by Carol Politi
"Status of the MEMS Industry 2013", a new market report available from ReportsNReports, estimates that the overall MEMS market will be worth US$22.5B in 2018 (compared with US$11B in 2012), and the MEMS market for cell devices and tables alone will be worth $US6.4B in 2018.
This demand is, in part, driven by the demand for indoor location using embedded cell device sensors. TRX leverages accelerometer, gyroscope, pressure, compass and other embedded sensors to augment RF positioning, and in combination with higher level agorithms, deliver extended indoor location information when GPS is not reliable or unavailable (within buildings, dense urban areas, parking garages, metros, etc.). The MEMS market growth is particularly large for compact, combination sensors.
While restricted to higher end cell devices today, you can expect lower cost cell devices to increasingly incorporate sensors that are valuable for positioning. This proliferation of sensors is extending to other wearable accessories - smart watches, glasses, personal fitness devices & more. A recent Invensense developers conference showcased (in addition to the TRX NEON Indoor Location System) an array innovative sensor solutions, including devices from 3D Robotics, Variable Inc., Articulate Labs, Xensr, Makers with a Cause, GN Store Nord, Dysonics, ON Semiconductor, and zSpace.
by Carol Politi
A new research report studying the indoor location market estimates that it will experience a 42% growth rate - growing from $448.56 million in 2013 to $2.6 billion in 2018 ("Indoor Location Market: Global Advancements, Market Forecasts and Analysis", by Research and Markets). This is a tremendous growth rate, and it will impact virtually every segment of the technology market including enterprise networking, mobile platform, mobile infrastructure, mapping, and application providers.
The indoor location market is not at all one dimensional. Every industry segment - from mission critical government to consumer retail - is reliant on location based services, and each will benefit from access to more accurate location data. However, the requirements in each industry segment vary a great deal and this is driving an array of different solutions into the market.
Retailers and museums delivering applications for their customers can rely upon installed infrastructure and accurate indoor maps. Other applications being used in these same venues may not have access to such enterprise data, but can count on "signals of opportunity" (e.g., Wi-Fi that happens to be installed in the area). Mission critical applications often can't count on any infrastructure as all of it could fail during an emergency.
Solutions are emerging in islands, with pockets of mapped WiiFi delivering general location inside high use venues such as malls, airports, and museums. These island solutions provide a big leap in capability - enabling proximity-based retail services and effective information and navigation services. However, the ideal user experience is far more seamless - allowing continuous navigation throughout the mall, into the parking garage or metro, and into less frequently used venues such as office and residential buildings.
This seamless user experience requires the ability to seamlessly link islands of "globally known" locations - from GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, or from the user themselves via their application - with locations for which there is no globally known location or mapping data. In some cases, this link is for only a short period (between well mapped enterprises). In other cases, location must be calculated for extended periods.
TRX started its location work for mission critical applications, with the premise that it was necessary to deliver location for extended periods without infrastructure assist. As a result, the navigation approach used by the TRX NEON software performs dynamic mapping of venues - identifying structural features and signatures, and crowdsourcing this feature information - to quickly establish a comprehensive map of features that can be used as an input to location calculations. Through this approach the NEON navigation engine allows navigation for extended periods without any global location updates - building bridges between the islands.
by Carol Politi
TRX is looking for a talented Mechanical Engineer to design and manufacture compact, rugged enclosures for the TRX Indoor Location Device and future products. We need someone that will oversee all aspects of the mechanical design from concept through medium scale manufacturing, including creating and testing prototypes using rapid prototyping processes, holding design reviews, and performing detailed failure mode analysis. The job includes a close collaboration with TRX Electrical Engineers during the design process, and management of our interfaces to outside test labs to verify drop test, IP67, and mil spec ratings compliance. It also includes working with manufacturers to build injection mold tooling, all operations management responsibility for our builds (finding/ordering necessary parts, etc.), development of final assembly instructions and product documentation, and coordination with any outside resources used to support device assemply. We are looking for someone that is comfortable with interacting with strategic partners and customers in order to support all requests related to mechanical components. Contact us if you want to work with a great team & game changing technology! More details HERE.
by Carol Politi.
