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Imec Sets New Benchmark with 30cm Accurate and Secure Localization Solution based on Bluetooth

Enabling increased data security in intuitive smart environments

Antwerp (BELGIUM), MAY 23, 2018 — Imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technologies today announced at its Imec Technology Forum, ITF2018, taking place in Antwerp on May 23-24, that it has developed a new secure proximity technology that enables an accuracy as good as 30 centimeters (cm). This IoT technology, that was developed by imec researchers in Holst Centre (the Netherlands) and researchers from COSIC, an imec lab at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), sets a new benchmark in localization accuracy using a standard Bluetooth radio. It paves the way to increased data security in intuitive smart environments such as buildings, cars and cities.

Todays localization solutions merely use signal strength that limits the accuracy to 3-5 meters (m). This accuracy can only support relaxed use-cases, such as proximity marketing in retail centers or rough positioning of objects. Until now accurate localization and high security could only be achieved by using high-end solutions based on ultra-wideband (UWB) radios. These are used in applications such as high precision track-and-trace and industrial applications. With imec’s solution, accurate localization and high security is also supported using standard Bluetooth. While expensive UWB technology serves demanding applications, its cost prevents acceptance in high volume and cost sensitive products.

The superior performance of imec’s accurate ranging is demonstrated on commercial chips, both for Bluetooth and IEEE802.15.4, showing the versatility of the solution to work on narrowband radios of various standards and manufacturers.The highly efficient imec solution needs less than 32kB of ROM and 64kB of RAM on an ARM CortexTM M4F device with less than 50msec per measurement when running at 120 MHz. The imec phase-based solution is extremely robust for multipath reflections, which are typically a challenge for RSSI based solutions operating in indoor environments.

“By leveraging the pervasiveness of Bluetooth in smartphones and other mobile devices, imec’s technology delivers affordable yet very accurate and reliable localization for numerous new IoT applications”, stated Kathleen Philips, IoT director at imec. “Together with our industrial partners, we are working on bringing this technology into a next version of the Bluetooth standard.”

Combining the best of both worlds with imec’s secure proximity technology; high volume and cost-efficient radio technology, and a high level of accuracy and data security. The new solution enables the use of standard Bluetooth transceivers to measure the distance between two devices. It is furthermore protected against spoofing by creating a secure channel between two authenticated devices, developed together with the renowned COSIC security solutions team of KU Leuven.

“Location spoofing is an underestimated problem, that has moved from an academic research topic to a realistic threat in the field,” said Bart Preneel, head of the imec-COSIC research group at the KU Leuven.  “Fortunately, our early research in this area is paying off: in collaboration with imec it has resulted in practical solutions.”

Imec’s secure proximity technology is ideal for intuitive, yet secure, building access and car entry. It also enables new location-based data access services where accuracy and security are paramount in view of privacy, such as in hospitals where a patient’s record is pulled up automatically as the doctor approaches the patient’s bed. This new technology from imec is now available for commercial applications, for licensing and further development towards specific application requirements of our partners.

About imec

Imec is the world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology, profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, energy, and education.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities, we bring together more than 4,000 brilliant minds from over 85 nationalities.  Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, and offices in India and Japan.  In 2017, imec’s revenue (P&L) totaled 546 million euro.

Further information about imec can be found at www.imec-int.com.

Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC international (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a “stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics [Shanghai] Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited), imec Florida (IMEC USA nanoelectronics design center).

About imec – the Netherlands (Holst Centre)

At imec – the Netherlands, a team of more than 130 researchers with 22 different nationalities work together on the latest technology innovations. Part of our DNA is to transform ideas into applicable technologies within the fields of connected healthcare, thin film electronics and Internet of Things. In 2005 we founded, together with TNO, the nanotechnology hub ‘Holst Centre’ with a mission to tune scientific strategies and innovations into industrial needs to create new markets.

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