It is not often that farmers, construction workers and bulldozer drivers are among the first adopters of new technology. But in Japan, the mobile network operator Softbank now wants to roll out a service in November, initially for corporate customers, which I, as a private person, have been wanting for a long time: a positioning system that is accurate to the centimeter.
Precise over the field at last
These highly precise tracking systems are a prerequisite for the autonomous navigation of tractors, construction machines and other vehicles. This is because the current satellite positioning system is too imprecise for precise control, with scatter ranging from meters to tens of meters. That’s why systems are being built around the world to analyze the atmospheric disturbances that stare satellite data. The quantities are used to correct the position data. However, Japan is among the pioneers when it comes to implementation in a flat country.
The start was made by the joint venture of car manufacturers, map makers and electronics groups DMP, which creates highly precise three-dimensional car maps. For this, the partners also need a highly precise location of the cars, the necessary correction data for which has now been provided by an official service, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, since November 2018. Mitsubishi Electric, the technical engine in the joint venture, also exported the technology to Germany in 2017 through Sapcorda Services, a joint venture formed with Bosch, Geo++ and u-blox in 2017.
Softbank, one of the country’s major mobile operators, is now following suit to make the idea useful for other industries. For this Softbank will be the official network from 1.300 measurement rates nationwide by more than 3.Add 300 checkpoints that the company will install on its cell towers. via data centers the correction data is then delivered to special satellite receivers in the vehicles. The kicker: Softbank claims that it has shrunk the once high cost of the receivers to a commercial level.
The cooperation partners for the tests indicate which markets Softbank has in mind first. These are the Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturer Yanmar, the construction group Kajima and Softbank’s own robot car development SB Drive. The technology is provided by another Softbank company called Ales.
Comes the boom market?
Another aspect is the preparation for a new supposed boom market. Softbank isn’t saying it, but de facto the telecom company, owned by tech investor Softbank, is preparing for the commercial launch of its new superfast 5G mobile network next year. Although the technique also works over the previous nets. But the delays are still sometimes quite rough.
With the new network generation, data transfer is expected to take only milliseconds. Then Softbank can – and must – hope that the service will be a box-office hit. Because one thing unites the telecom companies at the launch of 5G-ara worldwide: They are investing in the expansion of networks, but do not yet know exactly which services will soon bring them profits.