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Why is precise indoor positioning your best companion for 5G monetization?

Indoor 5G positioning is a key ingredient in many advanced industrial cases and critical areas such as public safety, and demand for a sophisticated solution is high. But at the same time, deployments lag. Find out how to unlock this untapped market, here.  

Strategic Product Manager, Dedicated Networks, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

Strategic Product Management, 5G RAN Service & Ecosystem, Business Area Networks

Strategic Product Manager, Dedicated Networks, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

Strategic Product Management, 5G RAN Service & Ecosystem, Business Area Networks

Strategic Product Manager, Dedicated Networks, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

Contributor (+1)

Strategic Product Management, 5G RAN Service & Ecosystem, Business Area Networks

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Indoor 5G positioning is a key ingredient in many advanced industrial use cases. And its application goes far beyond industrial environments, stretching into other critical areas like warehouses, hospitals, and public safety.

With precise 5G positioning, it’s possible to locate assets in any indoor environment with high accuracy at any given moment. This capability is incredibly useful for many enterprises and opens up a diverse range of new use cases and applications. Using the cellular network to locate assets can help automate and optimize enterprise processes, for example, warehouse logistics, locating equipment in hospitals, autonomous vehicle tracking, positioning of tools, and monitoring vehicles and equipment in high-risk environments like mines.

While enterprises benefit from precise 5G positioning indoors thanks to improved efficiency and safety, communication service providers (CSPs) can also offer it as a new service on top of indoor coverage and capacity, leading to increased ROI and enterprise customer value.

Indoor 5G positioning services – planning vs. reality

The demand for indoor 5G positioning services is strong. In a study by ABI Research, 41 percent of respondents said that 5G positioning would increase the business case for 5G deployment, while an additional 31 percent believed positioning could become a primary reason for investing in 5G infrastructure.

Among respondents planning to deploy 5G positioning, 20 percent said they plan to deploy it within the next 1-2 years, 20 percent within the next 3-5 years, and 36 percent of respondents 5 years from now or beyond.

However, the reality is that 87 percent of enterprises have not yet deployed Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) technology within their business, largely because of the major barriers to adoption facing existing RTLS, including: technology fragmentation, operation and maintenance cost, technology reliability and immaturity, and complex implementation (source: ABI Research).

Compared to other solutions currently available on the market, Ericsson has taken a different approach. We developed a device-agnostic solution that provides indoor cellular coverage, capacity, and positioning capabilities, all with one set of infrastructure. This same technology is also an integral part of Ericsson’s existing Private 5G solution.

In this blog, we present Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning for indoor environments - a software feature using Ericsson Radio Dot System (RDS), RAN compute, and Ericsson Network Location (ENL) for locating any 5G device indoors.

What is Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning for indoors?

This new solution can be used for common commercial positioning use cases to locate 5G devices indoors within one to three meters of accuracy – with potential for sub-meter accuracy in certain environments.

The beauty of the solution is that it is device-agnostic, meaning it can precisely locate any 5G-enabled asset. There is no need for any bespoke system or special features within the device – it only needs a cellular connection to run. We’re talking about network-based positioning technology, where the network itself calculates and estimates the device’s position.

Is this solution unique on the market?

Yes. There are competing technologies, but for them, you need a separate solution to capture and process location data. With Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning powered by the Ericsson Radio Dot System (RDS), RAN compute, and the Ericsson Network Location (ENL) platform, only one set of infrastructure provides both communications and precise indoor location services.

Is it for private or public networks?

Both! When it comes to private networks, we took all the pieces of a high-performing indoor network and created a “network in a box” offering. This way, enterprises can easily deploy and utilize the feature as part of their Ericsson Private 5G installation. We take care of installation, automation, software updates and upgrades, and provide an enterprise-friendly user interface where the user can interact with the system.

The software feature is also fully integrated with the Ericsson Radio Dot System, which is typically the go-to solution for public and hybrid network deployments led by communication service providers (CSPs). So, whatever the deployment scenario, precise indoor 5G positioning is now possible with Ericsson’s new solution.

What use cases does precise indoor 5G positioning enable?

