5G networks technology for localization: Is it ideal for autonomous cars

With the evolution of autonomous vehicles, 5G networks technology for localization is an important factor for accuracy. The 5G communication technology has been the protagonist of many articles in Technoeager. We have talked about its high speed of transfer and very low latency, the millimeter band, the impact that will have in the autonomous driving, of Massive Technology … However, there is a more linked ingredient to the 5G ecosystem that is GE.

The 5G localization networks that telecommunications operators are currently deploying have a density of access points much higher than that of the fourth generation networks. And this means that in the same space they use more, and, therefore, that they are more together. There is a reason why it explains why it is being necessary to undertake the deployment in this way when, as we can intuit, doing so is more expensive, slow and complex.

5G proposes us advantages, but it also entails risks that it is necessary to ponder

As we have explained in other items, 5G networks work at higher frequencies than 4G / LTE. In fact, this feature is to a large extent responsible for the increase in the speed of transfer that 5G technology proposes. However, using higher frequencies has a price: the range of the open field signal is less, it is more sensitive to obstacles and physical barriers, and, in addition, its indoor penetration capacity is smaller.

5G networks are based on a mesh of access points much more populated than those used by the previous communication technologies

To solve these drawbacks the 5G networks that are deploying the operators are supported by a mesh of access points much more populated than those used by the previous communication technologies. But, curiously, this greater density of nodes or access points has a secondary effect: the spatial location of the terminals that connect to them can be carried out with much more precision.

The 4G / LTE technology offers us an approximate location resolution of 50 meters, while the initial 5G requirements propose an accuracy of 3 meters indoors and 10 meters outdoors for at least 80% of the connection time. But this is not all. On paper the techniques that enable the location in 5G make possible a spatial resolution of less than 1 meter, so the accuracy with which operators can locate our smartphone is unpublished.

In addition, this technology makes the positioning in three dimensions viable, so, unlike its predecessors, it manages to locate a terminal in a space with volume, and not in a plane. All we have seen so far sounds great. And to a large extent because they have such a precise location, as we will see later, it makes possible the implementation of new services that are not feasible on 4G / LTE.

However, this precise location can also compromise the privacy of users of a telecommunications ecosystem that will gradually end up imposing. The Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) published a report that includes the implications of 5G technology from the point of view of privacy, and the accuracy of its location, according to this institution, entails risks that users.

These are the techniques that 5G uses to make possible a location so precise

An important note before moving forward: the positioning capacity that implements 5G technology complements geopositioning through current satellite navigation systems, such as GPS, Galileo or GLONASS. These two positioning technologies coexist in our mobile phones, and will continue to do so because their scope and the scenarios of use they pose are complementary.

The deployment of 5G technology is being carried out in several phases that are successively introducing the improvements that are being approved by 3GPP

The deployment of 5G technology is being carried out in several phases that are successively introducing the improvements that are being approved by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is the organization with global reach that is responsible for defining The transition to 5G communications started with an initial phase baptized as Release 15 by 3GPP, and by mid-year, this organization completed the phase Release 16, which, among many other improvements, describes how the positioning should be by 5G.

Precisely this last phase is the one that establishes that the location indoors must have an accuracy of 3 meters, and outdoors of 10 meters. And to make it possible, it proposes several strategies designed to work together on the 5G network. It is not essential that we know them in depth, but having a more or less accurate idea of what they propose can help us understand how the technology 5G gets such a precise location.

One of these strategies is RTT (Roundtrip Time). We can translate this acrony for ‘Roundtrack time’, so this parameter quantifies the time invested by a data package to reach its destination from the point of origin added as it takes to reach the source the confirmation that the recipient has received The elements involved in this process are our mobile phone and a cell.

In the field of 5G networks a cell is a region of the space in which a communication base station resides, which is the operator’s team to which our mobile phone is connected. Each cell has a delimited coverage zone, so the desirable to prevent regions without coverage, and which is usually carried out, is that the coverage of several cells overlaps partially. This solution is known as Multicelda Topology.

What the RTT strategy pursues, ultimately, is to measure the time that the packages and confirmation messages from the reception of travel between our smartphone and the base stations that give service in the space where it is located is located. The speed at which packets spread through a radiofrequency link is known, so measuring the time they invest in the trip we can know the distance between the base station and our mobile.

The RTT, AOA / AOD and TDAA technologies have a crucial role in the accuracy of the location of 5G

If, in addition, we expand the calculation to several base stations, we can identify the space region in which the mobile phone we want to locate is quite accurately. However, RTT technology is not alone. Another strategy used in 5G communications to make possible the location is AOA / AOD (Angle of Arrival / Angle of Departure), two acronyms that mean ‘Angle of arrival / angle of departure’.

