While the indoor location market is relatively nascent, companies are already aggressively addressing next-generation, high accuracy (sub-5m) technologies to ensure they are best placed to dominate the emerging multi-billion dollar retail technology market. LED/Visible light Communications (VLC) is tantalizingly close to providing huge performance benefits without the usual cost implications.
In ABI Research’s latest research, “Visible Light Communications: The Future of Retail Indoor Location?” the case for LED/VLC technologies in the high-accuracy indoor location space is assessed. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly comments, “As a standalone location technology, LED/VLC has some inherent problems, including the need for line-of-sight and a complex value chain. But as part of a hybrid solution it becomes indoor location on steroids, offering ubiquitous sub-meter levels of accuracy in three dimensions, and even has the theoretical possibility as a data communications alternative to Wi-Fi, etc. Most implementations under consideration are already compatible with existing smartphone technology today. If this can be incorporated with negligible cost at the infrastructure side as retail stores naturally migrate to LED lighting, it immediately becomes a no-brainer. However, this means it will also require the backing of at least one of the big four LED OEMs.”
There are already a host of competing technologies under investigation by major OEMs, start-ups and universities, each of which is assessed in the report. These include sensor fusion, audio/ultrasound, magnetic field, UWB and future evolutions of BLE and Wi-Fi, such as Quuppa’s HAIP technology.
Practice director, Dominique Bonte adds, “Despite the inherent barriers, many companies continue to research and develop in the LED/VLC area, because the technology is potentially so powerful. With large companies like Qualcomm, Casio, Motorola (via Bytelight investment) and Intel joining start-ups in this area, there is now the necessary muscle to force this technology into the mainstream.”
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