The benefits of object geolocation

Have you ever spent hours looking for a specific tool, object, book…? Do you often loose that remote control or your glasses? Don’t worry you are not the only one! That’s why we all need object geolocation, and as soon as possible!

You are actually perfectly normal, it is just that we live in very cluttered environments and our attention is often drawn to more important topics, so we tend to forget our objects’ location.

I would classify the objects we loose in two different categories:

  • The objects we loose because we move them so often that we can’t remember the last place we dropped them…
  • The object that we loose because we don’t use then often enough and the last time we did, we decided to put them in a very obvious location, but we just can’t remember where…

The current technology

GPS

To geolocate people, pets, cars and pizza places, we all use GPS. All earth is covered by the coordinates system and by satellites hovering Earth. However for locating our personal objects, this system has several limitations:

  • The accuracy of GPS would not allow to find objects in a room
  • The signal might be blocked by walls, furniture
  • It would require that all our objects embed a GPS receiver and a data transmitter to let us know their location. That would require a powerful battery and would certainly cost a lot.

Bluetooth tags

Another option is to rely on Bluetooth (BLE) already supported by many modern phones and computers. Some tags using this technology are already available, however this solution still lack of certain possibilities:

  • Bluetooth technology can help to know the approximate distance between 2 objects, not a precise location. Several fixed reference point would be necessary to perform triangulation
  • Active tags are still quite expensive and would not allow you to equip all your objects

RFID active tags

We know RFID for all the contact-less cards and payment methods, but what is less known is that RFID can work over small distances. Small distances, but big enough to be useful for geolocation. Especially if the tags you are using are active tags (They contain a battery and actively emit information). Using a directional antenna on a moving part we managed to overcome the fact that only an rough estimation of the distance can be obtained from the system, however the fact that the technology require active tags which are costly might slow down the adoption.

RFID passive tags

RFID can also be used in a passive way (the energy of the emitter is reflected back through the receiver). The result is that the signal can only travel on even smaller distances. Let’s say one meter or so. Which could be acceptable for a scanning type geolocation. The cost of passive tag is so low that you could imagine tagging all your objects with one.

We actually researched quite a lot on that technology and presented a working prototype of our object finder in Shanghai Hackathon.

Some additional ideas

Quadcopter Scan

Since the range of communication is a limitation and to transform a distance information in a location information we need a moving device, why not using a quadcopter equipped with a directional antenna that would scan and index our rooms periodically (when we are at work).

Coordinates vs insights system

Also geolocation is often related to a coordinate system, it might be easier to implement a object relation system. Where object location would be described as “Between the lamp and the the TV” or “Under the couch”.

Prior inventory and retrieval

Of course it would be necessary to scan and associate your objects to a label or name in the system, so later you can look for it from your phone or your computer or even Sisi or Cortana…

 

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