Practical SLAM for IoT is here

This is about our latest product: a computer vision-based indoor positioning system (IPS) capable of delivering a mobile device’s location with high accuracy without need for infrastructure and minimal site preparation.VPS heatmap

We asked our CEO to walk us through a demonstration of the new product.  He happily agreed.  This is what happened.

Dragonfly’s Capabilities

Accuware Dragonfly (formerly Visual Positioning System) is a SLAM-based system.  In brief: Dragonfly uses a camera to perform Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM), a technique described as “… the computational problem of constructing or updating a map of an unknown environment while simultaneously keeping track of an agent’s location within it “.  The agent in question is an autonomous mobile device, most likely a robot that moves through physical space carrying a camera hooked up to a computer.

A minimal site setup is required:  at least 3 markers must be placed throughout the site.  They encode specific location coordinates, and are used by Dragonfly to initialize its position. Markers are easily generated on a regular printer.

Dragonfly Marker

Dragonfly was designed to be thrifty in its use of available resources.  As expected, the device’s camera is the main drain of battery power, while the computational footprint, available as an SDK, has been optimized to run efficiently on a regular smartphone, and is available on other platforms.

Dragonfly uses the device’s camera to analyze its surroundings, map the environment around it, and determine its location in reference to its physical context. This data can be shared with an external system (ex. a server) to track the device’s location over time.

Putting the demo together

Our first challenge was finding a suitable autonomous mobile robot fitted with computer and camera, to run the demo.  VPS robot setupAfter some deliberation, we realized that our faithful office iRobot is an autonomous mobile platform, while a regular smartphone could provide the requisite computational power plus video camera.  A smartphone car bracket mounted on top of the iRobot completed the setup for an Android Nexus X5.VPS installing the smartphone

We installed the test mobile app on the Nexus X5.  It integrates with the Dragonfly 2.0 SDK and uses available WiFi and/or 3G or LTE to upload data to our cloud-based server, whose dashboard displays the phone’s real-time location on the floor plan we uploaded.

The advantage of this setup is that it can be easily replicated by anyone interested in testing this product to learn how it behaves, with the convenience of using everyday items.  Note also that household robots like the iRobot are designed to discover and avoid obstacles in the physical environment where they move.  This matches the practical use cases we envision.VPS demo robot

Here is the demonstration

The video gives us the highlights of this experience.  Mount the smartphone on the robot and start it.  As the robot moves about, Dragonfly maps the environment while reporting the sequence of locations reached. The server displays these on the dashboard as a moving dot.

Note the spaghetti diagram depicting the robot’s entire trajectory:

VPS spaghetti diagram

And the heatmap, which highlights the physical areas covered by the robot.  Both diagrams built using location data collected through the test. Dragonfly Heatmap

Applications Envisioned

What applications do we envision for this product?  Here’s a short list:

  • Guiding pick-and-place autonomous mobile robots in warehousesAutonomous mobile robot
  • Mobile industrial robots in “Smart Manufacturing” environments
  • Roaming security robots patrolling buildings, parking lots and garages

In other words, physical location, as provided by Dragonfly 2.0 can be a key ingredient for IoT applications in industrial settings.  It is the “location sensor” in environments variously referred to as: “Industry 4.0”, “Industrial Internet”, “Connected Enterprise”, “Smart Manufacturing”, “Smart Factory”, “Manufacturing 4.0”, “Internet of Everything” or “IoT for Manufacturing”.

Rounding it up

Accuware is a technology-driven company.  It is in our DNA.  We value technology with practical uses in mind.  We develop products that leverage different technologies, all focused on providing physical location in the real world.

Dragonfly is today’s accomplishment.  The R&D effort took many months.  The product launch follows the model from previous releases.  Provide interested parties with a chance to evaluate the new product in their environment.  Our Tech Support group will assist committed users to ensure their success.  Our Partners network will come up to speed on the new release.  Case studies will follow.

We are thrilled by the possibilities of this product.

Do you want to try this system in your environment?

VPS CEO introduction

Incidentally, the heatmap helped us visualize the iRobot’s coverage, so we redirected it until the office had been thoroughly swept clean and looked pristine.  We have the data to prove it.   Now, that’s quality control. 

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