Positioning is everything

Summer time, swimming pool time. What exactly does this have to do with positioning? Apart from the fact that the position at the front of the queue of the snack bar is much better than one further behind, simply imagine yourself standing on the five-meter or even ten-meter diving platform of the pool of your choice. Right at the front, right to the edge. And you already know how big the difference of only ten centimeters in positioning can be. And how much influence the position accuracy can have on your overall condition.

The individual position is the most important status description that an object in a networked structure is to give feedback about. Exact positioning is therefore the most important building block for the Internet of Things and location-based services. The Internet of Things is a concept to close the existing information gaps between the real and virtual world. “Things” have certain attributes in the real world at a certain moment that are not known in the virtual world. Objects must therefore give as exact a feedback as possible about these attributes in order to close the gap. The simplest state description in the real world is exactly like in the processing of digital information 0 or 1, yes or no: present or not present. If this smallest unit of information is updated so that something is present at a certain place at a certain time the description of the condition becomes really valuable. We have achieved a fully functional positioning.

In the retail sector, it can be used, for example, to track customer flows, routes and the length of time people stay. Having this valid data enables one, for example, to optimize  floor management and to better plan personnel deployment. In facility management: if you know the run time and other variables of your cleaning machines, then you also know when which maintenance is due. The system informs an external maintenance team that maintenance is due and which maintenance is due. The system not only informs the maintenance team, but also the internal building services and the reception that and when a team is to arrive. Thanks to a digital building information system, this team then knows exactly where the machine really is – not just where it should be – and can be guided to the object via indoor navigation. And these are only basic functions. Finally, if the system had location data, it could use an efficiency algorithm to inform always the nearest team and suggest the most economical, time-saving route to this team outside and inside a building. The system would also know that Team A needs just four material units B for the current task. Intelligently networked systems could now automatically synchronize the inventory and place additional orders in sufficient time. In the next step, self-learning systems would know in advance when and where something is needed. And how it would get there.

In order to achieve exact positioning, GPS or other satellite navigation systems are usually used outdoors. Indoors, however, GPS loses its function due to architectural conditions – but at least loses its reliability. But also for interiors there are various possibilities available to achieve an exact positioning. The website www.locationbased-services.de/en alone lists over ten different technologies that are used in practice and does not claim to be complete. In contrast to the legendary “Videotape format war“, as Betamax, VHS and Video 2000 (by Philips) were called in the 1970s for dominance in the living room, however, most technologies can complement each other and thus make it possible to absorb the specific weaknesses of one technology with the strength of the others. For example, the light-based indoor positioning system brought to market maturity again by Philips (now Signify) enables very precise positioning, but has no communication channel to also return this information. A supplement with iBeacons, which on their own cannot allow such precise positioning (under 30 centimeters), closes exactly this information gap.

One of the most beautiful examples that positioning is the beginning of everything has been realized on the MS Meraviglia. The cruise ship from MSC Cruises has numerous smart features. But the so called Kids Tracker function is outstanding. No longer assets, i.e. goods, are positioned and tracked here, but children who can be reliably tracked by their parents via apps on the eight-deck ship. A wristband and a beacon installation make this possible. And anyone who has once lost sight of their child knows that positioning – independently of the diving platform – is actually the beginning of everything.