Positioning has been highlighted as a key driver for 5G adoption among enterprises, and it’s no surprise. Indoor precise positioning use cases are potentially endless, and locating assets and tracking equipment represents just a tiny proportion of them. Here are a couple of examples.

In the mining industry, 5G positioning can be used:

  • to determine the exact location in case of an accident
  • to broadcast emergency messages
  • for real-time location of assets and equipment
  • to monitor the number of trolleys
  • for remote control of autonomous vehicles
  • for breach alerts in hazardous zones

Hospitals can benefit from 5G precise positioning:

  • to track medical equipment
  • to track ambulances
  • for location reporting at the operation center

In smart manufacturing, indoor 5G positioning can be used:

  • to monitor inventory
  • to track automated guided vehicles or forklifts
  • to locate and guide robot arms and tools
  • to track items in assembly line

In a nutshell, any 5G device can be quickly located in any indoor environment. But to get a better picture of the solution’s huge potential, let’s describe one specific use case.

How indoor 5G precise positioning works – smart manufacturing example

In manufacturing electronics, workers use industrial torque tools, which are essentially very expensive screwdrivers. As precision in manufacturing is key, knowing which work cell the tool is used in is necessary to download the correct torque settings for that particular job. For example, tightening wheels and putting on car doors requires different torque curves. With indoor 5G positioning, we can automate getting the right torque curve to the right tool while disabling tools that are not in a work cell, and much more. This speeds up manufacturing and drives operational efficiency for higher factory output.

What about outside?

Ericsson Precise 5G Positioning technology can also be connected to macro positioning technology, such as GPS, via an API to create a location-aware network. This way, our customers can seamlessly track a 5G asset by monitoring it both outdoors and indoors, if they have Ericsson network infrastructure.

An example use case is tracking expensive items and important equipment moving between indoor and from outdoor environments, such as ambulances. GPS is a universally accepted technology that works well outside, but not inside. That’s where Ericsson’s Radio Dot System and precise indoor 5G positioning takes center stage. Building a uniform map system for both outdoors and indoors and using appropriate APIs to monitor the position enables smooth, seamless tracking wherever the asset is.

And the use cases go on, not just as nice-to-have features, but essential applications for safer, faster, and more efficient operations.

What’s the role of positioning in 5G monetization?

5G positioning stands out as one of the key 5G monetization services that CSPs can benefit from. With Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning for indoors, they can offer indoor coverage, capacity, and positioning to enterprise customers with one set of infrastructure.

In turn, enterprises can utilize it to increase their ROI, speed up processes, and make operations more secure. The pain points we often hear about from enterprises are a lack of coverage, especially with 5G, and the need for reliable, secure and high-performing networks for their specific operational requirements, such as manufacturing or warehousing.

As this kind of device-agnostic solution didn’t exist before, Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning fills an important gap in the market. With it, CSPs and enterprise can both capitalize on the booming 5G use cases enabled by cellular precise positioning.

How does Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning work?

Positioning concepts in cellular networks have existed since 2G. The main driver behind the development of positioning techniques was to locate UE-originated emergency calls in previous cellular generations. This has changed in 5G times, and positioning is now needed for many non-emergency use cases.

Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning uses Ericsson Radio Dot System (RDS), RAN compute and Ericsson Network Location (ENL) software to locate 5G devices under Radio Dot coverage. The architecture reuses the communication infrastructure of RDS with the addition of ENL to enable location processing. ENL is integrated into Ericsson Private 5G and can be on-prem or centralized, depending on the use case or business strategy.

Indoor 5G positioning precision is possible because we can measure the time difference of arrival of signals from the devices using Ericsson algorithms on Ericsson network infrastructure in a very precise manner. This capability means we’re able to provide a precise location for 5G assets.

What we’re doing with 5G is utilizing the larger bandwidth available now – compared to 4G or previous Gs – to help us calculate an even more accurate position.

The future of 5G positioning services

With Ericsson 5G Precise Positioning for indoors, we are addressing a significant market demand, as around 70 percent of key use cases require one to three meters of positioning accuracy. However, this technology also has the potential to reach a positioning accuracy of < 1m.

The starting point is a device-agnostic solution that requires only one network for positioning and communication. Now, we’ll continue development to achieve even better accuracy and support emerging use cases and requirements in the future.

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