Ultrasound Positioning

20 years of industry leading innovation

Since Sonitor’s inception in 1997, ultrasound has been at the core of our approach to indoor positioning. It’s a matter of physics, really! Early on we recognized that indoor environments are something completely different from the outdoors. However, we were alone in this for many years. The early pre-eminence of GPS, helped by a free infrastructure, caused many to believe that the answer to indoor positioning must lie in adopting a GPS-like radio frequency (RF) solution. This glosses over the most important functional limitation of GPS: the requirement of line of sight between multiple transmitters and the positioning receiver. A condition that is excruciatingly difficult to meet for an RF signal in an indoor environment, with wall, floors and people getting in the way, creating unpredictable and serious signal interference incessantly. 

Then, there is the matter of scaling and timing accuracy. GPS relies on a network of atomic clocks that are carefully conditioned to deliver relative distance measurements with an accuracy measured in meters. Accuracy measured in meters doesn’t cut it in the indoor environment! A meter of error, is a floor, the wrong room, perhaps even the wrong building. In the indoor environment we relate to structures that are nearly invisible to RF; a pane of glass with a thickness of a few millimeters will stop us dead in our tracks. So, if even RF technology with sub-centimeter accuracy is not sufficiently accurate to locate us in the right room, it is time to re-examine the assumptions.

What other waves allow us to measure distances but also react to building structures as we do? The answer is of course acoustic waves. Acoustic waves are pressure waves in air that travel at a leisurely 340 m/s, allowing distances to be timed with ease (compare that to 300 000 000 m/s for radio frequency waves). Unlike humans, acoustic waves ‘bounce’ and can return back to where they came from more easily, i.e. walls and ceilings.

Being early has its advantages. Sonitor has built up a considerable amount of knowledge, experience and IP (intellectual property) on all things related to indoor positioning and specifically ultrasound. Sonitor has over one hundred patents and patents pending worldwide. We don’t believe in hoarding this treasure trove of knowledge, experience and IP to ourselves; we want the world to benefit from all of this and ultimately end the age of wasting time, energy and effort looking for stuff – we all have better things to do with our time!

For this reason, Sonitor makes its technology available at many levels; as licensed IP, modules, products and software, directly or through partners. Contact us to find out what suits your needs best.

Sonitor's Proprietary Ultrasound Benefits:

  • Accuracy: ultrasound technology provides consistently accurate positioning data; current capability down to feet; future capability down to inches
  • Real-time: sub-second to max 3 second update rates for critical work flow applications
  • Fewer devices required: high resolution coverage in corridors, rooms and bays
  • Support for the widest variety of use cases: maximizing the utility and ROI
  • Minimal maintenance and cost of ownership: long battery life utilizing 4 standard D-Cell, 1.5V alkaline batteries in Quad-LT™ and 4 AA 1.5V alkaline batteries in ultraBeacon™
  • Smartphone positioning: Lyra™, powered by Phone-FUEL™ and compatible with billions of smart devices
  • Wi-Fi ready SmartTags™ and SmartBadges™: rapid and easy system deployment 
  • High scalability: area to chair level positioning
  • Rapid installation: predominantly wireless; battery operated infrastructure with predictable accuracy performance allows for exact system configuration and deployment
  • Remote management: for easy updates and diagnostics