Real-Time Location Systems for IoT

There is a saying that every nice piece of work needs the right person in the right place at the right time.

—Benoit Mandelbrot

I've worked on a number of Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) over the years, including Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Radio Frequency Location Systems (RFLS), and all of them have had their share of problems with accuracy, signal interferance, and signal loss. My friend David just demonstrated a new Real-Time Location System (RTLS) for me this week, based on the the IEEE_802.15.4 standard, using an Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) tranceiver from decaWave, the DW1000. With up to ten centimeter (10cm) indoor position accuracy of moving objects, it's accuracy sets a new standard.

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)

There have been many different approaches to Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS), largely separated into indoor and outdoor applications. Global Positioning System (GPS) devices have come down in price significantly over the last few years, and can now be found in most outdoor applications (cars, boats, etc.) as well as cell phones and handsets. Unfortunately, GPS devices don't function well for indoor applications, and can often have problems outdoors as well, under trees and in canyons, for example. Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) for indoor applications have relied on received Radio Frequency Signal Strength (RSSI) using Wi-Fi positioning or Bluetooth Beacons. However, both of these technologies have both limited range and accuracy. TREK1000 Evaluation

Real-Time Location Applications

The applications for Real-Time Location are numerous, from "Where did I leave my keys?", or commercial asset tracking, to people and personnel tracking. Applications have been traditionally limited by the accuracy and range of existing solutions, as well as the cost of implementation. The decaWave, DW1000 device aims to remove those limitations by providing a lower cost solution with high accuracy.

DW1000 - Hardware Features

The DW1000 Integrated Circuit enables a new approach to Real Time Location and Indoor Positioning Systems :

  • IEEE_802.15.4 Ultra-Wide Band Tranceiver
  • Ten Centimeter (10 cm) indoor position accuracy of objects
  • High Speed tracking of moving objects, up to 500 meters/second (1100 mph)
  • Six megabit (6.8 megabit) per second data rate for Sensor applications
  • Nine Hundred foot (290 meters) communications range
  • High Tag density tracking (11,000 tags within a 20 meter radius)
  • High Immunity to Multipath Fading
  • Low power consumption for longer battery lifetime
EVK1000 Evaluation Board

EVK1000 - Evalution Board

The EVK1000 Evalution Board incorporates the DW1000 UWB IC, an ARM Cortex-M3 (STM32F105) microcontroller, and a 16x2 line character LCD module. The EVK1000 Evalution Board includes a standard twenty (20) pin JTAG programming header, and we were able to quickly access it using our Segger J-Link programming adaptor. The DW1000 uses a high speed SPI connection to the ARM Cortex-M3 (STM32F105) microcontroller for high thoughput.

DWM1000 Module

DWM1000 Module The DM1000 can either be purchased as a discrete package (48 pin QFN) or as the DWM1000 Module. The DWM1000 Module includes voltage regulation, bypass capacitors, RF Balun and a chip antenna. If you are not an accomplished RF layout designer, the module is a simple way to embed the DM1000 in your end product.

First Look Summary

We were able to load the drivers and test application in a few minutes, to set up a four node system; using three (3) fixed position boards and one (1) mobile "Tag" board that we moved around the lab. The Trek1000 evaluation kit was very simple to use, and quickly showed us the range and accuracy possible with the decaWave product. We'll update our findings as we get some additional time working with the evalution kit and development firmware.

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