According to the 2020 Bluetooth Market Update, location services is the fastest-growing Bluetooth® solution area. The annual Bluetooth location service device shipments is predicted to increase to an estimated 538 million by 2024, while the CAGR between 2019 and 2024 is estimated to be 34%. A new feature introduced in a recent version of the Bluetooth Core Specification, Bluetooth direction finding, supports high-accuracy indoor positioning that enables developers to optimize Bluetooth location services.

I recently had a chance to speak with Hideki Kato from Taiyo Yuden about how they utilize Bluetooth location services to foster industrial growth in the fields of IT and electronic technologies. Also, today, many offices, facilities, and public venues are rising to the challenge of reopening safely, while the COVID-19 outbreak compels us to reduce physical contact. Mr. Kato and I further discussed the role that Bluetooth technology may play in helping keep COVID-19 at bay.

“For companies and other organizations forced to cut back on their business activities to curb the spread of COVID-19, Bluetooth® technology offers tremendous potential that can aid in avoiding the three Cs (closed spaces, close contact, crowds) while minimizing the burden on employees and customers. While Bluetooth technology itself cannot bring an end to the virus, it holds great promise for the development of more effective, low-cost solutions.” 
– Hideki Kato, Taiyo Yuden

Q&A with Hideki Kato

What markets does your company support, and what are the solution areas you provide?

We provide modules mostly for the industrial equipment and other B-to-B markets. In such markets, module performance is just as important as quality and support. We are addressing customer requirements by improving our skills in areas such as antenna evaluation and radio law certification support.

Why have you chosen to use Bluetooth technology?

Bluetooth technology is notable for its outstanding power efficiency and versatility that enables it to be used anywhere throughout the world.

As the IoT evolves, Bluetooth® technology has become the standard in smartphones and mobile devices. And Bluetooth solutions are increasingly being used in devices that were not originally intended to have this technology. The use of Bluetooth technology continues to increase in diverse markets and innovations. Taiyo Yuden is an established electronics components company that has a strong history with Bluetooth applications. Among the various available communication systems, Bluetooth technology is notable for its outstanding power efficiency and versatility that enables it to be used anywhere throughout the world. It is one of the best communication technologies for customers who are looking to leverage IoT in industries that have not yet implemented wireless IoT technologies on a broader scale.

Recently, we launched new modules to incorporate the direction finding feature added in version 5.1 of the Bluetooth® Core Specification, and this, together with RSSI-based positioning, expands the potential for more accurate multi-functional positioning. With operating temperatures ranging from -40°C to 85°C, these modules can also be used in outdoor industrial equipment and other devices subject to severe temperature conditions. Combined with the basic Bluetooth features that enable easy data communication with low power consumption, demand for these modules is likely to come most strongly from the industrial equipment market.

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What advantages have you experienced as a result of utilizing Bluetooth direction finding?

We have been utilizing Bluetooth technology for its positioning features for years, but the mainstream technology up until now has been RSSI-based positioning, which can be affected by the surrounding environment and influence the accuracy of its positioning features. By using Bluetooth direction finding, we have been able to develop a more accurate positioning system.

Implementing the direction finding feature involves picking up the signals emitted from a transmitter with an antenna array and calculating the angle from which the IQ signals are received via the antenna elements. While our modules do not allow for the quantifying of positioning accuracy, in experiments, our algorithm for removing delayed waves caused by the surrounding environment, array antenna element spacing, reflection, etc. suggest a positional accuracy of between 50 and 100 cm.

Can you share more about a project you are working on that has the potential to help reopen public venues, offices, etc., due to COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts on both the private and public sectors. It is important for people to watch their health at the individual level and implement social distancing and other practices recommended under the current circumstances of the new normal. Systems that leverage Bluetooth technology are being looked at as tools for helping people to better manage and protect themselves. Various solutions are being considered, including tools for managing movement history for when a positive case is confirmed and for ensuring social distancing, as well as body temperature management tools.

What benefits will this bring to our ability to reopen public venues, offices, etc.?

From here on out, we will all have to live our lives and continue to work based on the assumption that any one of us can become infected at any time. To this end, we need to adopt practices that will help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. But minimizing the impact of the pandemic on our everyday lives and work styles requires both individual awareness and effort and tools and systems that can support those efforts. Bluetooth enabled tools and systems can be used in solutions that visualize the movements or status of individual people, thereby strengthening the foundations of our everyday lives and work activities.

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