RealTime IT News

The Location-Aware SoC

After two years in stealth mode, G2 Microsystems of Santa Clara, California is ready to make a splash in the world of location-aware wireless by providing low cost hardware for use in asset tracking hardware tags.

The G2 System-on-Chip (SoC) tag (model G2C501) supports more than just the 802.11-based tracking done by companies like Newbury, Ekahau, AeroScout and Pango Networks — it also supports the emerging ISO 24730 standard that tracks products within three meters (also in the 2.4GHz band like 802.11/Wi-Fi) and can even operate as a standard passive RFID tag by supporting the Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbering scheme.

Ekahau has already signed on as a G2 customer, to use the SoC in future versions of the Wi-Fi tag it sells to be utilized as part of its real-time location system (RTLS).

"We can get tags down to the size of a wristwatch by eliminating external components," says Lisa Payne, Vice President of Marketing at G2. "With our silicon, all you need is a battery, flash memory, antenna... today's tags are in the $50 to $60 range, all the way up to $150 in the government and defense market. We can reduce that down to $20 to $30 dollars."

Along with lower prices, G2 expects to deliver better battery life, since the G2C501 was designed from the ground up for power savings, unlike some Wi-Fi tracking tags which use off-the-shelf chips. A G2 tag with two AA batteries will supposedly run as long as five years (with a 40 percent report rate), compared to only months for existing tags.

G2's tags will also include a sensor interface, so manufacturers can build in sensors to gather data on the surrounding environment, such as temperature, motion, moisture and light. "We have no volatile memory, so the tag can go to 'sleep' and still monitor conditions," says Payne. If the tag isn't near an access point, all the gathered data can be uploaded the next time it comes within range of an AP. Support for fast wake-up when reconnecting is handled by an onboard 32-bit processor; 802.11i security support is also built in.

Payne doesn't see the company branching out with this small design into other items like handhelds; she says there's plenty of potential in just the telemetry data the SoC can collect for RTLS. Yankee Group says the market for RTLS will be worth $1.6 billion by 2010.