While many people may know that location tracking is a key component of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications, most don't realize how widely this capability is used. Most IoT devices don't track human locations, but are instead used in a wide range of automated or "behind the scenes" services. For example, fault location and maintenance both require accurate location support. When a street lamp goes out, the city has to be able to quickly identify and locate it. By identifying the location of this fault automatically, maintenance engineers don't have to check the street lamps one by one.
In addition to IoT devices, positioning applications that rely on providing accurate locations are one of the fastest growing app markets. These applications provide location tracking for motorcycles, battery-powered scooters, shared bicycles, children, pets, and logistics.
There are many ways to track location, from cellular network-based positioning that is precise within a couple dozen
meters, to global navigation satellite system (GNSS)-based positioning which is precise within a couple feet, and
even WiFi/Bluetooth-based positioning.
In smart city applications, multiple devices are often deployed outside over a wide area. This means GNSS-based and network-based positioning is most common. Accurate location data can be obtained through the GNSS, and location information can then be transmitted through the wide area cellular network. With the location information, users can access multiple services in real time through mobile applications and SMS. So then, the next question is: What is the best cellular network technology for your smart city applications? Which radio access technology (RAT) is the most suitable?
Tracking of vehicles, pets, and logistics
Poor Quality LTE- and 2G-based Locators
Currently, there are a wide variety of LTE and 2G cellular locators in the market, but most of them deliver seriously subpar user experiences.
○ Many are too large or heavy to carry around, making them useless for tracking your pets or kids.
○ Many have extremely short battery life, with some needing to be recharged daily.
○ More "usable" products, especially LTE-powered devices, are extremely expensive. LTE is a high-traffic, large-bandwidth technology that is expensive to run. Position tracking only requires a small amount of coordinate data. Using LTE to run position tracking services is like feeding caviar to a toddler.
NB-IoT: The Preferred Solution for
Location Tracking Products
Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is another alternative to traditional cellular communications technologies. Even compared with standard 4G, it has a number of advantages:
○ Low power consumption: NB-IoT has multiple energy-efficient modes, including a power saving mode (PSM) and extended discontinuous reception (eDRX), to support longer standby time for tracking devices.
○ Lower cost: NB-IoT has a simpler architecture and tighter integration, and requires fewer peripherals, making it easier to build miniaturized products.
○ High online rate: NB-IoT features better coverage and stronger location tracking and backhaul than previous generations of network technologies.
HiSilicon's new Boudica chipset solutions have integrated NB technology for IoT scenarios:
○ Shenzhen Yuncheng Technology uses HiSilicon's NB-IoT Boudica 150 solution in its ultra-small-sized, low-power Xixigou ("happy dog") pet tracker, which can be used for 15 days on a single charge. By using an eSIM, the devices have completely eliminated the need for an external card. It provides real-time location and monitoring services in a compact, cute-looking package that only weighs 20 grams.
○ Shanghai Oviphone uses the NB-IoT Boudica 150 solution in its B2315 series health band, which collects temperature, heart rate, step count, sleep, and blood pressure data along with location positioning. It can be widely used in campuses, communities, nursing homes, hospitals, and construction sites.