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New Ubihere technology fills in for GPS indoors

The dashboard shows how Ubihere tracks with both camera and tag technology. (Screenshot: Ohio Development Services Agency)

The dashboard shows how Ubihere tracks with both camera and tag technology. (Screenshot: Ohio Development Services Agency)

Ubihere has introduced a new 2D and 3D tracking technology for indoor and outdoor positioning.

Ubihere’s patented technology provides real-time asset location and information without GPS, making it an alternative for GPS-denied environments.

From Space Walks to Retail Stores

The inventor of the technology is geoinformatics professor Alper Yilmaz of The Ohio State University (OSU), who researched how to geolocate undercover officers based on motion video information, as well as astronauts on space walks.

OSU urged Yilmaz to commercialize his technology, and Rev1 Ventures served as the incubator. Ubihere launched under Rev1’s portfolio in 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.

Ubihere’s system is based on anonymous video analysis positioning technology, which is patented from OSU, coupled with tag technology and advanced machine learning analytics. The system’s tags, cameras, and software track assets to the centimeter. The assets are monitored through an anonymous video feed or the tags themselves, which are about the size of a credit card, and non-RFID.

The map for indoor environments can be generated from a building information model (BIM). Based on the building’s architecture, movement is tracked. In milliseconds it can hone in on an exact location within a centimeter, explained Alice Hilliard, Ubihere’s vice president of business development.

The location data is transmitted to a server or the cloud, depending on the customer’s preference. It is then loaded into dashboards that can be accessed from any device the client requests.

If a tagged object leaves a building, it will continue to be tracked with or without GPS. If the object stays within the building, it will never use GPS. Using GPS shortens the battery life, which ranges from 18 to 24 months. Battery life is also affected by the number of floors, temperature and usage.

Launching in Hospitals and Retail Stores

The tag offers a way to calibrate location in places such as hospitals, where tracking food carts or devices through lead-lined walls enables hospitals to maximize their efficiency.

“Imagine how many times a nurse or other caregivers go back and forth,” Hilliard said. “By tracking how people and objects move around, we can help departments figure out opportunities to lay out the floor better to allow the staff to save time and steps.

“With a blueprint loaded into the software,” Hilliard said, “the system knows whether a (tagged) IV pump went down the hall, turned left or right, entered an elevator, or was left in a patient’s room.”

The cameras can be installed in locations such as retail stores, enabling Ubihere to anonymously track a customer’s journey. Used together, the tag and camera can help stores determine whether a display is working, showing how many customers came in to shop, or how many looked at or touched items in a particular display.

For ecommerce, customer behavior can be tracked automatically in real time with Google Analytics and other SEO tools.

Other possible uses include factories and emergency-response teams. “If you were in a factory or even a nuclear power plant, OSHA guidelines establish that you have to have two people in the control room at all times,” explained Hilliard.

“Periodically, OSHA is required to monitor if the power plant is following that protocol. Instead of having someone sit there and oversee the situation, we can use our camera technology to anonymously collect workers’ whereabouts, which can then be easily pulled from the cloud. For response teams, an equipment failure that makes it difficult to locate a team member could be overcome with the tag technology. “

Ubihere’s machine-based algorithms can learn locations based on various types of sensors, Yilmaz said, adding that detecting odors isn’t out of the question.

The startup is now exploring potential applications of its GPS-free tracking technology. While initially focusing on beta tests in hospital and retail environments, Ubihere also has three projects with the U.S. Department of Defense.

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