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Ultrasonic Wavelengths

Can sound waves be used to help pinpoint indoor location?

About Ultrasonic Positioning Technology

Ultrasonic technology uses sound frequencies higher than the audible range (beyond 20 kHz) to determine the user position using the time taken for an ultrasonic signal to travel from a transmitter to a receiver.

Some say that the soundwaves can pinpoint people and objects more accurately than radiofrequency waves which can be picked up by multiple sensors.

How Ultrasonic Positioning Technology Works

Ultrasonic technology requires the installation of microphones within the rooms of the facility. User location is calculated using the principle of trilateration; at least 3 microphones receiving a sound pulse are needed for finding the user position.

Ultrasound signals have short wavelengths and when they are emitted it confines the signals to the walls and doors of that room. To refine the accuracy of these wavelengths, microphones can be designed to be more sensitive to pick up sound waves in a particular direction, allowing a more accurate location of specific objects or people.

Challenges With Ultrasonic Positioning Technology

This technology comes with privacy concerns as location information is disclosed to the infrastructure administrators. It also proves unscalable as the number of simultaneous microphones in an environment will affect system performance. With multiple microphone installations, the sound emissions will collide with each other creating too much interference.

Challenges with the technology:

  • Requires direct line of sight
  • Additional hardware required
  • Privacy concerns due to microphone access
  • Not scalable due to interference of multiple microphones

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    Other indoor positioning systems require the use of expensive external hardware and costly maintenance.
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