It’s been a year, where is Open Locate Now?
Last year, HPE Aruba Networking announced Open Locate, an indoor location solution designed to unlock real-time location services (RTLS) for various applications across indoor spaces. The solution utilizes a combination of integrated GPS receivers allowing APs installed at the perimeter of the building, with sufficient signal to the satellites in the sky, to capture GPS position. As there is not often direct line of sight between indoor APs and GPS satellites, statistical confidence in AP position builds over an extended period, such as 24 hours.
While perimeter APs collect GPS positioning data and improve confidence in their location over periods of up to 24 hours, interior APs are busy exchanging fine time measurement (FTM) information. FTM is a feature within the 802.11mc amendment. Aruba uses FTM to derive a matrix of AP locations. Aligning the FTM position matrix within the context of GPS anchor points produces accurate (within 1m) location and telemetry information built-upon a standards-based foundation for exchanging 3-dimensional positioning information.
Location and telemetry data are increasingly valuable assets for businesses across a range of industries, from retail, to hospitality, to healthcare and logistics. Open Locate makes this data more accurate and accessible than ever before; however, we have not yet seen significant progress or adoption of devices using this data.
Some of the more useful applications of location data are for indoor navigation, asset tracking, and inventory management. Businesses or facilities can provide customers with highly accurate location-based directions and instructions, enabling them to navigate complex indoor environments with ease. Additionally, high value assets can be tracked in real-time, enabling businesses to optimize workflows and minimize downtime. All of this is particularly valuable in large facilities such as airports, hospitals, shopping centers, manufacturing, and logistics plants.
Telemetry data can be used to accurately place APs in advance of sending that information to an AFC or SAS system when using standard power (SP) on the 6GHz band or using CBRS radios. Automated GPS positioning can eliminate the need for CPI sign off on indoor CBRS radios allowing for zero-touch provisioning (ZTP).
Overall, the possibilities for using location and telemetry data are virtually endless and the adoption of Open Locate makes these applications more accessible and valuable than ever before.
While the use cases sound exciting, the question still lingers – with all these benefits, why haven’t we seen significant adoption of this location and telemetry information from an infrastructure enabled with Open Locate.
To be clear, few location-based use cases are new, they are simply recycled to take advantage of more accurate or easier to consume data. Businesses have been trying to solve these same problems with one location solution or another for a long time. While incredibly useful, Open Locate only provides a hyper-accurate standards-based pool of data to consume location information. Applications need to be developed which draw data from the pool. Before investments are made in application development, business concerns must be resolved.
Concerns over privacy quickly surface when data tracking of worker location and duration is made easily available to management. Employees grow concerned if management is monitoring and measuring time spent in the break room or in front of the water cooler, as this time can be perceived as non-productive. Cross team collaboration and the exchange of different perspectives while filling up a water bottle are not data points easily rolled up into a traffic light dashboard assessing employee productivity.
On the other hand, personnel safety is, or at least should be, the number one priority of every company. Being able to measure, alert, and send help if an employee unexpectedly goes vertical is priceless data on which to collect and alert.
With Open Locate, there is no problem filling up a data lake with location and telemetry information. However, to provide actionable business value, system integrators must find a way to extract and transform pools of hyper-accurate location data and translate it into content or messages that are meaningful and timely for other parts of the organization.
Tracking data points measuring parameters of the team responsible for tightening widgets on the factory floor and building correlations to why that team is idle is useful, but only when it’s coupled with knowing the widget bin is empty. Alerting the inventory team to replenish the widgets bin places useful information in the hands of different parts of the organization, completing the loop and providing meaningful business value.
With privacy boundaries in place, along with the right infrastructure to support enforcement of those boundaries, businesses will be able leverage the potential of Open Locate to drive growth and success in today’s digital economy. With careful planning and transparency of how the data is used, concerned individuals should be relieved to understand how location and telemetry data is used and that only the data necessary to preserve safety is collected and stored. As business cases are approved and applications developed, we should expect to see a rapid increase in businesses leveraging Open Locate data to provide meaningful business insight and productivity gains.
With HPE Aruba Networking leading the charge, others are aggressively integrating location capabilities into their platforms to automatically place APs and share location information with 3rd party platforms. This is not really a surprise as determining AP location will become critical for Wi-Fi 6E deployments supporting standard power with AFC integration. Keep on the lookout for client-side support of the 802.11az-2022 (Enhancements for Positioning) amendment and announcement about the emergence of a new Virtual Positioning System (VPS).
IEEE 802.11az-2022 Amendment (Published March 2023)