BlinkSight and imec Announce Single-Chip Indoor GPS Device

April 29, 2013. BlinkSight, a fabless semiconductor company that makes real-time location systems (RTLS), has released a single-chip indoor GPS device for RTLS and wireless-sensor-network (WSN) applications. Based on ultra-low power impulse radio technology from imec and Holst Centre, the new chip delivers real-time information to track and trace people and objects in indoor environments. Its combination of high accuracy, long range, and low power consumption makes it suitable for both business and consumer applications.

“The real-time location business is emerging and the global market for connected devices is growing at tremendous speed,” said BlinkSight CMO Guus Frericks. “Adding highly accurate indoor capabilities to connected devices such as smartphones paves the way for a broad range of game-changing consumer applications across Internet of Things segments like smart homes, offices and retail.”

BlinkSight’s system solution uses the ultra-low power impulse-radio (IR) developed by imec and Holst Centre, which enables real-time 3-D location information that is accurate to within 10 cm. The device combines digital processing elements and analog radio functionality in a single chip. It can operate in both the 3.1- to 4.8-GHz and 6- to 10-GHz bands for use around the world and seamless co-existence with other wireless technologies.

Moreover, with an operating voltage range of 1.5 to 3.6 V, the new device is suitable for battery-powered applications. Its small form factor and low power consumption make it suitable for integration into tags, wireless sensors, base stations, and mobile devices. A base station equipped with BlinkSight’s technology could track and trace thousands of fast moving tags in real time. In addition, the tags are interactive and capable of sending dynamic data (such as temperature).

“Our solution is easy to install and thanks to the collaboration with imec we’ve been able to bring a working solution to market very fast,” said BlinkSight CEO and founder Stéphane Mutz. “A lot of effort went into minimizing power consumption, and we expect to have tags powered by energy harvesting available soon. We aim to bring a complete turnkey system to market and want to work with industry leaders to bring accurate indoor GPS capabilities to connected devices.”

“Imec was a pioneer of impulse radio and the first to demonstrate an integrated impulse radio prototype. We are thrilled that BlinkSight is now successfully bringing the technology to market.” said Harmke de Groot, Program Director Ultra-Low Power Wireless and DSP at Holst Centre/imec.

Fabricated in standard 90 nm RF-CMOS, the chip is manufactured at TSMC in standard 90-nm RF-CMOS technology. It includes an embedded software programmable ultra low power 128 bit vector DSP (operating at less than 16 pJ/cycle). Range is >60 m LOS (line of sight) and >20 m N-LOS (no line of sight). 3-D positioning accuracy is better than 10 cm, and the device operates for more than five years from a standard coin battery.

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