Silicon Labs Demonstrates Bluetooth 5.1 Location Technology (Video)

Recently there are been advancements related to precise indoor positioning with the announcement for Bluetooth 5.1 and 802.15.4z. Both can provide 1 to 10 centimeters accuracy with minimal lag, and Bluetooth 5.1 achieves this through Angle of Arrival (AoA) and Angle of Departure (AoD) features and an antenna array.

I had never seen the new feature in action, but Silicon Labs recently demonstrated Bluetooth 5.1 location technology at Arrow IoT summit with a DMX-512 connected light following a person carrying a Bluetooth 5.1 tag.

It looks fairly accurate, and it does not have a 3-6 seconds lag like previous solutions based on earlier versions of Bluetooth?

So what does one need to enable Bluetooth 5.1 location finding?

Bluetooth 5.1 Location Base Station
Click to Enlarge

First, we’ll need a Bluetooth 5.1 base station with an antenna array, The one used above includes a 16 antenna array (4×4 grid) used to calculated angles of departure and arrival and ultimately the position and direction of the beacons. The Silabs Blue Gecko MCU powered base station can be connected to a computer over USB or Ethernet for visualization, or in this instance to control the light.

Bluetooth 5.1 Beacon

You’ll also need a coin-cell powered Bluetooth 5.1 beacon that sends the signals allowing tracking. Apparently, this can also work in reverse, where several beacons are stationary, and the base station(s) is/are moving around for example for heavy machinery tracking.

Tracking has its uses, but if you are uneasy with Bluetooth LE tracking, BLE and MAC randomization are techniques used to make devices harder to track. This is apparently enabled by default on iOS and MacOS, except for Apple TV.

If you’d like to know more about Bluetooth 5.1 location & direction finding, read more on Silicon Labs website.

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