Taking the GPS revolution indoors
Combining two industry-standard technologies, Bluetooth® and audio, we deliver centimeter-level positioning to any mobile device.
Based on the patented Fast Ultrasound Echo Location technology (FUEL™),
Forkbeard allows you to get down to the centimeter-level accuracy needed to enable useful services and movement insights in indoor environments. Combining the strength of ultrasound and Bluetooth® with the formidable array of sensor technologies found in modern device platforms, Forkbeard accurately positions smartphones and tablets with a latency of only up to 1–2 seconds. In addition, the ultrasound technology always ensures >99.9% room-level location accuracy, which makes Forkbeard the only indoor positioning technology needed for any workflow, safety, entertainment or way-finding applications.
iOS and Android phones and tablets are all Forkbeard compatible. All that is required is that your device supports industry-standard audio and Bluetooth®.
Our Phone-FUEL SDK does the rest.
The breakthrough: Fast Ultrasound Echo Location – FUEL™
Forkbeard represents a real technological breakthrough. Leveraging the wide-spread adoption of Bluetooth® in smartphones, we have developed unique signal-processing techniques to receive inaudible ultrasound signals via the smartphone’s microphone. In contrast to RF-based solutions, this ultrasonic technology allows us to take advantage of the many echoes that occur in an indoor environment, turning multi-path signals to our advantage. Discover it for yourself; Fast Ultrasound Echo-Locate-“FUEL™”-your phone.
It’s simple physics
A typical reaction from those that have seen a demo of Forkbeard on a standard smartphone is: “But that’s Ultra Wide Band performance.” And, yes, both the resolution and latency of Forkbeard are comparable with what one commonly associates with an Ultra Wide Band solution. The follow-up question, “How is that possible?”, can be answered very easily: “It’s simple, it’s physics!”. Ultrasound is, after all, merely sound at a frequency beyond what humans are capable of hearing. And, as we all know, sound travels slowly: in fact, at around 340 m/s it is roughly a million times slower than a radio wave. A prime example found in nature is how lightning can be seen long before the accompanying thunder is heard. This is the reason that Forkbeard can deliver centimeter resolution with relative ease: simply timing distances down to a tenth of a millisecond results in 30 cm resolution. Although it sounds elementary, integrating this into a workable system has actually defied all attempts by top scientists and engineers. The challenges are numerous, spanning power efficiency of beacons as well as fundamental differences such as the significant challenge posed by the Doppler shift. But, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about this because we have solved it for you! Forkbeard offers several properties that would qualify it as the holy grail of indoor-positioning solutions.
- Forkbeard is compatible with iOS and Android phones simply requiring an app.
- Forkbeard offers centimeter-level distance resolution from each individual signal sent between an ultraBeacon and the phone.
- Forkbeard uses a battery-powered, low-cost infrastructure with a battery life of more than 10 years.
- Forkbeard, with a similar architecture to GPS, can support a virtually infinite amount of phones (just like GPS, the phone can position itself).
All because we were stubborn enough to continue developing ultrasound for over ten years until it finally worked perfectly.
And, in fact, it gets even better. While we were at it, we also solved multipath. What is multipath, you may wonder? If that’s the case you are definitely not familiar with the scourge of radio-based solutions: in most environments, especially indoors, a radio receiver typically receives multiple copies of the signal emitted by a transmitter. These copies are a result of the radio wave interacting with the environment in myriad ways (all fully intractable). Such copies are more often than not right on top of each other in ways that only diehard signal-processing engineers could find interesting. The rest of us just suffer from poor WiFi connections and inaccurate GPS positioning. If you are not yet convinced, read this post on the latest generation of Bluetooth Low Energy positioning technology based on Angle of Arrival (AoA) and how multipath limits its accuracy.
And the good news? In contrast to radio, the interactions of ultrasound with the indoor environment are fully tractable. To fully exploit this, Forkbeard incorporates a new signal-processing method that can separate up to 20 separate paths between a transmitter and receiver from each signal emitted. This means that we can position a device using multiple distance measurements originating from a single transmission, each with centimeter resolution. Not even GPS can do that and not for a lack of trying!
The ultraBeacon is the beacon device used in Forkbeard’s technology platform. The ultraBeacon is a combined Bluetooth Low Energy and ultrasound beacon. Configured to transmit once a second, the batteries that power the ultraBeacon will last a minimum of 10 years while delivering the unparalleled cm-level accuracy. Thanks to its smart mounting features and built-in intelligence, we can mount, configure and use the ultraBeacon cost efficiently. Since it builds on industry-standard audio and Bluetooth® capabilities, the ultraBeacon is compatible with billions of mobile devices. If you wish to build it yourself, then a complete reference design for the ultraBeacon can be made available with a licensing agreement. Contact us here for more info.
An easy-to-use software development kit (SDK) that is deployable on all major smart-device operating systems enables the positioning of smart mobile devices. As a cloud-executed positioning service, after Phone-FUEL™ initialization, the mobile smart-device positioning is independent of network availability. Also, Phone-FUEL™ works in app background mode, ensuring low processing demands and battery consumption. Because Phone-FUEL™ works in background mode, accurate positioning data is delivered even when the screen is off or the device is in a pocket or covered by piece of clothing.
This proprietary Fast Ultrasound Echo Location–FUEL™ technology uses a particular, high-resolution technique that leverages the unique and powerful acoustic reflections only delivered through ultrasound. If you would like to use it in your app, then please contact us.