"Deeyook: A Highly Accurate and Practical Location Solution with Unmatched Scalability"
This interview with Eran Shpak, CTO of Deeyook, is the first blog of a two-part series and covers current and future trends in location technology.
What inspired you to start a location technology company?
We (Gideon Rottem, Deeyook’s CEO and myself) were running a Wi-Fi infrastructure solution company. As early as 2005, we noticed that some of our customers providing our solution were using our infrastructure as the basis to 3rd party location services, so clearly, the demand for this type of service was high. At the same time, we saw that the technologies available fell short of the required use cases. Providers were interested in using Wi-Fi for location purposes because Wi-Fi infrastructure already exists (as of 2023, there are currently about 8.5 billion active Wi-Fi access points in existence around the world), meaning money does not have to be invested in creating and maintaining new infrastructures. Additionally, Wi-Fi is a good choice because it can deliver a strong signal across distances of hundreds of meters. However, it quickly became clear that Wi-Fi signal strength (called RSSI) alone is not accurate enough for most business use cases. Hence, our mission is to provide a highly accurate and usable Wi-Fi tracking solution based on interferometry but without changing the existing infrastructure in any respect.
How does Deeyook’s technology differ from other location-based services on the market?
There are currently several technologies in use for location services, these include: Wi-Fi, Ultra-Wideband (UWB), GPS and BLE. For a fuller discussion of these, see our blog “The Power of Precision: A New Perspective on Real-Time Location Systems.”
These technologies differ in the way that they measure location. Some methods analyze the direction of the signal (Direction Finding, or DF, measuring the angle of departure, or angle of arrival) and others analyze the distance of the signal. Distance measurements can further be based on either time (Time of Flight) or Intensity (RSSI), or both. As discussed below, each method has benefits and limitations:
l Direction Finding (DF)- This technique focuses on finding the direction at which waves propagate. Military airborne radar systems use this technology, and it has been migrating to commercial products, for example, it was introduced into the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Standard Version 5.1. BLE is limited in power and bandwidth, which caps the theoretical accuracy of BLE DF.
l Wi-Fi with Time of Flight (ToF) - Intel has led standardization of this technology which measures the time it takes for a signal to travel from a Wi-Fi mobile to Access Point and back. It has so many practical limitations that it is seldom used in real-life scenarios.
l RSSI - This is the simplest and most widely used technology that is based on the intensity of the signal: The weaker the signal, the farther away the object is. The results are poor, especially indoors.
This brings us to Wi-Fi, which offers the best of breed in location services, leveraging signal strength, high bandwidth, and a huge global install base.
The Deeyook solution is unique in delivering interferometry while exploiting existing, unmodified infrastructure to provide accurate tracking. Deeyook offers a highly usable, practical, and accurate location solution that is also easier to roll out and scale than any other on the market.
What role do you see location technology playing in the future of industries?
Most manufacturing and logistics industries are going through digitization nowadays, asset management is becoming a hot topic in verticals such as retail, logistics, and manufacturing. Companies are increasingly looking for ways to optimize the control over of their physical assets to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. In logistics and manufacturing, for example, companies need to know where their items are at all times and track them as they move through processing, delivery, etc. The same goes for retail, where things can be even more complicated, as oftentimes companies need to track their assets at locations that they don't own in the distribution channels.
To date, there has been no practical, usable solution addressing this need. Barcode scanning, which has been the most common tracking modality until now, is very labor-intensive and expensive in practice.
Touchless tracking, such as is offered by Deeyook, will be in increasing demand as it is perfectly designed to cope with the needs of multiple businesses. Location tags require no human scanning of objects. Even if items are located at an external site, Deeyook can use the external site’s infrastructure passively to track assets accurately, whether they are indoors or outdoors. This makes it robust, reliable, and perfectly suited to many use cases.
How do you ensure the privacy of the data that your technology collects?
It’s an evolving challenge that will be uniformly addressed as tracking technologies become more widespread. One way to ensure privacy is to abide by existing data preservation rules. By now, almost all large enterprises are working in the cloud and conform to legal regulations. There is a small niche where there are regulations that are even more strict. For example, the medical field requires on-prem, as opposed to cloud-based, solutions. In these cases, we work within the acceptable parameters of the industry even though, technically speaking, these implementations can be more costly because we cannot share resources with other applications to balance the load.
What partnerships or collaborations are you forming to help further your mission?
Deeyook codes algorithms that analyze and process the Wi-Fi signals that are being transmitted by existing Wi-Fi Access Points. As such, we seek partnerships with Wi-Fi chip vendors that provide mobile Wi-Fi devices - IoT devices, laptops and smartphones.
One partnership we have is with Infineon (Germany's largest semiconductor manufacturer). We embed our firmware in the tags they sell in off-the-shelf chips to hardware vendors. Deeyook provides software that allows data to be collected from the Wi-Fi chip and transmitted to Deeyook’s cloud service where further analysis can be performed.
Another partnership we have is with Sequans - a leading provider of connectivity solutions for cellular IoT. IoT tags require a backhaul to report readings from the Wi-Fi infrastructure. Currently, we support two methods for backhauling. One of which uses existing Wi-Fi chips, and the other connects to NB IoT LTE-M infrastructure via Sequan’s modem. This method allows us to access tags anywhere in the world, whether they are in a Wi-Fi zone or not, which has significant advantages for location services.
We have developed a reference design for the entire solution that allows our clients to customize their hardware - using a combination of NB IoT and Wi-Fi for tracking. The reference design is fully production-ready.
How do you think location technology will evolve over the next five years?
There are now more IoT devices than there are people on Earth - more than 10 billion at the last count. Most of these devices are not tracked. Our vision is to make all those IoT devices trackable without adding any cost to the manufacturing or the operation of the devices.
Secondary markets for this technology are also emerging. For example, the smartphone industry, which is currently at about one smartphone per person on earth. It remains to be seen how location tracking in this market will evolve, especially as privacy issues make tracking smartphones very different from tracking inventory and other IoT devices.
In our next blog, Eran sheds some light on the role of CTO in a fast-moving location technology startup and some of the opportunities and challenges for CTOs in this developing field.