British-based multinational operator Vodafone said it has successfully used new precision positioning technology to remotely track a vehicle to within just 10 centimeters of its location, an improvement of more than 3 meters compared with existing standard satellite-based systems. It accomplished this in partnership with German global positioning provider Sapcorda, using Vodafone’s global IoT platform.
The company said its new precise positioning service is an example of its “Telco as a Service” (TaaS) model for redefining its network and technology. By identifying key network functionalities and making them available through common application programming interfaces (APIs) in a cloud platform, Vodafone said it is delivering new software, video and data applications at scale, in addition to gigabit-capable connectivity.
The new technologies may help large companies better locate critical assets, precisely align machines such as driverless trains at platforms and let farmers, airports and fleet operators know the exact whereabouts of their autonomous and other vehicles at any given time.
Vodafone IoT-enabled vehicles, machinery and devices, when linked with Sapcorda’s network of Global Navigation System Service (GNSS) receivers and augmentation technology, improve location accuracy by correcting for factors such as the curvature of the earth, atmospheric delays and clock differences of global positioning satellites. This offers corporations hyper-precise positioning which they can use to ensure a safe environment for their employees, their customers and the public as well as their machines.
Combined with video and on-board diagnostics, the technology will allow vehicle operators to carry out accurate location-sensitive remote inspections and even pause machines such as grass cutters on public footpaths when they encounter people.
Vodafone’s phrase “Telco as a Service” nicely crystallizes a concept that has been gaining widespread acceptance among mobile operators, especially the larger and deepest-pocketed ones. With ARPU from traditional mobile services in decline, and basic services themselves at commodity status, the need for alternatives is clear. While offering value-added services such as entertainment content has served operators well when it comes to the consumer market, more is demanded in the business sector. Ambitious offerings, especially in the realm of the Internet of Things, are powering MNOs toward increased revenue and relevance, and those that provide customizable, scalable end-to-end solutions for large enterprises are the most promising in this regard. So complex are these services that operators usually must partner with technology developers in order to bring them to fruition.
The precise positioning service that Vodafone is now testing—in preparation for bringing it to the market—appears to be a perfect example of this approach. By working with Sapcorda’s existing Global Navigation System Service, it has been able to provide extremely accurate readings that not only enable company managers to know the locations of their vehicles but also to physically align vehicles precisely enough for driverless operation. The technology not only increases utility but also enhances safety, allowing machines to operate within very small distances of people without impinging upon their space.
By delivering these functionalities via common APIs, Vodafone will ensure broad usability for its precise positioning offering. While Sapcorda gets credit for the positioning aspect of the project, the operator brings to the table its high-speed connectivity, which will power the service. On the whole, while still in the testing phase, this offering seems well-positioned to be highly beneficial both to the operator and to its current and future enterprise customers, and to be an effective advertisement for “Telco as a Service.”