Micro-location technology
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Micro-location technology

When every centimeter or even millimeter counts, only a new class of location technologies can deliver. Take a look at the options imec is exploring in the wireless RF and optical technology space.

From augmented reality to seamless interaction between robots and people in smart factories ... The success of next-gen IoT applications will primarily hinge on one feature. The ability of computer systems to pinpoint the location of objects in space.

The level of precision needed by these new applications is considerable. It lies far beyond the reach of technologies such as GPS or current commercial Bluetooth versions based on RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator). We need new approaches that not only achieve accuracy in orders of centimeters but are also:

  • fast
  • low-power
  • secure
  • affordable

A crucial point for micro-location technologies is security. To counter various forms of location spoofing or relay attacks, even advanced forms of cryptography fall short. What’s needed is a careful codesign of wireless technology and cryptographic features.

Imec is looking at different technologies to enable micro-location that meets these requirements. We welcome new partners to join this pursuit.

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Micro location tracking through narrow-band technologies such as Bluetooth phase-based distance measurement

Bluetooth technology has been around for decades. It's available on a wide selection of professional and consumer devices.

In industrial settings, it's already used to roughly measure the distance between two or multiple devices. However, true micro-location applications are currently beyond the capabilities of Bluetooth technology. At best, it achieves a few meters of accuracy using signal strength (RSSI) techniques. For new applications such as contactless payment and keyless entry, higher accuracy and secure distance measurement capabilities are needed.

Imec has further increased accuracy through novel algorithms. These can enhance the accuracy to below 10 cm, compliant with Bluetooth high-accuracy distance measurement/channel sounding (BT HADM/CS). They do this through phase-based distance measurements and smart signal processing.

Security Bluetooth

Imec’s accurate and secure localization solution based on Bluetooth reaches 30-cm accuracy.

New algorithms can also help to increase the security against location spoofing and relay attacks. To mitigate those risks, imec’s researchers have developed a secure distance bounding protocol.

Explore imec’s Bluetooth offering

Micro location tracking technology through ultra-wide band

Do you want to further increase the accuracy to the cm-level? And thereby enable applications such as extremely precise distance measurement and AR/VR? Then ultra-wide band (UWB) could be the ultimate solution.

For a long time, UWB’s low energy efficiency seemed to impede its use for most applications. That problem has been solved mainly by recent hardware and software innovations.  They achieve a power consumption that’s up to ten times lower than that of current UWB solutions. And that with an accuracy below 10 cm, even in very challenging environments such as warehouses containing lots of metal objects.

Discover imec’s UWB technology

Moreover, by combining UWB with radar, next-gen micro-location could accurately assess both position and movement of any object. This is important for applications where it’s useful to track where people are as well as what they're doing. For example: to improve interaction in games and on the factory floor.

Packaged 8GHz radar IC

Imec’s UWB transceiver chip

Micro location tracking through radar and lidar

Radar and lidar technologies can be used for passive micro-location applications. There, the detected entity does not carry a tag or device. This can for instance be useful for medical applications such as micro-movements that indicate respiration and heart rate. Advances in RF architectures enable high-frequency (140 GHz), high-resolution and cost-effective CMOS radar solutions.

Check out imec’s radar technologies

Furthermore, optical distance measurements enable next-generation ultra-accurate micro-location use cases. Imec’s photonics technology integration paves the way from today’s bulky and high-cost implementations towards fully-integrated small form factors and low device costs.


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Do you need access to advanced micro-location technology for your application? Then imec can assist you through:

  1. design on demand – Count on our researchers and infrastructure for your custom R&D into micro-location technology.
  2. insight partnership – Get previews of our latest developments via regular concept and prototype demonstrations.
  3. whitebox silicon IP licensing and technology transfer – Tune our hardware and software IP to your needs, with support from our experts.

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