These companies received a proof-of-concept at a Bosch industrial facility in Germany, where they conducted extensive tests under real production conditions and showed accuracy within 50 cm over 90% of the plant area.
Positioning technology tracks mobile and portable devices connected to the 5G network, pinpointing their location where there is no coverage of the global navigation satellite service, such as in factories, warehouses or underground structures.
As part of factory testing, an advanced 5G private network was able to pinpoint the exact location of objects such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), mobile robots and mobile control panels, tracking their movements throughout the plant in real time.
Precise localization of objects is important for the factory of the future
Traditionally, 5G positioning works by measuring the time it takes for signals from a mobile device to travel to various base stations and network core nodes. Because the signals take longer to reach nodes farther away, the positioning system can triangulate their source.
Nokia and Bosch have built on this foundation by equipping 5G nodes with multiple receiving antennas that allow the network to detect the angle of incoming signals. Algorithms from Nokia Bell Labs interpret this information about the time delay and angle of arrival of the signal to determine the most likely position of the mobile device.
Their proof-of-concept provides a level of accuracy that far exceeds the current state of cellular communications, providing insight into what 5G networks will be capable of in the future.
Precise localization is important for many industrial applications such as robot navigation, asset tracking, and worker safety. Implementing both high-performance connectivity and high-precision positioning within a single private network infrastructure also has many operational benefits, such as reduced IT infrastructure complexity, resulting in lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and higher return on investment .
Research with an eye on 6G
Nokia and Bosch have a long history of collaboration. In 2017, they announced their first strategic partnership to develop industrial solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT). Today’s announcement of precision positioning technology is a key milestone, but it’s just one of the innovations both companies are aiming for. Nokia and Bosch have begun collaborative research on next-generation networks, looking at how future 6G networks can be used for both communication and sensing when they become commercially available by the end of this decade.
While 5G can potentially locate devices connected to the network, 6G will be able to track the location of any object – connected or not. This will allow 6G signals to function in a similar way to radar, providing users with an understanding of the world beyond their traditional senses.
In the next decade, 6G will be able to detect all objects in their coverage areas, whether or not they contain active radios.