SBIR Phase I:Software-Defined Locator-Receiver for NFER Systems
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project seeks to implement a software-defined radio digital receiver design for use in Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) employing Near Field Electromagnetic Ranging (NFER) technology. NFER RTLS has demonstrated industry leading wireless location of individual tracking tags. The proposed effort will drastically increase the capacity of NFER RTLS from 20-50 tag reads per second to a thousand or more. RTLS's comprise an important and rapidly growing segment within the radio frequency identification (RFID) industry. Incumbent RTLS vendors use high frequency, microwave RF systems originally optimized for communications, not location. But communications and location are two different problems requiring fundamentally different answers. NFER technology was designed with location in mind. Using low frequency (~1MHz), long wavelength (~300m) signals, typically around 1MHz, NFER systems are more penetrating, longer range, more multipath resistant, and more robust than competing products. Already a relatively simple and low-cost method for RTLS in complicated indoor environments, the proposed research aims to dramatically increase the capacity of NFER RTLS systems by implementing a software-defined radio digital receiver design. The proposed effort also has the potential to significantly reduce the cost and increase the capacity of NFER Locator-Receivers.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is substantial. The Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled a multi-billion industry by making location information ubiquitous for outdoor users. Most of us, however, spend our time indoors where GPS is unavailable. An RTLS technology that can unlock the "indoor GPS" market would likely represent a market opportunity at least as significant as the overall GPS industry. In addition to this substantial commercial opportunity, location awareness has a broad societal impact. Approximately 100 firefighters die in the line of duty each year. A system that can locate and track firefighters could save some of these lives. Every year, workers die in hazardous environments, like mines and chemical plants because rescuers are unable to locate them. Similarly, about 10% of American casualties in combat are caused by "friendly" fire. A system that can provide situational awareness to warfighters, particularly in urban combat, could prevent some of these casualties. The proposed high capacity digital receiver would also have significant utility as the basis of a robust communication system. There is considerable interest in near-field magnetic communication systems in support of tactical communications in urban environment or in support of communication in mines and underground.
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515 Sparkman Drive Huntsville, AL 35816
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