Industry 4.0 is considered the next chapter in the evolution of smart manufacturing. Powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), technologies are now enabled to provide real-time connectivity with control and insight across all aspects of an organization. This “fourth industrial revolution” is creating highly advanced production environments that are self-organizing with the help of sensors and intelligently connected devices.
Essential to realizing this capability are real-time location systems (RTLSs). According to MarketsandMarkets, the market for real-time locating systems (RTLS) is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.8% between 2020 and 2025, from USD 3.4 billion to USD 10.3 billion.
Geoplan, a global provider of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) positioning networks and services for tracking vehicles, people and indoor assets, is leading the way in applying RTLS technology to help organizations migrate to Industry 4.0. The company's tracking systems are in use by some of the world's leading manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors and others.
As Geoplan seeks to meet the challenges its customers face in implementing the precise and low-power tracking solutions required, it has turned to Qorvo, a global leader in RF innovation. Qorvo is a leading supplier of both UWB and low-power IoT communication System on Chips (SoCs) with the company's unique ConcurrentConnect™ technology. The capability enables devices to virtually listen to multiple protocols – Bluetooth® Low Energy and IEEE 802.15.4-based protocols – at the same time with no detectable latency.
There are numerous obstacles to realizing the full benefits of Industry 4.0. The first is a requirement for ultra-precise location data – micro-positioning – for hundreds of assets. This is difficult because many existing manufacturing facilities were not built with real-time tracking and IoT technology in mind.
Further, this real-time tracking of hundreds of objects must be simultaneous and highly robust for demanding industrial environments. Low-power consumption is also essential to ensuring long operational battery lifetimes of tags and the overall tracking network. In addition, customers must be able to quickly access updated displays for location-dependent information – for example, instructions for a specific workstation on an assembly line.
Using advanced, multi-protocol and power-efficient ICs from Qorvo, Geoplan has combined the functionalities of a wirelessly updated display and asset tracking capabilities in a single device.
This new solution, called G-Pixel, is an end-to-end RTLS that integrates anchors, "G-pixel" Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) tags, advanced positioning algorithms and APIs for seamless integration with other systems. It allows objects to be tracked with 5-30 cm accuracy through obstructions and non-line-of-sight conditions by creating an Ultra-wide band (UWB) positioning network. This is enabling new use cases and delivering never-before-possible, real-time data insights for manufacturing, logistics and retail environments.
Geoplan selected the Qorvo UWB transceiver as the positioning technology of choice for the G-pixel tag because it meets the system’s micro-positioning requirements, even in the face of obstructions and under non-line-of-sight conditions. Geoplan is also leveraging Qorvo’s antenna diversity feature, which can double the reliable range of IEEE802.15.4-based communications in indoor environments or those prone to wireless interference. This helps to increase system reliability and reduces the need for message retries.
Another critical factor faced by Geoplan in developing the G-pixel tags was how to improve battery life. G-pixel tags integrate multiple RF connectivity technologies as well as a display and LED, so uninterrupted power is essential. For this aspect of its solution, Geoplan chose Qorvo’s newest, multi-standard IoT communications controller, the QPG6100, which delivers 2.4 GHz IoT connectivity with very low-power consumption, enabling long battery life.
With ConcurrentConnect technology, the Qorvo QPG6100 enables Bluetooth® Low Energy and IEEE 802.15.4-based protocols to operate simultaneously in a single chip, increasing functionality and reducing overall footprint. Qorvo also provides a flexible SDK so customers can build custom IoT applications based on their own protocol(s), alongside standards such as Zigbee and Thread.
On the production line of the latest Hyundai SUV in the new Gwangju Global Motors (GGM) manufacturing plant, the G-pixel tag is attached to the top of the vehicle to send and receive process information in real time. The tag prevents work errors and improves quality and productivity by showing work status on the G-pixel screen from the assembly line all the way to quality inspection.
A 2020 paper by McKinsey & Company highlights connectivity as one of the four foundational technologies of Industry 4.0. These connectivity pillars include sensors, the IoT, cloud technology and blockchains.
As companies move toward this advanced methodology, they must address the demand for greater visibility to facilitate faster decision-making. Real-time data of supply chain operations reduces human error and allows quicker response times for alterations that impact cost, customer satisfaction and delivery times.
No matter where organizations are in this process – well underway or just beginning – they will find that advanced, real-time location tracking is at the heart of this transformation. It is an essential part of the continued digital transformation that is revolutionizing manufacturing efficiency and reducing costs. The critical need for flexible and resilient manufacturing and supply chains has been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Geoplan G-Pixel solution, with Qorvo’s communications controller for IoT end devices and UWB transceiver, provides real-time, automated tracking with simultaneous support for multiple ultra-low-power wireless protocols. It delivers location-aware business intelligence, increases productivity, and easily integrates with legacy systems to pave the way to the next revolution in manufacturing.
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