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Vodafone tests remote centimeter-level tracking tech

New tech can track vehicles, drones and cargo remotely within centimeters — key to safe adoption of autonomous vehicles, flying objects and machinery

Vodafone logoVodafone has successfully used new precision positioning technology to remotely track a vehicle to within 10 centimeters of its location, an improvement of more than three meters compared to its current system.

Vodafone is working in partnership with Sapcorda, using Vodafone’s global internet of things (IoT) platform, which has  118 million connections worldwide.

Vodafone expects the technology to enable applications that warn autonomous trucks of obstacles, tell first responders the position of critical medical drones, and give operators the precisely location of important cargo.

Pinpoint accuracy is critical to the acceptance and mass adoption of autonomous vehicles on the road and in factories, airports, dockyards and any site where machines are in motion. A matter of centimeters can be crucial to ensuring the safety of passengers on a driverless bus, or knowing the precise location of a medical drone. a

The tracking technology will also allow an autonomous truck to mind other road users, including cyclists, whose e-bikes can automatically transmit their position and intended direction of travel.

“We might not be able to locate a needle in a haystack yet, but we are getting close,” said Vodafone Business Platforms and Solutions Director Justin Shields. “What we can do now is take new digital services like this one, integrate it with our global IoT platform and fast networks, and offer it securely at scale to many millions of customers.

“Our in-building 5G and IoT services already allow manufacturing plants, research laboratories and factories to carry out critical, and often hazardous, precision work with robots. Now we are applying the same levels of accuracy to the outdoor world.”

Vodafone is redefining its network and technology on a Telco as a Service (TaaS) model. It makes key network capabilities available through common APIs in a cloud platform to deliver new software, video and data applications at scale, in addition to gigabit-capable connectivity.

Vodafone said the TaaS model will benefit large enterprises, improving their ability to  locate critical assets, precisely align machines such as driverless trains at platforms, and let farmers, airports, and fleet operators know the exact whereabouts of their autonomous vehicles.

Vodafone IoT-enabled vehicles, machinery and devices — when linked with Sapcorda’s comprehensive network of GNSS receivers and augmentation technology — improves location accuracy by correcting for things like the curvature of the earth, atmospheric delays and clock differences of global positioning satellites. This offers corporations hyper-precise positioning that they can use to ensure a safe environment for their employees, their customers, the public and their machines.

Combined with video and onboard diagnostics, the technology will also allow vehicle operators to carry out accurate location-sensitive remote inspections and even pause machines such as grass cutters on public footpaths when they encounter people.

PPP-RTK method. Vodafone is adopting the precise point positioning – real-time kinematics (PPP-RTK) method with ground-level GNSS stations to achieve the best error correction. GNSS signals are processed and GNSS corrections are sent out to enhance the position accuracy of the vehicles receiving them.

Vodafone is able to equip any number of vehicles with an in-built IoT SIM, and deliver the positioning data at speed using its gigabit-capable networks.

Vodafone recently put this to the test by tracking in real-time the exact lane that vehicles were traveling in during a combined journey of more than 100 kilometers in varying weather conditions.

Sapcorda provided the data feed, which enabled the GNSS signal to be corrected, to deliver the critical-level of positional accuracy. A precise positioning service complements the existing asset tracking and fleet telematics solutions already provided by Vodafone Business for enterprise customers across 54 countries.

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