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Linux-driven Wi-Fi RTT access point can find Android 9 phones within 1-2 meters

Sep 4, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1120 views

Compulab has launched a Fitlet 2-based “WILD” Wi-Fi RTT access point for real-time indoor location of Android 9 “Pie” phones with 1-2 meter accuracy. WILD devices can find each other at half-meter accuracy.

One of the interesting new features in Google’s latest Android 9 “Pie” release, which was announced a month ago, and which today was posted for download onto Pixel phones, is its support for Wi-Fi RTT (round-trip-time) indoor location technology. Now Compulab has launched the Wi-Fi Indoor Location Device (WILD) computer, which it calls the first Wi-Fi RTT access-point that enables WiFi-based indoor location for Android 9 smartphones.



WILD, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Compulab’s WILD is a custom configured version of its Fitlet2 mini-PC, which also forms the basis for the MintBox Mini 2. The system runs Debian Linux on an Intel Apollo Lake SoC.

The WILD system supports Android 9’s Wi-Fi RTT implementation of the IEEE 802.11mc protocol. With Android 9 phones combined with three or more Wi-Fi RTT access points, people can triangulate locations of other Wi-Fi RTT enabled phones within 1-2 meters accuracy. This is compared to a few dozen meters with GPS, assuming GPS works indoors at all.

One WILD system can also track other WILD systems with accuracy of under 0.5 meters “in three dimensions,” says Compulab. In this “WILD IoT” mode, you can precisely track “mobile robots, autonomous vehicles, mobile assets and computerized hand-held devices,” says the company.

Real-time accurate indoor location is useful for applications including retail, health care, transportation, logistics, manufacturing, smart buildings, and entertainment, says Compulab. In addition to tracking down people, the technology can be used to provide walking directions inside a mall or corporate complex. Advertisers want to use it to steer you toward products.

Specific WILD use cases include finding a product in a department store, navigating to a booth in a tradeshow, or being directed back to a parked car. It can also be used to generate heatmaps and to understand patterns of visitor behavior, says Compulab.

With Android 9, Wi-Fi RTT is included with other privacy settings, so assuming you have control over your own phone, you can decide when and where you want to be tracked. You do not have to associate your phone with a WiFi network or identify yourself. For security applications, it could replace intrusive video-based tracking, says Compulab.

WILD devices need to be located no more than 30 meters apart from each other, so at $200 to $399 a pop, equipping a large building could get expensive. Compulab points out, however, that additional tasks can be run in parallel on the WILD mini-PCs, including digital signage, surveillance, access control, building automation, and telemetrics.

 
Fitlet2 inside

The 110 x 85 x 35mm WILD device is closely based on the Fitlet2 mini-PC and offers a choice of Intel Apollo Lake SoCs ranging from a dual-core Atom x5-E3930 to a quad-core Celeron J3455 or Atom x7-E3950. You get up to 16GB DDR3L RAM, a microSD slot, optional eMMC storage, a 2.5-inch SATA III bay, and an M.2 M-key 2260 slot for more SATA III storage.



WILD with PoE option (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The WILD is equipped with an Intel 8260 wireless chipset with WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2, supported with antennas. You get dual GbE ports, and you can add a GbE port with Power-over-Ethernet via a FACET expansion card for easier deployment. Other FACET options include a second WiFi module, a 4G modem, a GbE optical LAN port, and a CANbus + RS485 + GPIO combo card.

WILD is further equipped with HDMI 1.4 and mini-DP ports for up to [email protected] video, as well as a pair each of USB 3.0 and 2.0 host ports. Serial and audio interfaces are also available.

There’s a 7-20V input, with optional 9-36V. Different temperature models include up to -40 to 85°C, and there are VESA and DIN-rail mounting options. (For more details, see our earlier Fitlet2 report.)

Compulab includes an Android 9 app for easing configuration, and it is developing utilities for automated acquisition of WILD positions using Wi-Fi RTT. “This can greatly reduce deployment cost and time,” says the company. Customization and design services are also available.

“Apparently, Wi-Fi RTT accurate indoor location is a killer application waiting to happen,” stated Irad Stavi, Chief Product Officer at Compulab. “Over a dozen well-known tech companies are currently developing using WILD, and many small companies find WILD affordable and easy to work with for their own development. When it’s time for large scale deployment, the field-proven WILD hardware will work reliably in sites of up to thousands of access-points.”

 
Further information

The WILD Wi-Fi RTT access point is available now built-to-order starting at $175 for a barebone unit ordered in volume. For evaluation and development, Compulab recommends ordering five or more WILD systems with Celeron J3455, 4GB RAM, and 16 GB eMMC, available off-the-shelf at that volume for $238 each. More information may be found on the WILD announcement and product page.
 

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