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Modernizing Bluetooth: An Overview of AoA Locators

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Since the early iterations of Bluetooth in the mid-1990s by Swedish engineer Jaap C. Haartsen, the exact positioning of singles between devices has been a challenge. Previous Bluetooth technology could only achieve an accuracy of roughly five meters using a process called “trilateration” to determine the positions of devices. The development of more accurate location technology makes Bluetooth wireless systems more efficient and effective while increasing the possibilities for their use.

That’s where angle of arrival (AoA) technology — or an AoA locator, specifically — comes in. When Bluetooth devices can achieve an average accuracy from 0.1 meters to 0.5 meters through the use of an AoA locator, item-finding and point-of-interest information services become even more useful.

What Are Angle of Arrival (AoA) Locators?

AoA locators are devices that vastly enhance the accuracy of location capabilities for Bluetooth devices. They allow Bluetooth signals to track and locate other Bluetooth-enabled devices using triangulation rather than trilateration. Where trilateration relies on signal strength, triangulation uses the timing differences in the reception of tags’ signals. This makes triangulation technology far more reliable for locating Bluetooth signals.

AoA locators send signals to a public cloud from cards, indoor or outdoor beacons, smart watches and mobile devices to a user’s private cloud. In addition to serving as a positioning gateway, an AoA locator can also support WiFi, BLE5.2, Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols to connect sensors and devices.

How Are AoA Locators Designed?

The AoA method uses an algorithm that transmits a specific direction-finding signal using one antenna. The receiving device has an array of antennae that read the signal phase difference between the signal transmitting antenna and its many antennae. Using sample data, the receiving device calculates the relative signal direction. Radio direction finding is not necessarily new technology. It simply describes a way to determine the direction from which a signal came. It’s been used since the early 20th century, according to Bluetooth.com.

However, this type of direction-finding capability, now available for Bluetooth devices, promises to revolutionize Bluetooth uses, opening it to more industries. It is making Bluetooth location services even more accurate and — as a result —- more prevalent. It is part of version 5.1 of the Bluetooth Core Specification. Multiple manufacturers have developed AoA locators, so it’s important to choose the right one to meet your needs and your specific application to realize the full benefits.

AoA Locators in Action

AoA Locators can be used in conjunction with an array of other gateways for a larger positioning coverage space and even greater accuracy. A single gateway can obtain the actual heading angle, or pitch angle of a Bluetooth tag and retrieve an absolute spatial coordinate. Multiple gateways can increase accuracy across a larger area.

Gateways are already making it easier to solve supply chain issues by accurately tracking “last mile” deliveries. They can also be used to make brick-and-mortar shopping experiences easier and more personalized by tracking the position of goods and shopping carts for better consumer navigation. Combined with big data analysis, AoA locators can guide shoppers to the right product aisles and deliver coupons to their smartphones for a seamless shopping experience.

AoA locators can also be used in conjunction with wearables and smartphones for real-time tracking of older adults and children. Both age groups are at risk of becoming lost or disoriented, so AoA locators can provide peace of mind to their caregivers. In essence, any industry that requires improved logistics, personnel tracking and better asset management can benefit from an AoA locator and Bluetooth-enabled devices or tags.

Benefits of AoA Locators

AoA locators have a number of benefits. In addition to their increased accuracy, they have a battery life of up to five years for long use. Thanks to the Bluetooth ecosystem, they are a cost-effective way to create more accurate tracking for devices inside and out. An AoA locator can support a high tag density without using much power.

Depending on the brand of AoA locators you choose, some like the Dusun DSGW-200, can support Internet of Things (IoT) anchor capabilities for compatibility with a broad range of devices for Bluetooth 5.1 applications and higher versions. The DSGW-200 AoA Positioning locator works for indoor Bluetooth positioning with an accuracy of 0.3-1 meters for personnel tracking and real-time positioning of assets. 

Dusun AoA locators also support a multitude of tags, including:

  • Smartphones
  • Bracelets
  • Smart watches
  • Beacons
Dusun angle of arrival locator

Industries Use Cases

From smart homes to smart buildings, virtually every industry that relies on IoT devices and their capability to communicate with each other, or track specific assets or people, can benefit from AoA locators.

AoA locators promise to revolutionize industries ranging from manufacturing to retail. Today’s smart buildings and smart factories can benefit from the enhanced accuracy of AoA locators for tracking packages, products, personnel and equipment.

Hospitality, retail, transportation and shipping can all benefit from AoA locators. They are also being used in health care for more reliable internal management. Prisons can use AoA technology to track and position personnel where they are needed most, with fewer false alarms. In one smart city, according to an IEEE case study, AoA locators and Bluetooth technology were used to help manage the flow of pedestrian traffic to create safer streets.

The Future of AoA Locators

Bluetooth technology has come a long way and continues to evolve. In any situation where managers want to track people or assets, AoA locators can streamline the process with incredible accuracy.

As smart buildings and smart cities gain momentum, AoA locators can be the key to connecting all of the devices and technologies to keep them running smoothly. Several key factors may keep angle-of-access technology at the front of the line. The ability to handle various protocols, including Zigbee and other IoT devices, along with its backward compatibility with Bluetooth 4.0 bodes well for angle-of-access technology.

Its accuracy, low cost and low power consumption make applying AoA technology virtually a no-brainer for many industries. It’s worth considering for commercial, retail, manufacturing and home applications where greater location capabilities are required. Contact us today to see how angle of arrival technology can support your needs.

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist and owner of the boutique retail content marketing agency Allcot Media. She has written about audiovisual and control system technology for more than 20 years, including a stint as the content marketing specialist for Crestron Electronics.

Sources

National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) – Jaap C. Haartsen

Bluetooth – How AoA and AoD Changed the Direction of Bluetooth Location Services

Leverage – Trilateration vs. Triangulation for Indoor Positioning

IEEE Xplore – AoA-Based Localization System Using a Single IoT Gateway: An Application for Smart Pedestrian Crossing

Tech Monitor – Bluetooth 5.1 Can Achieve Centimeter-Level Accuracy

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