor point in seconds.

The Ant-B10 and XPLR-AOA-3 complement the existing U-Blox indoor positioning offering, which includes the XPLR-AOA-1 and XPLR-AOA-2 kits. Using U-ConnectLocate, which runs on Ant-B10’s Bluetooth module, developers can execute the angle calculation algorithms using AT commands. When combined, the suite is ready to go for end-product integration.

Common use cases for Bluetooth indoor positioning and direction include tracking assets in industrial settings such as in warehouses as well as people and things in hospitals, retail environments or museums. Additionally, access control systems deployed in connected buildings can use angle detection to determine which side of a door users are on.

“With the introduction of Ant-B10 and the XPLR-AOA-3 kit, we are excited to offer complete RF-to-cloud for Bluetooth-based indoor positioning and direction finding,” said Giorgos Marakis, product strategist at U-Blox. “The solution lets developers benefit from our in-house expertise in angle calculation and multipath suppression, saving development costs and shortening time to market.”

To determine the angle of arrival of incoming signals for direction finding, the board concurrently processes them on all eight patch antennas. Because implementing multiple RF paths connected to multiple RF switches unnecessarily increases power demand and introduces errors, the board uses a single RF switch component from CoreHW that cycles through the eight antennas at a microsecond timescale.

“We are excited to be part of such great all-round indoor positioning,” said Mika Jäsberg, vice president at Finland-based CoreHW. “U-Blox has really demonstrated its commitment to bringing down the barriers to entry for Bluetooth indoor positioning and popularising the technology.”

The boards are available today and sampling to customers has begun.

With headquarters in Thalwil, Switzerland, U-Blox has offices in Europe, Asia and the USA.