Verizon pinpoints location with centimeter-level accuracy for road safety, IoT

Verizon is zeroing in on precise location for IoT and developing next-generation road safety applications using Real Time Kinematics (RTK).

The carrier on Thursday announced its Hyper Precise Location service, meant to pinpoint mobile location with centimeter-level accuracy by tapping RTK technology. That compares to an average of three- to nine-meters accuracy with GPS alone.

Verizon is scaling RTK, halfway through a two-year nationwide network deployment of RTK reference stations that can accurately locate compatible devices. Deployment across “a critical mass of major markets” is occurring this year, according to a Verizon spokesperson. That follows initial trials and technology validation in six major metros starting in 2018.

Today, the RTK service is over-the-top, using a standard internet channel for delivery, the spokesperson said, but the carrier will be targeting 3GPP standards like Location Positioning Protocol as they evolve for integrated network delivery.

“In addition, Verizon is utilizing its infrastructure and real estate to enable a high performance, enterprise grade reference station network at cell sites nationwide,” the spokesperson noted.

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That includes "deploying survey-grade multi-constellation multi-frequency reference stations with geodetic antennas."

In terms of whether devices on Verizon’s narrowband IoT or LTE-M network can take advantage of the service, the spokesperson said the RTK service does work with LTE and other connectivity technologies. However, the carrier’s 5G Ultra Wideband network and 5G Edge are in focus. Those paired with hyper-precise location services “will pave the way for more highly automated technologies,” Verizon said.  

IoT devices are still evolving although several support aspects of Hyper Precision, and new generations are coming with RTK support, the spokesperson noted. Devices that already use RTK can be managed with the Verizon’s ThingSpace platform.

While location services and IoT tracking are not new, Verizon is looking toward next-gen applications that rely on high level precision.

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“We are scaling RTK to enable mobile location accuracy to within a few centimeters, transforming what is currently possible when it comes to location-enabled services and new IoT solutions coming onto the market,” said Nicola Palmer, chief product development officer for Verizon, in a statement.  “Continued growth in the IoT environment means billions of devices in fields where precision location services are becoming more critical, such as vehicle automation, unmanned aerial vehicles, precision agriculture technology, infrastructure monitoring, asset tracking, and high value shipping.”

The announcement called out examples of emerging technologies like delivery drones and helping first responders find the exact location of individuals during emergencies (via customer-approved location data).

Outside of individuals, tracking IoT emergency equipment can help send out and redeploy assets more quickly and get them to the exact location they are needed. Verizon also pointed to robots at distribution centers to help with logistics in a more safe and automated fashion.

Partnerships and 5G Edge

Verizon’s 5G Edge plays into its location services plan, working with partners Here Technologies and Renovo on next-generation road safety and autonomous technology applications.  

According to the Verizon spokesperson, Hyper Precision, or RTK, is considered a small enhancement for most vehicles and many autonomous vehicles already include it today.

Verizon’s been beefing up its 5G mobile edge compute (MEC), including a partnership with AWS and its Wavelength cloud computing platform. Just last week the partners announced two MEC locations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston, with 10 more planned for this year.

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Earlier this year Verizon and Here disclosed two proof of concepts they had been working on as part of a multi-year partnership, including one targeting collision avoidance for pedestrian safety.

Verizon is using Here Technologies’ real-time high-definition Map and Positioning technologies, coupled with RTK algorithms that the carrier said sets the stage for connected services to deliver better safety on the road.

The pair are creating a vehicle-to-network (V2N) communication system. It leverages the high-precision location data along with applications that help avoid collisions to pinpoint where vehicles or pedestrians are on the road. The data is then relayed through Verizon’s 5G Edge and Here’s artificial intelligence platform to predict where cars, bicycles or people are likely to move and warn drivers of potential collisions.

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“Moving beyond the static fidelity of satellite-based location data enables an exciting new generation of connected, autonomous experiences,” said Jørgen Behrens, SVP and chief product officer at HERE Technologies, in a statement.

Renovo, meanwhile, is working with Verizon on advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Renovo CEO Christopher Heiser called RTK a critical technology for ADAS, as accurate positioning enables vehicles to navigate better and react more quickly to surroundings.

“Nationwide, reliable RTK networks make for a viable way to deliver these enhanced capabilities to mass-market cars and trucks, Heiser stated. “For companies that manage the huge datasets that power next-generation vehicle platforms like Renovo, this is very exciting.