TRX's Chief Technology Officer, Carole Teolis (supported by contributions from other members of the TRX team) has co-authored a new book titled "Geolocation Techniques, Principles, and Applications". The book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in a comprehensive overview of geolocation technologies and approaches for indoor navigation- including covering RF & ranging (and the impact of multipath environments), cellular, inertial, and localization and mapping corrections.
The authors of the book include Camillo Gentile (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Nayef Alsindi (Etilsalat BT Innovation Center, Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Research), Ronald Raulefs (German Aerospace Center), and Carole Teolis (TRX Systems).
By Carol Politi
I am often asked about the commercial applications for indoor location. “Why would anyone need to locate indoors?"
It can be tough to envision applications that might be generated through capabilities you don’t have. GPS was first funded and deployed for military applications. Without the defense push for GPS the business case for investment would have been very difficult to make. However, the overall market for GPS devices and systems is now expected to grow to over 240 Billion dollars by 2013 (ABI Research) – and a good part of that is driven from the civilian sector.
Indoor location has also been initially driven by Government and Public Safety applications where the demand is the greatest. However, during day two of the WPI Precision Indoor Location and Tracking Workshop, both Qualcomm and Verizon spoke about the immense potential for the consumer indoor location market. Applications discussed included navigation applications within transportation hubs, shopping malls, convention centers, university campuses, hospitals, and office buildings, along with entertainment and social applications. Should we really have to wander around looking for “you are here” signs to find a decent restaurant? I don’t think so. And at some point we will all stop walking around with phones to our ears while we are almost bumping into the person we are supposed to meet.
Today, we can detect proximity from Wi-Fi, but we can’t get to precise indoor location. This is the “last mile” for the location services market. While a number of tagging & infrastructure-based technologies can deliver to precise indoor location, it is tough to make these solutions ubiquitous. At WPI, the view from Qualcomm and Verizon appeared to be that simplicity may win out over precision, and that innovations that depend less on infrastructure may win out.
Regardless of the commercial potential to make our lives more convenient and entertaining - and in TRX’s case to increase the size of the market we are addressing - real lives will be saved by delivering GPS-denied location for the military and public safety markets. At TRX, we remember that every day.
by Carol Politi.
Dr. John Karvounis of TRX Systems is speaking in a session titled "Navigating in Challenged Environments (e.g., Urban, Indoor, and Subterranean)" at the 2011 Joint Navigation Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado this week. The session is chaired by Jalal Mapar of the Department of Homeland Security and Dr. R James Duckworth of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Additional details on the conference are available here.
by Carol Politi
ABI Research predicts, in their "Alternative Positioning Technologies" study that the alternative location technologies market will be $2.5 Billion by 2015 - delivering location to applications while people are indoors, underground, or in dense urban areas where GPS does not work effectively.
"The demand for low cost, ubiquitous location data has increased significantly over the last 12 months. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, Facebook and others are battling to enable and control consumer location”, said ABI Research senior analyst Patrick Connolly. “This will bring new opportunities and threats to the market but ultimately will drive a 400% increase in alternative location technology penetration across a range of portable devices, location technologies and location providers."
The indoor location market is divided among a myriad of approaches, including Wi-Fi positioning which already has a large installed base in cell phones. However, Wi-Fi solutions don't deliver precise indoor location and cannot provide 3D - i.e., the location within a building including floor level - without enterprise surveying and involvement. Infrastructure-free location at that level of accuracy requires the use of sensors beyond GPS and Wi-Fi.
According to EETimes "It’s not a case of either/or, but of, a continually evolving hybrid approach. GPS alone will not be sufficient to support the next generation of services and revenue streams. Services such as local search, location-based advertising, geotagging, social networking and augmented reality are all significantly improved through increased accuracy and indoor/ubiquitous location."
by Carol Politi
TRX has announced it is working with with DARPA to optimize its Sentrix Personnel Tracking System to support location and tracking in undergound structures such as caves and mines. The DARPA program supports testing and optimization that enables TRX to enhance the navigation accuracy of the system in such subsurface environments. The funding will also enable the Sentrix system and its sensors to be easily integrated into existing systems with sensors already in place.
Fueling Autonomy, Innovation and Creativity in the Effort to “Track Where Nothing Else Can”
By David Lemus
At TRX Systems, we have a number of programs that drive our development team to perform focused development as efficiently as possible. With the increasing market interest in GPS-denied navigation translating to ever increasing deliverables, it can be difficult to set aside enough time for innovation and creativity.
