Precise positioning

18.03.2020 by Daniel Kunz
Flying drones have to reach their destinations while also avoiding moving objects.

Drones delivering packages, autonomous vehicles and networked construction machinery – they all need exact coordinates to move safely. Precise Positioning makes it now possible.

The first step towards autonomous driving was taken way back in 1901, when the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft presented the Mercedes 35 HP. What made it so revolutionary? The car had no room for a chauffeur in the vehicle – owners would drive themselves into the future. Now the next evolutionary leap is imminent: autonomous driving will refashion our ideas about mobility. Intelligent vehicles linked to the Internet will network with each other and with other mobility services. In the future, these smart cars will even replace the driver, allowing her to sit in the back seat and work, read or watch a film in comfort. The technology for such intelligent systems – sensors, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence – is ready to go. Self-driving vehicles from various companies such as Google and Tesla have spent countless hours on the test track and even on the roads for initial pilot projects. However, the road to fully autonomous driving is still a long way off. This new brand of mobility requires the integration and management of myriad digital technologies.

Autonomous Traffic and the Mobility of the Future

Looking further into the future, flying drones could fly parcels to a desired destination, street sweepers could clean the city fully automated at night, robots might move freely around the factory floor while working alongside people and tractors could till fields with the greatest of precision. The basic prerequisite for all this? Autonomous machines, of course, have to find their own way to a specific destination. But they also need to be able to avoid moving objects while getting there. Even for a self-driving car, the position data it receives via GPS is not enough to do this. Because even if the four satellites required for GPS send their exact position and time to a receiver, the accuracy is only down to three to five meters – not nearly precise enough to ensure autonomous, collision-free cooperation between man and machine.

The Solution: Precise Positioning

A promising new Internet of Things (IoT) application for mobility is more exact: Precise Positioning enables autonomous cars to navigate with an accuracy of up to 10 centimeters. Deutsche Telekom is providing this smart solution together with the Silicon Valley company Swift Navigation. Since the solution is cloud-based, it’s scalable for an unlimited number of autonomous vehicles and machines. Precise Positioning is already available in the United States and Germany, with coverage to be extended to other European countries by the end of 2020.

Technical requirements of Precise Positioning in overview

Autonomous Driving Is No Longer a Far-off Dream

The technical requirements for using Precise Positioning with a vehicle are no longer digital dreams of the future: All that is needed is a high-quality GNSS antenna, the appropriate GNSS receiver, an application processor with the Starling positioning engine from Swift Navigation and a mobile phone connection for streaming satellite correction data from the Skylark Cloud Service in real-time. The Starling software calculates the exact position of the receiver from the satellite signal and the correction data from the cloud. Since the correction data is determined in the cloud, the IoT solution is highly scalable and an unlimited number of vehicles can receive correction information to fix their position simultaneously and in real-time. Sophisticated positioning algorithms create the magic of the solution: these determine the position of vehicles extremely precisely using the continuous stream of GNSS corrections.

GNSS and Precise Positioning


  • The GNSS satellites transmit their position and time via radio signal.
  • At least four satellite signals are needed simultaneously to determine a position.
  • A receiver measures the pseudo-signal propagation times, i.e. the time from the satellite to the receiver including clock errors, to determine the current position including altitude.
  • The accuracy is between three and five meters.
  • Responsible for these inaccuracies are deviations in satellite orbit and satellite clock, influence of the earth’s atmosphere on the signal, errors in the receiver and the reflection of the signal (e.g. by buildings).
  • The IoT solution sends correction data via a mobile network from the Cloud, making GNSS positioning more accurate and reliable.

Safely on the Move

With this level of precision, IoT solutions will soon be used in critical and demanding Industrial Internet of Things (also called Industry 4.0) environments. Machines and people linked via digital technology will work closely on the factory floor. Autonomous vehicles will bring their passengers to their destinations without incident – even in heavy traffic and bad weather. Flying drones will deliver packages accurately and on time. Tractors and other farm machines will move precisely across the fields without human input. It all presents an enticing future full of productive yet relaxed mobility.


 

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Daniel Kunz
Daniel Kunz

Expert Digital Marketing

Digitization and the Internet of Things are among the favourite topics of Daniel Kunz. He has been with Deutsche Telekom since 2017 and regularly writes about technology trends and many exciting topics, especially for the retail trade and the logistics industry.