The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) today announced a new direction finding feature that holds the potential to enhance the performance of Bluetooth location services solutions.
The new feature allows devices to determine the direction of a Bluetooth signal, thereby enabling the development of Bluetooth proximity solutions that can understand device direction as well as Bluetooth positioning systems that can achieve down to centimeter-level location accuracy.
Bluetooth location services solutions generally fall into two categories; proximity solutions and positioning systems. Today, proximity solutions use Bluetooth to understand when two devices are near each other, and approximately how far apart. They include item finding solutions such as personal property tags, as well as point-of-interest (PoI) information solutions like proximity marketing beacons. By including the new direction finding feature, Bluetooth proximity solutions can add device direction capability. For example, an item finding solution could not only let a user know when a personal property tag is nearby, but also in what direction.
Positioning systems use Bluetooth to determine the physical location of devices and include real-time locating systems (RTLS), such as those used for asset tracking, as well as indoor positioning systems (IPS), like those for indoor wayfinding. Today, Bluetooth positioning systems can achieve meter-level accuracy when determining the physical location of a device. By adding the new the direction finding feature, these positioning systems could improve their location accuracy down to the centimeter-level.
The direction finding feature is included in version 5.1 of the Bluetooth Core Specification, which is available to developers as of today.
The updated Bluetooth specification arrives as a draft standard and is nearly ready for an even faster and more accurate capability using ultra-wideband (UWB) radio, geared for use in smartphones.
Smartphone giants Apple and Samsung have been active in the .4z meetings also attended by Huawei, leading some to suggest that the capability could be integrated in handsets within two years. NXP has also been active since the group started a year ago, giving rise to speculation that UWB could come into phones though an integrated NFC chip.