Vodafone tracking trial pinpoints location to within 10cm for 5G use cases

Vodafone cars shot.
(Image credit: Vodafone.)

Before 5G use cases such as autonomous vehicles, drone delivery, and remote precision engineering can take place effectively, communication service providers will need to improve on the location accuracy of standard satellite tech, which currently has a three metre accuracy.

To this end, Vodafone and Sapcorda, a global navigation company, have successfully trialled new precision positioning technology to remotely track a vehicle to within just 10 centimetres of its location. To achieve this, Vodafone used Precise Point Positioning-Real Time Kinematics (PPP-RTK) technology, which is the latest generation of GNSS correction services, and was able to track the exact lane that vehicles were travelling in during a 100km journey. 

“We might not be able to locate a needle in a haystack yet, but we are getting close."

Justin Shields, Vodafone.

“We might not be able to locate a needle in a haystack yet, but we are getting close,” explained Vodafone’s business platforms and solutions director, Justin Shields. “What we can do now is take new digital services like this one, integrate it with our global IoT platform and fast networks, and offer it securely at scale to many millions of customers.”

Pinpoint accuracy is critical

Vodafone was able to provide accurate locations for IoT-enabled vehicles, machinery and devices, using Sapcorda’s network of Global Navigation System Service (GNSS) receivers and augmentation technology. This technology is able to improve accuracy from 3m to 10cm by correcting for things like the curvature of the earth, atmospheric delays and the time differences of global positioning satellites. 

“Our in-building 5G and IoT services already allow manufacturing plants, research laboratories and factories to carry out critical, and often hazardous, precision work with robots,” said Shields. “Now we are applying the same levels of accuracy to the outdoor world.”

This precise positioning service from Vodafone will be a worthwhile addition to its ‘Telco as a Service’ (TaaS) model, and will be a vital ingredient in safely rolling out new 5G services. And according to Vodafone, “Pinpoint accuracy is critical to the acceptance and mass adoption of autonomous vehicles not just on the road but in factories, airports, dockyards and any site where machines are in motion”. 

Dan Oliver

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.