Reinventing Geolocation for IoT: Q&A with Nestwave CEO

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

Nestwave’s CEO Ambroise Popper explains what he thinks Nestwave brings to the market and how he plans to lead the startup’s next phase of growth...

Smartphone and in-vehicle navigation systems have some drawbacks. Localization accuracy in critical indoor and dense urban environments is often insufficient, and smartphone batteries drain faster. These challenges multiply when faced with the constraints and requirements of IoT applications. Paris-based Nestwave has decided to take a different approach to IoT geolocation and claims improved indoor sensitivity, better accuracy, and shorter time-to-first-fix. Founded in 2014, Nestwave provides hybrid geolocation IP cores for integration within an IoT modem such as NB-IoT, Cat M1, LoRa, or Sigfox. The patented solution is claimed to improve accuracy in urban canyon environments, to reduce the power consumption and the cost when compared with existing solutions (2.5x accuracy and 1/10 of the power consumption at 1/3 of the cost of GNSS solutions). In 2019, Nestwave closed an initial round of financing of €2 million to implement its innovation strategy, accelerate its development, and strengthen its commercial deployment. Earlier this year, the startup was awarded an additional €4 million as part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot under Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. In July, Nestwave named Ambroise Popper as the CEO while former CEO Vincent Mouret became chairman of the board. Popper has a long track record in the wireless and IoT industry, as he co-founded Sequans Communications and held the position of vice-president of Strategy and Corporate Marketing at Quantenna Communications, acquired by On Semi in June 2019. In a discussion with EE Times Europe, Popper explains what he thinks Nestwave brings to the market and how he plans to lead the startup’s next phase of growth. EE Times Europe: Why is geolocation so essential to IoT?
Nestwave’s CEO Ambroise Popper
Ambroise Popper: A key value driver for IoT is bringing increased awareness and visibility to previously unconnected objects. Advanced analytics and machine learning/AI solutions are helping to answer the questions of “why” and “how.” Yet, it is the basic notion of “where” that appears to be driving a great deal of the initial commercial traction and value creation. We see solutions that enable new capabilities to track and trace packages, containers, vehicles, corporate assets, and even pets. While it may be counterintuitive at first glance, there are also benefits of geolocation for stationary objects such as smart parking meters. What’s differentiating about Nestwave’s technology? Popper: Nestwave enables low-power IoT geolocation without the need for a dedicated positioning chipset. Most geolocation solutions are based on the processing of wireless positioning signals sent between nodes of known location and an object of unknown location. This is true for GNSS, 4G/5G, Wi-Fi, UWB, and Bluetooth-based approaches. Nestwave is different in three ways – which signals are being used, where the processing occurs, and how the processing is performed. Here is how it works. First, our technology uses signals from GNSS, Wi-Fi and 4G sources. The diversity of signals improves accuracy, especially in challenging environments. Next, we created a processing pipeline that is split between device (modem chip or DSP) and the Cloud which enables a power and cost-optimized solution. We take advantage of local, device resources for tasks that require very fast, high resolution processing. The Cloud is well-suited for complex, energy intensive computation. Lastly, we have had a number of patented advances in the low-level signal processing which further improves performance and reduces power consumption. How do you use the Cloud’s compute power? Popper: The Cloud is really a game changer and we are advantageous in a number of ways. First, we use the Cloud to offload some of the complex, energy-intensive computation that has traditionally been done on the device. By opening up the design space to new and better algorithms, including those based on machine learning, we can improve performance without impacting the device battery life. The Cloud also enables us to deliver a continually improving service to our customers in a far more agile manner than would be possible on an embedded system. Finally, the Cloud is a flexible and cost-effective platform for service customization, enabling us to tailor our solution for specific use cases and customer requirements.
(Image: Nestwave)
How does it help meet connected devices’ energy needs and ensure operation over their entire life span? Popper: Power management and battery life is a top priority for our customers, as it can make or break the value proposition of many IoT use cases. We have made energy per position fix one of our key performance metrics. Almost all of the technology we’ve developed, including advanced signal processing and our split device/Cloud architecture, is intended to push the energy vs accuracy curve out. For example, our algorithms can generate location fixes with equivalent accuracy to conventional solutions, but with a capture period one-tenth the duration. This directly translates into device power savings. What are Nestwave’s main markets?  Popper: We believe that IoT is now reaching its long-awaited inflection point and are encouraged by ongoing news of commercial pilots turning into large scale, production solutions. Our customers are the IoT modem chipmakers and DSP core providers. They sell products to device makers in the industrial, enterprise, and consumer markets. We also have partnerships with the mobile carriers and see the advances in 3GPP standardization (Rel-16) and 5G deployments as further evidence of growing IoT momentum. As the new CEO, what are your ambitions for Nestwave? How do you plan to lead the “next phase of growth”? Popper: Nestwave has unique technology, addressing a fast-growing market. As incoming CEO, I see a big potential for the company to become the leading technology provider for IoT geolocation. As we grow and incorporate more people, it is essential to put in place the proper structure and deliver on our roadmap. That will be the initial focus. Then, we will partner with key players in the industry, and leverage the strength of the ecosystem in order to address the largest market possible. What’s on the roadmap for the next five years? Popper: Feedback from the market indicates we are on the right track, and I’m really amazed at the pipeline of great ideas we see coming from our R&D team. There’s plenty of juice left in the tank, as they say, with new innovations in geolocation. With this in mind, our roadmap is designed to strike the balance between execution excellence and growth. I think this is what keeps many startup CEOs awake at night. Over time, you will see Nestwave announce support for more positioning signals, compatibility with more connectivity chipsets, and further advances in features and performance. This article was first published on EE Times Europe

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