Over the last few years, more and more organizations seem to be effectively integrating “FedEx Days” as part of their company culture. A FedEx Day is where employees have the day (or two) to work on anything they want, as long as it fits into the company’s vision. The employees then share the results of their free day with the rest of their team the following day (Overnight Delivery). Google set the stage for this kind of autonomy in a company allowing their employees to use 20% of their time for side projects (Casnocha, 2009). The results are tremendous with approximately 50% of new product development coming from this 20% time.
In this spirit, TRX tried our first FedEx Day recently and the results were astounding. Kamiar and Amrit focused on effective indoor navigation and tracking on today’s consumer devices/smartphones. Jared wanted better communication methods between our Tracking Unit and mobile devices and developed new hardware enabling 3G communications over Dan’s Android application. I prototyped a miniaturized Tracking Unit mimicking smartphone designs. Others focused on future communications method, new ways of visualizing our current user interface or learning a new skill.
So what happened as a result of these two-day projects? TRX got a head start on handheld development that is now supported by a project with DARPA. The day fueled business strategy discussions and brainstorming sessions across all levels of the organization. And most importantly, it generated excitement and a renewed sense of purpose – driven by the awareness of a larger vision for TRX's unique indoor navigation technology.
TRX seems to constantly find ways to innovate and grant employees a level of autonomous decision making. From my perspective, this not only allows our team to “do things right” but it also facilitates a company mantra to “do the right thing.” As the lead mechanical engineer for TRX, I continually witness the intelligence and creativity of our technical team on a day to day basis. I was thrilled that TRX was able to funnel the abilities of the team into a focused, creative and fun 2 day session.
I can’t wait for our next FedEx day…
By Kamiar Kordari
The TRX system calculates location by intelligently fusing information from accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses as core sensors. We are often asked to specify accuracy based on “percent of distance traveled” and typically hesitate to do so because this type of specification is accurate only for a specific path or test. In this post I’d like to discuss what drives accuracy.
As background, in the industry, systems that rely on accelerometers and gyroscopes to calculate location are often called “dead reckoning” systems. The TRX system does rely in part on such sensors. The accuracy of location estimates relying on such dead reckoning techniques is often quoted as a percentage of distance traveled, with error that grows over longer paths. However, tracking or location accuracy described as percent of distance travelled is generally not accurate even if considering only these sensors alone.
In a dead-reckoning tracking system there are two major sources of X-Y error: heading error and scaling error. (In 3 dimensions, elevation error or the Z axis must also be considered). If the compass works relatively well then the heading error can be significantly low. If that is not the case and compass is significantly degraded, which happens often, the error will change in complicated manner. The accuracy will not only be a function of distance traveled but also a function of time as well as the shape of the path taken. Even with a helpful compass the error depends on the shape of the path taken, and surprisingly the accuracy can increase over time.
Let’s investigate with some examples to see how the actual error changes in reality. For the following examples we are ignoring the compass data.
In the first video the user is walking on a straight line for 200 meters then makes a 180 degree turn and comes back to the starting point and repeats the same path one more time. The upper graph shows the location of the user and path taken. In the lower graph the error dynamics are shown. The red graph is the error as a percentage of error distance and blue graph is the error from accurate sensor model. It is interesting to notice that the actual error not only increases but it also decreases in some parts.
The second video is a person walking the same distance but on a square. This time the actual error change is more complicated.
The above examples focus on only a subset of the error sources for a dead reckoning system. These examples also focus on just a few of the sensors within a diverse group of sensors fused together in the TRX Sentrix Navigation Engine. The Navigation Engine fuses together multiple sensors with varying – and largely uncorrelated error conditions to eliminate drift and other error conditions experienced by typical dead reckoning or inertial systems. A key part of the Sentrix approach is to detect sensors which are degraded either de-emphasized or eliminated these from the navigation calculations. Because the accuracy of the base sensors cannot be specified as a percent of distance traveled, an integrated system can also not be characterized in this manner.
Looking beyond specs, the best measure of accuracy is user satisfaction with the system – can they use it to navigate and to find who they need to find?