What AOA / AOD pursues is to evaluate the direction in which the packages between the base station and the terminal are issued to identify the angle that delimits the space region in which the latter resides. This strategy is possible because the base stations usually incorporate several antennas, so that they allow us to evaluate the characteristics of the signal that reaches each of them to identify the angle with which the radiofrequency wave is affecting the base station.

As in RTT, several base stations are also involved in AOA / AOD, so that the information provided by all of them allows the space region a lot in which the mobile phone is located that is necessary to locate. The latest technology that we are interested in knowing is the multilateration or TDOA (Time Difference of Arrival), an acronym that we can translate as ‘difference of arrival time’.

In this case, what is evaluated is the time invested by the radiofrequency signal in transporting the data packets between the mobile phone and the base stations. As we know the exact location of the stations, we also know the distance that separates them. But we know something else: the exact moment in which the packages start from the base station or the terminal. Multilateration requires carrying out several measurements, but the result, again, is a very precise estimate of the location in the smartphone space that has been connected to the base stations.

As we have seen, the release phase 16 of 5G proposes to combine the RTT, AOA / OLA and TDOA technologies, and also positioning through a single cell, to determine very accurately the location in the space of a mobile phone. The funny thing is that the phase released is even further. And it is established a location with an indoor accuracy of 1 meter or less. Of course, the scenarios of use that raises are industrial, so this last specification will probably only be relevant to companies.

This precise location using 5G networks will make a difference in the autonomous car

5G technology, and especially communications in the millimeter band, promise to have a deep impact on some industrial use scenarios. Highly automated factories can benefit not only from minimal latency and high transfer speed that make 5G networks links possible; Also of its extremely precise location. Thanks to these innovations it is possible, among many other applications, control mobile robots like those used in the cars factories with more precision.

Beyond the industrial applications, which are interesting but that users are a bit far away, the location linked to the 5G ecosystem promises to be a fundamental piece in the future autonomous car. Knowing very accurately the position of the vehicles will make it possible to set up automated traffic management systems that are capable of indicating to our car what is the optimal route that you should follow to reach your destination by responding in real time to the traffic status.

In addition, this technology could have a beneficial impact on the autonomous car from the security point of view because each vehicle may indicate its position to nearby cars with great precision. These location data will work side by side with the information that collect the car sensors to allow a more accurate real-time decision making. The release phase 17 is still under development, so it is likely that the agencies involved in the 5G technology deploy new scenarios are likely for the next few months.

5G localization networks

From what we can be sure is that as 5G networks are generalized Iran, new LBS services (location based services) will be deployed, which are strengthened services on real-time localization technology. Some of them are already part of our day to day, but the accuracy in the location that entails 5G technology will allow us, for example, enter a shopping center and instantly identify which is the nearest store that we are looking for at the best price. There is no doubt that companies are not going to let the commercial possibilities that this innovation has escape.

The AEPD has already alerted us: it represents a risk to our privacy

In its report dedicated to the impact that you will presumably have the 5G networks in the privacy of users, the Spanish data protection agency forecast that when this technology reaches a full maturity will put new and disruptive services in our hands, but it will also have a high and unpredictable impact And the accuracy of its location using 5G technology is greatly responsible for this risk.

It is evident that technology is not the problem. If it is used correctly to put it to the user service first, and of the institutions and the companies later, and a regulation is elaborated that guarantees that the data that will be collected from telecommunications about users will not be available to third parties or are they going to be used.

In fact, this is the way it recommends following the AEPD. This agency proposes that manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and developers who work in 5G infrastructures are obliged to deploy solutions that scrupulously respect the regulation imposed by the General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD).

In addition, we must not forget that the scope of this Regulation extends to the entire European Union, and that foreign companies that process data belonging to European users are also subject. The paragraph with which the AEPD concludes very clearly reflects the risk represented by the 5G technology for the privacy of users, and proposes how regulators should act to limit it:

«[…] The 4G networks require an accuracy of 50 meters, but with 5G resolutions less than 1 meter will be achieved in three dimensions. The threat to the privacy that supposed in 2007 the conservation of geolocation information is not comparable to which it can be a scenario in which 5G networks have been deployed. Therefore, it is necessary to adapt the regulations to establish adequate guarantees to the treatment of the new traffic information and, above all, in relation to its conservation ».

There is no doubt that for users it is good news that this AEPD report collects the risks involved in deployment of 5g networks from the point of view of privacy. However, this is only the first tile of a path that should conclude with the elaboration of a regulation that protects with maximum possible guarantees our rights. Let’s trust that the regulators act with the agility that this challenge requires.

Leave a Reply