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LighTimes: LED and Visible Light Communications Could be Key to Indoor Location Market, According to ABI Research

15 Jan 2014

January 14, 2014…While GPS (global positioning satellite) technology works well outside to give a person’s location, finding your location indoors requires different technology. LED/visible light communication technology is one method of establishing a person’s location indoors. 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. According to ABI research LED/Visible light Communications (VLC) is tantalizingly close to providing huge performance benefits without the usual cost implications.

ABI Research’s latest report examines the case for LED/VLC technologies in the high-accuracy indoor location space. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly commented, “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.”

Connolly added, “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.”

ABI research points out that major OEMs, start-ups, and universities are investigating a host of competing technologies including: 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 noted, “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.”