SoftBank goes hard on autonomous positioning in Japan

June 6, 2019  - By
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SoftBank plans to introduce a centimeter-accurate, real-time satnav-based positioning service, specifically using Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), to guide autonomous vehicles across a range of industries in Japan. The company said it will install more than 3,300 control points at base stations across Japan to deliver centimeter-level accuracy over its mobile network coverage area to provide real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning.

Testing begins in July with a scheduled launch of commercial service by the end of November. Test partners include Yanmar Agribusiness Co., Ltd., a provider of autonomous assisted driving for agricultural machinery, Kajima Corporation, which performs construction site management with automatically controlled drones for aerial photography and monitoring, and SB Drive Corp., a provider of autonomous and assisted driving technology for buses.

SoftBank is developing proprietary low-cost GNSS receivers so that “new services and market expansion can be realized.” A Positioning Core System provided by ALES Corp. will generate correctional data based on signals received and transmitted by SoftBank’s own control points over SoftBank’s mobile communications network to agricultural and construction machinery, self-driving cars, drones and other equipment carrying GNSS receivers. The company expects that centimeter-level positioning can thus be done in real time.

In addition to control points at its own base stations, SoftBank will use the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan’s approximately 1,300 GPS-based control stations.

SoftBank is also developing services to enablec loud-based RTK positioning for devices without GNSS receivers. Cloud-based RTK will provide centimeter-level, location-based services for equipment that needs to be miniature and energy-efficient, such as infrastructure surveillance sensors and wearable devices.

SoftBank Group Corp. is a Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Tokyo. It owns operations in broadband, fixed-line telecommunications, e-commerce, internet, technology services, finance, semiconductor design and more. It is the 36th largest public company in the world, and the 2nd largest in Japan.

ALES is a joint venture established by SoftBank and Enabler in July 2018. Enabler employs GNSS and related technologies to produce such products/services as a synchronization solution for mobile base stations for subway stations and a patented indoor positioning/time synchronization infrastructure platform in Japan.


Featured image: Softbank

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Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

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