One of the challenges facing the internet of things is that many of the new devices getting sensors and connections to the internet don’t stay in one place. This is a transition the technology industry dealt with as mobile phones became smartphones, but it’s also one that needs to be applied to far more devices made by a much wider variety of manufacturers and using small amounts of power.
Smartphones handle location by adding GPS and services that track the location of Wi-Fi networks so the phones can ping either the GPS satellites or the Wi-Fi location database to figure out where the phone is. We’ve had cheap location on phones for so long, it’s sometimes hard to remember what a revolution that capability enabled.
Now an Israeli company called Deeyook wants to join the myriad of others trying to bring that same revolution to the internet of things.
Giving connected devices a sense of place generally involves three challenges: cost, power, and environment. But while giving a connected device location capabilities using cellular services has been a time-honored way to track high-value assets, those radios are expensive and can consume a lot of power, which means battery changes and limits as to where they can go.
Plus, connected devices may be used in places that are environmentally difficult for current location-tracking technologies. GPS doesn’t work well in cities or indoors and Wi-Fi tracking won’t help in a rural area, for example, and neither do a good job tracking an item that moves from floor to floor in an office building or skyscraper.
Deeyook thinks it has solved most of these issues by taking a different tack when it comes to determining location. Much in the way mobile phones assess indoor locations, Deeyook uses Wi-Fi signals to understand where an item is in space. But it uses different math. Traditional Wi-Fi location depends on something called a received signal strength indicator, or RSSI, which measures the signal strength and uses it to extrapolate how far away the item is from an access point. It’s akin to you or I wandering around a parking lot looking for our car and using the beeping from our alarm system to home in on it.
Deeyook, on the other hand, uses something called orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) to understand how data is departing from a variety of antennas on the access point. By focusing on OFDM and the angle of departure, the Deeyook methodology avoids the confusion caused by RF signals traveling through walls and around corners, says Geidon Rottem, the company’s CEO. This provides a location within 10 centimeters of accuracy. It also should perform better as more and more devices add more antennas, as is the case with Wi-Fi 6 and MIMO-based cellular systems.
Deeyook currently offers location tags that it has built. They handle the gathering of RF data, which is then sent to the cloud for calculation. This helps save on device size and on power consumption. For now, Deeyook is charging for the tags, but it wants to avoid charging per location request, so there’s likely going to be a monthly or annual service fee. The software running in the cloud allows users to track the device and to apply rules to the tags in the software. So a sysadmin could easily place a geofence on a large group of tagged devices and get alerts if they move out of that zone.
Eventually, Rottem hopes to have other companies embed the Deeyook software on their tags so it can simply provide location as a service for companies. If it’s successful, my hunch is that a company like Amazon or Microsoft will snap it up to integrate into their IoT cloud services.
Deeyook is a young company — roughly a year old — and has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. It was preparing to launch at Mobile World Congress in the hopes of finding a few pilot customers, though that plan obviously changed after the show was canceled. But Rottem is still looking for companies willing to test the service.