Vodafone explores new IoT satellite technology

22 09 06 - Topcon - GNSS Corrections

Operator Vodafone has signed an agreement with positioning system specialist Topcon Positioning Group to work on proof-of-concept activities to locate IoT devices, machinery, and vehicles.

The two firms are developing a new mass-market precise positioning system which they claim will locate IoT devices, machinery, and vehicles with better accuracy than using only individual global navigation satellites systems.

The system, called rather awkwardly Vodafone GNSS Corrections, combines Vodafone’s global IoT network and technology from Topcon which corrects inaccuracies from navigation satellite signals, which allows for the monitoring of devices in real-time to within a few centimetres, we’re told. This location accuracy is improved from a few metres, which it seems to be implying would be the accuracy level otherwise, to centimetres using Topcon’s European network of thousands of GNSS reference stations.

The firms say better accuracy is critical to the mass adoption of Vehicle to Anything (V2X) technology – which is about autonomous cars and anything else IoT shaped involved in supporting their function. It gives the example of e-bike riders using Vodafone GNSS Corrections to provide details of their exact location and then alert other road users of their presence.

“As new technologies like autonomous cars and connected machinery continue to evolve, Vodafone is providing the critical connections to support these new services with greater precision, more safety and at scale,” said Justin Shields, Director of Vodafone Business Platforms & Solutions. “Our customers want to be able to better locate their devices, and the collaboration with Topcon complements our existing asset tracking and fleet telematics solutions.”

Ian Stilgoe Vice President of Topcon Global Emerging Business added: “At Topcon, we are proud to be partnering with Vodafone to bring high accuracy correction services to enable V2X applications to operate at the accuracy needed to help improve road safety, especially for vulnerable road users. Topcon’s extensive history providing precision positioning solutions makes it an ideal partner for Vodafone utilising the comprehensive Topnet Live GNSS network. Vodafone’s high accuracy services can also be used to improve positioning performance of many other autonomous applications such as drones, delivery robots and safety system wearables.”

Vodafone is calling on select customers to join pilot activities in Germany, Spain, and the UK this month.

There is mention of it being useful for all sorts of things such as drones and lawnmowers, but the chief utility seems to be better oriented self driving cars. There are a few coordinated projects being run in the EU with the aim of collating different tech players and pinning down how self driving cars can work in the chaotic real world outside of lab conditions, and in the EU there is the added complications of maintaining uninterrupted service between countries.

The 5G-Carmen project is a pilot scheme that leverages 5G and edge installations to test some spicier capabilities of autonomous cars. Meanwhile 5GCroCo is designed to demonstrate how autonomous vehicles function across national borders, and has €17 million of funding from the EU in its belt and Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson as tech partners. Just in case that’s not enough, there is also R3CAV which is looking at developing a new prototype driverless vehicle, as well as a connected autonomous bus, and an advanced driver assistance system that leverages 5G.

In the US things seem to be progressing faster when it comes to realisation of proper available self driving motors. Last month Lyft and Motional launched a new automated electric taxi service in Las Vegas, which is kind of dummy run for a ‘fully driverless service’ which will launch in Las Vegas in 2023, before expanding to other major US cities, while Tesla is also visibly making strides. Perhaps there’s something about the fact there are more operators, more borders, and the fact we have older windier roads that makes it all a bit more complicated to pull off in Europe.


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