By offering embedded semiconductors, software, services, support and reference designs that support combined wireless and GPS/GNSS applications, u-blox delivers complete solutions for a wide new range of location based services that capitalize on the converged technologies.

Fleet and asset management systems

As early adopters of converged wireless / GPS applications, fleet management systems are deployed for tracking vehicle fleets such as taxis, trucks and public transport to report position, monitor routes and driver behavior. The system also can transmit vehicle information such as speed, fuel levels, tire pressure, engine temperature, as well as facilitate response in emergency situations. In this case an automotive-grade u-blox GPS receiver embedded in the vehicle transmits position data in addition to other sensor information via a GSM/GPRS or CDMA backchannel to a control center.


Accelerated positioning via assisted GPS (A-GPS)
By pairing a parallel wireless communications channel with a GPS receiver, acquisition of satellite positional data can be transmitted immediately via GSM or digital terrestrial broadcast to significantly accelerate position fix. Assistance service such as u-blox’ AssistNow A-GPS service provides 24/7 access to online satellite aiding data which can be used in conjunction with a GSM/GPRS receiver modem such as LEON to provide a near-instantaneous fix. This is especially attractive for consumer or emergency applications where a 30+ second wait for a GPS fix may not be acceptable.


Road pricing
With the upcoming launch of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) throughout Europe, drivers will be able to easily pay tolls throughout the whole European Union (EU) based on road usage.  The subscription-based service makes use of an onboard box containing both GPS and GSM technologies that will communicate road usage information to a service provider for billing purposes. EETS is planned to be available on all infrastructures in the entire European Community such as motorways, tunnels (requires dead-reckoning GPS) and bridges where toll can be paid using on-board equipment.


Personal locators
Consumer devices combining GSM and GPS have recently started to appear on the market. Various solutions are now available which combine GSM/GPRS connectivity with GPS to provide real-time tracking of the devices anywhere in the world there is mobile phone coverage. The devices, and hence people or animals they are connected to, can be viewed in real-time via simple Internet “dashboard”. The palm-sized devices can not only report where your children and pets are on-demand, but even how fast your teenagers are driving your car (velocity information is also available via GPS!).


Emergency services
GPS converged with other wireless networks such as the global COSPAS SARSAT 406MHz search and rescue satellite communication system enables high-end emergency locator devices that can operate in remote locations, a vital piece of equipment for mountaineers and sailors. These devices have the ability to transmit emergency information combined with a user’s location at the touch of a button and send an emergency or status message, regardless of mobile phone coverage.

eCall
Another initiative to combine GSM and GPS for vehicle emergency services is eCall, a project by the European Commission to provide rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the European Union. The service, which is planned for implementation in 2014, is backed by numerous car, truck and bus manufacturers and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). The system will monitor in-vehicle sensors for such events as airbag deployment to automatically transmit location details and summon assistance via GSM. Click here to download the u-blox whitepaper "The u-blox Solution for European eCall" (PDF).



        
Location Based Services for Notebooks and Mobile Internet Devices
Converged Wireless/GPS services are already being made available on mobile phones, Netbooks and personal navigation devices, and location-awareness capability is even built into Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system through a specially developed “Sensor and Location Platform”supported by u-blox. With a wireless Internet connection and large display, these services will provide interesting information relevant to one’s location such as:

  • What services are available around me? (i.e. shopping, restaurants, ATMs, public transportation, tourist information, police), including:
    • How do I get there? Turn by turn directions for vehicles and pedestrians.
    • Photos, menus, and advertising of specialoffers or sales (“hungry? Stop by Gino’s pizzeria for a 2-for one pizza special…only 50 meters to your left!”).
  • Who is around me?
    • Are any of my friends or family nearby?
    • How do I find them?
    • Social networking: is someone interesting nearby? (“proximity dating”)

u-blox’ wireless/positioning solutions

Because of the exciting and numerous applications for converged wireless and positioning technologies running on portable devices, u-blox has implemented special features in its family of cellular modules to ease the design effort required for the integration of wireless with GPS.


For example, combining a LEON or SARA GSM/GPRS module with a u-blox GPS receiver allows designers to have full access to the GPS receiver directly via the modem: it relays control messages to the GPS receiver via a simple 2-wire I2C interface. This means a 2nd interface, is not necessary: fully control of the GPS receiver is achieved with AT commands via the modem.  The result is simple and cost effective GSM/GPS integration, making optimal use of PCB space.



Embedded A-GPS client
Another key advantage of u-blox modem modules is that they contain an embedded AssistNow A-GPS client supporting both online and offline Assisted GPS. The combined GSM/GPS solution with AssistNow client results in numerous benefits:
  • Better GPS performance in weak GPS signal conditions such as urban NEO-6 module seriescanyons
  • Significantly faster Time-to-First-Fix (seconds, not minutes)
  • No resources required from the application’s microcontroller
  • No software integration effort on the host microcontroller required









Assisted GPS client firmware is embedded
in LEON GSM/GPRS modems


Conclusion
The marriage of wireless technologies such as GSM and UMTS with GPS has an exciting future, enabling new and compelling mass-market services for businesses, shopping, tourism, public and private transportation, social networking and entertainment, as well as for logistics, fleet management and emergency services.

Most importantly, these converged services offer clear value propositions and revenue models to allow all players in the ecosystem, end-users, device and end-product manufacturers and service providers, to benefit.


 


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