Positioning technology plays an essential role in many industries, including transportation, industrial, healthcare, and retail. In recent years, technology companies have developed various methods to provide accurate and reliable geolocation services. However, each approach has its challenges, and not all solutions are created equal. Let’s examine why edge-based location solutions are more effective than cloud-based positioning for the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT).
“Positioning technology plays an essential role in many industries, including transportation, industrial, healthcare, and retail.”
Challenges with Traditional Positioning Methods
Traditional positioning methods such as Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth (BT) have been around for many years and are commonly used in mobile phones. However, they are not appropriate for massive IoT applications and low-cost devices and services.
GNSS, for example, requires a clear view of the sky to provide accurate satellite-based positioning, which is challenging in urban environments or indoors. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth positioning is more accurate indoors but requires significant infrastructure to provide accurate positioning. Additionally, these traditional methods are not scalable, and implementation costs can be prohibitive.
Cloud-Based vs. Edge-Based
Cloud-based cellular positioning has been touted as a solution to the scalability and cost issues of traditional methods. However, cloud-based positioning offers no benefits over edge-based solutions, and in fact, performs significantly worse in nearly every metric that is important for massive machine-type communications (mMTC).
The extra processing power required for cloud-based positioning solutions does not yield any benefits in accuracy, while potentially generating higher operating costs for increased processing performance over time. The only perceived benefit of cloud-based positioning is accuracy, which assumes that highly sophisticated algorithms can be employed because of the seemingly unlimited processing power.
In addition to the increased monetary costs of higher performance, cloud-based solutions drive up power requirements for mobile devices, with no guaranteed benefits of greater accuracy. With cloud-based positioning, the device is required to connect to the network for each position fix.
These connections activate the RF transmit power amplifier, which involves many back-and-forth data exchanges with the network. For highly power-constrained mMTC applications, each connection is precious and should be avoided when possible. Additionally, latency issues in data transmission can make cloud-based positioning unfeasible in applications such as robotics or geofencing that require ultra-low latency.
The Solution: Pushing Location to the Edge
The solution for mMTC positioning is to push the location to the edge and allow the edge devices to calculate their location estimates. Edge-based positioning solutions using 5G technology have emerged as the next generation of global location systems. Unlike cloud-based positioning, edge-based solutions minimize power-intensive data exchanges with the network.
5G edge-based cellular location technology is fundamentally different from any other wireless location technology and provides the following benefits:
- Lower-cost devices: Eliminates the need for GPS and Wi-Fi chips in trackers for most applications.
- Accuracy: Near GNSS accuracy levels outdoors and aisle-level accuracy indoors can be achieved using private LTE/5G deployments today for IoT and will improve as standards evolve (10-40 times better than current 4G LTE technology).
- Extended battery life: Works in low-power receive-only mode on wireless chips and provides several orders of magnitude improvement over Wi-Fi, GNSS, or 4G LTE alternatives (70-100 times better).
- Spectrally efficient: Provides the lowest use of spectrum so operators can deliver service without needing to add additional equipment or channels (300 times fewer data usage than all other alternatives).
- Enables new applications due to unlimited positioning capabilities such as geofencing and breadcrumbing.
- Enhanced privacy: Position information is generated on the device and owned solely by the customer.
- Simpler cost model: With 5G connectivity, alternative ecosystem pricing models are not required, and service fees are billed through the carrier with no third-party involvement.
- Easily upgraded: Software and firmware can be upgraded through over-the-air (OTA) updates for performance improvements and analytics.
- Standards-compliant and future-proofed: 5G edge-based positioning technology complies with the 3GPP standards roadmap for the next 7 years.
The Future of Location Solutions
IoT positioning challenges are numerous and complex. While traditional positioning technologies such as GNSS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth may work well for mobile phones, they are not suitable for massive IoT scaling and low-cost devices and services. Cloud-based location solutions, while offering the potential to use highly sophisticated algorithms to improve accuracy, come with significant costs, power requirements, and latency issues that make them unfeasible for many applications.
The emergence of 5G edge-based cellular location technology presents a promising solution to these challenges. It can provide accurate and scalable location information for IoT devices with minimal network interaction, lower costs, and significantly improved use of the operator spectrum.
Compared to traditional positioning technologies and cloud-based solutions, edge-based positioning provides many benefits, including lower-cost devices, extended battery life, and enhanced privacy. It also simplifies cost models by relying solely on cellular technology and enables easy upgrades through OTA firmware updates. In addition, edge-based solutions are compliant with 3GPP standards and future-proofed, making them a reliable and viable option for IoT applications, now and in the future.
While the challenges of geolocation positioning for IoT may seem daunting, 5G edge-based cellular location technology provides a promising solution. By pushing location to the edge and allowing devices to calculate their location estimates, developers can create more cost-effective and efficient IoT solutions. 5G edge-based location services can deliver on the promise of IoT to improve our lives and transform industries.