Forkbeard challenges Bluetooth for indoor positioning crown

The Norwegian company Forkbeard Technologies may attract attention due to its unique name, but its founders hope its technology leaves a lasting impression.

Named after Sweyn Forkbeard, who revolted and dethroned his father, who was known as King Bluetooth in the mid-980s AD, the company describes its technology as a new paradigm in wireless connectivity capable of challenging Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for indoor positioning.

That said, it also uses BLE in combination with its Fast Ultrasound Echo Location (FUEL) technology to deliver what it describes as location preciseness that is nearly 100 times more accurate than BLE on its own.

Forkbeard works with existing smartphones—both iOS and Android based—using an architecture that is similar to GPS, but it uses acoustic “ultraBeacons” that take on the role of satellites for room-level indoor accuracy. The company earlier this year was spun out of Sonitor Technologies to focus on the development of platform technologies for cloud-based, indoor positioning of mobile devices.

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Healthcare remains an area of focus—Forkbeard has pilots underway in hospitals, according to Terje “Terry” Aasen, senior vice president, business development and alliances, at Forkbeard. It’s also eyeing the retail environment—where grocers could make special offers for ingredients to go with the products on a shopper’s list, for example—as well as other markets like manufacturing, restaurants, automotive and more. There are no specific plans for emergency services, although its platform could be used by first responders who need to find people inside buildings.

The indoor positioning market already is dominated by the likes of HPE/Aruba Networks and other wayfinding technologies. The company’s challenge is to break through the market with its ultrasound-based beacon technology, which needs to go into buildings to make it all work.

The Oslo, Norway-based company employs about 20 and is looking to about double in size, mostly on the engineering side, according to Aasen.

The logo uses Rune letters. (Forkbeard)

As if to prod the Bluetooth theme a little bit more, Forkbeard’s even taken a page from the Bluetooth playbook when it comes to its logo. The Forkbeard logo depicts a sail—Vikings were famous sailors and navigators. King Forkbeard had to navigate across the North Sea many times during the period up until he became the first Viking king of all of England in the year 1013-14 (in addition to Denmark and parts of Norway), according to Aasen. The Rune letters inside the red sail depict a mirror F and a B. The Runic alphabet was used by the Vikings before the Latin alphabet was adopted; the Latin alphabet took over when Christianity was adopted.

Forkbeard was at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year and people were lined up to see its demonstrations, he said. The company now plans to do more live demos at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles Oct. 22-24.