HomeChipsetsIoT outfit u-blox teams up with Softbank on global GNSS, Taoglas on COWBOY ebikes

IoT outfit u-blox teams up with Softbank on global GNSS, Taoglas on COWBOY ebikes

Swiss-based u-blox is working with SoftBank to develop common global navigation satellite system (GNSS) augmentation services for Japan, the US, and Europe. The pair have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on GNSS 1 augmentation services for global markets, with a view to establish a “one-stop shop” for all GNSS hardware and service components.

GNSS augmentation services are typically offered separately, by country and region. GNSS users tend to sign up for separate service contracts in each country and region, making GNSS receiver configuration more complex. This makes global IoT deployments difficult, for industries such as automotive and agricultural machinery manufacturing.

SoftBank has been offering its own ‘ichimill’ GNSS augmentation service in Japan since late 2019, claiming positioning accuracy with a margin of error of only a few centimetres. ALES, a joint venture between Softbank and satellite positioning system company ENABLER, has been offering a ‘centimetre-level positioning service’ to consumers in Japan since last year, alongside positioning correction data for GNSS location services.

Meanwhile, IoT module maker u-blox has been providing its PPP-RTK*3 based GNSS augmentation service PointPerfect since the summer in the US and Europe. Together, the trio are looking to combine in order to construct GNSS augmentation infrastructure for Japan, Europe, and the US, and to develop GNSS receivers, devices, and services alongside.

Their collaboration, they said, will develop a global correction data delivery infrastructure. GNSS augmentation services use correction methods that differ by region, and incorporate a wide variety of correction signal formats. Starting in 2022, the three companies will “consider” developing correction data delivery infrastructure that delivers unified correction signal formats for use in any country or region.

They propose that companies using the ichimill or PointPerfect services will be able to conduct GNSS augmentation if they are in range of both services, thereby eliminating the need for separate service contracts by country or region. As well, the trio will look to develop GNSS receivers and modules that can be used globally, based on SoftBank’s own GNSS receivers in Japan.

SoftBank is promoting the deployment of non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions that encompass satellite and stratospheric platforms to provide connectivity at sea and in the sky, with a view to serve countries and areas that lack internet infrastructure. The trio will consider the development of NTN-linked services, such as correction data delivery using small amounts of data in a way that is suitable for NTN bandwidths, they said.

Makoto Noda, vice president of Softbank’s enterprise business unit and president of ALES, said: “Breaking down the geographical fragmentation of the market for high-precision GNSS solutions will allow SoftBank to market the same product in the US, Europe, and Japan.”

Franco De Lorenzo, principal product manager for services at u-blox, said: “Our customers depend on globally consistent GNSS augmentation services to sell vehicles across multiple markets. So do the manufacturers of industrial IoT devices and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles. We are confident that our collaboration with SoftBank will help us provide the level of service our customers need for true global high precision applications.”

Meanwhile, u-blox has said it is working with Ireland-based IoT antenna company Taoglas as part of a deal with US electric bike brand COWBOY. The duo are providing GNSS positioning for the COWBOY service, affording riders to navigate and track their journeys. COWBOY is using Taoglas’ Accura GVLB258.A, a multi-band GNSS L1/L5 patch antenna for location data applications, and u-blox’s SAM-M8Q GNSS positioning module for low power accuracy.

Tanguy Goretti, co-founder and chief technology officer at COWBOY, said: “Taoglas’ GNSS accuracy expertise, combined with u-blox’s positioning and connectivity solutions are essential building blocks of our offerings, enabling a wide range of advanced micro-mobility services, [including] theft detection, bike insurance, and crash detection notifications.”

Dermot O’Shea, co-chief at Taoglas, said: “By combining Taoglas’ world-class antennas with u-blox’s industry-leading wireless modules, micro-mobility providers can be confident that their customers have a reliable and high-performance positioning solution. Taoglas’ considerable experience designing highly precise GNSS antenna and RF solutions, coupled with customer-centric support, enabled COWBOY to get from development phase to launching the product into the market with ease and speed.”

Stephen Kaufmann, sales director at u-blox, said: “Our range of core connectivity and positioning solutions enabled the designers to bring their smart bikes to market quickly without the need to develop technology from scratch.”

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