2019 kicked off with a Bluetooth technology milestone. The latest version of the Bluetooth Core Specification, launched in January, now supports direction-finding capabilities that are moving Bluetooth location services from simple proximity detection to real-time sub-meter positioning. The direction-finding feature has been a hot topic in the location services industry this year.
The release of Bluetooth Low Energy revolutionized wireless communication around the world, opening up an ever-expanding market for connected devices — from household appliances and fitness trackers to health sensors, medical innovations, and much more.
Bluetooth member companies immediately got creative with the technology and, before long, they had developed a wide range of Bluetooth location services innovations; everything from proximity solutions like point of interest information services and personal item trackers to more sophisticated systems that centered around true positioning and real-time locating systems for asset tracking and wayfinding.
Now, with the addition of a new direction-finding feature, you can not only determine if a device is nearby but know its exact direction down to the centimeter level. This capability is taking Bluetooth location services to a whole new level of performance and is accomplished through understanding the angle of arrival and angle of departure of a device's signal.
The angle of arrival is often used for systems like asset tracking in warehouses and hospitals. For these systems, transmitters attached to facility assets are constantly broadcasting signals to locators placed in fixed positions around the building. Locators listening for those asset tags and beacons report to a location engine. This engine not only calculates and identifies asset positions, but it also determines the direction of the asset.
The angle of departure is used for indoor navigation and wayfinding solutions that help people navigate through shopping malls, office buildings, and stadiums. In this instance, transmitters placed in fixed locations throughout a facility broadcast to receiving devices, typically a smartphone. Based on the angle the signal departed from, the smartphone can accurately identify its location in a building.
Bluetooth location service is the fastest-growing Bluetooth solution area with 431 million Bluetooth location services devices forecasted to ship annually by 2023. This is due, in no small part, to the addition of new direction-finding capabilities that the Bluetooth community is already using to enhance the performance of Bluetooth location services solutions.