Vodafone and Topcon Positioning Group are developing a new mass-market precise positioning system that will locate Internet of Things (IoT) devices, machinery, and vehicles with a greater degree of accuracy than using only individual global navigation satellites systems (GNSS). The new system, to be called Vodafone GNSS Corrections, will enable millions of concurrent Topcon’s Topnet live correction service connections for future mass-market IoT and automotive applications to be embedded over Telecoms 3GPP and MQTT data protocols.
Providing centimeter-accuracy for IoT applications
While low-cost GNSS modules and chipsets in IoT may be good within a few meters, by adding RTK corrections to new RTK-capable IoT GNSS modules and chipsets, this can be reduced down to a few centimeters so that vehicles, scooters, and even robot lawn mowers can be securely monitored in real-time. The improved location accuracy is a result of using Topcon’s dense European network of thousands of GNSS reference stations, especially when vehicles and devices are fitted with suitable antennas and receiver equipment.
In most cases, survey-grade geodetic antennas are not suitable due to size and costs. There needs to be a balance between the commercial business costs, volumes and common target accuracy of 10cm (95%) for the application. Therefore, new low-cost GNSS RTK modules/chipsets on the market are designed to be integrated within the vehicle’s sensor fusion ecosystem and software, says Mark Burbidge, Senior Manager, Business Development GNSS OEM at Topcon Positioning Group.
“Smaller low-cost OEM antennas need to be designed and fitted, such as small patch or helix antennas. Ideally, the system should not need to transmit their position but receive broadcast corrections from the service provider for their location, which could for example be based on their cell tower location," he adds.
Upcoming pilot activities
Vodafone and Topcon have agreed to advance customer trials, and Vodafone is currently inviting select customers to join pilot activities in Germany, Spain, and the UK, starting in September 2022. The companies aim to test the service using a wide variety of devices connected to Vodafone’s global IoT network and its pan-European network which covers 12 countries. Vodafone are promoting the pilot activities via their new Safer Transport for Europe Platform or STEP, an open V2X (Vehicle to everything) platform leveraging 5G, Edge and public cloud for connected cars.
Pinpoint accuracy is critical to the mass adoption of V2X technology (the ability for vehicles to speak with other vehicles, road users, and infrastructure), driverless vehicles, as well as for autonomous machinery and robots; e-bike riders, for example, could use Vodafone GNSS Corrections to provide details of their exact location and then alert other road users of their presence.
Selecting an experienced partner with extensive GNSS infrastructure coverage
Vodafone chose to work with Topcon Positioning Group after collaborating for a while and being impressed with the company’s positioning history, expertise, and global training facilities, together with its established Topnet live correction service coverage, says Burbidge. “It was important to Vodafone to work directly with a large positioning manufacturer that offers full-wave GNSS systems, has a track record of running reliable 'always on' services, and is focused on industry standardization. By selecting an experienced partner with extensive GNSS infrastructure coverage, Vodafone can bring their expertise to provide the scale of delivery to Topnet Live. It’s an ideal partnership of sector leadership.”