Mister Beacon Episode #25

High precision Location - Angle of Arrival - Quuppa - Part 2

January 14, 2017

We continue our conversation, find out how much the Quuppa locators cost, discuss the future as standards start to incorporate Angle of Arrival (AoA), how AoA works, how it can be used beyond asset tracking to track phones, Quuppa's origin story within Nokia R&D, their expansion to the US, their partner strategy, how AoA solves the challenge with apps and retailers.


  • Fabio Belloni 00:04

    We're one where we're actually using acoustic array. One are just fantastic. If you check it online, they were actually like horn, we have many different kinds of corn, and then be able to, you know, steer basically left or right to be able to identify where planes were coming from. And the idea was to say, because instead of doing it the in the, in the across the radio domain, you do it in the acoustic domain.

    Steve Statler 00:31

    So it's good for people to kind of get in their head angle of arrival, because that is basically where the standards are going. And you guys are at the cutting edge in terms of commercializing that, but, you know, let's look at crystal ball. You know, my my guess is that eventually this will be in the standards of how does that place Quuppa when, when that's standardized.

    Fabio Belloni 00:59

    Why don't they track the shopping cart and shopping basket wherever they are present in the store? Because that way, I actually can know 100% of what is happening in my store.

    Narration 01:12

    You're listening to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem with Steve Statler.

    Steve Statler 01:21

    Points well made, and you've definitely kind of I think established the value, I would actually like one of those receivers just to have it in my office because it looks cool. Not because I need to track anything, but how much do they cost.

    Fabio Belloni 01:32

    So the Quuppa tag is a device as I said, that is a reference device so so Quuppa, practically building this as an example, the Quuppa tag starts at 25 usage. And then the price goes down with volume to like 2015. And so I really wouldn't use this one to be honest as a reference of the cost, because we have already and if you go to our web page, we have three company listed there under the coop ecosystem. And in total, we have nine company building already their own tags. Some example is Fujitsu. Fujitsu is one of our partner into the IoT, and ecosystem work. And and they have.

    Steve Statler 02:19

    The tags sounds like you're kind of on the same ballpark as the rest of the market. There's nothing like special that makes them super duper expensive. But those receivers and we haven't actually talked about how they work. I didn't want to do that. But just how much did the what's what's the kind of the ballpark range for those just so that people think people are assuming that this is like a Maserati time, that kind of price tag. So I'm bracing myself.

    Fabio Belloni 02:44

    So the so the device itself, like for instance, a locator, the price of the locator really goes down significantly with the volume. So for instance, one locator a single locator alone MSRP reseller prices for under 50 years, but then if you already are going to go 400, then it goes down to 325. And then it climbs down very rapidly.

    Steve Statler 03:11

    For him, so we're talking about sort of six 700 bucks, Volume One, roughly.

    Fabio Belloni 03:17

    One which is if you like because the other professional Access Point nowadays.

    Steve Statler 03:21

    Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so what get why are they so big? What is it that is special about the design of those, those receivers those sensors?

    Fabio Belloni 03:32

    When the locator itself are our devices, which can be Power over Ethernet, so one cable only provide power and connectivity, they are devices that in some cases, they can all also accept the 12 volt DC as an external power supply. And they are devices that the core contains an antenna array. So this antenna array is like the lens in the camera. And and that's what allowed our device not just to receive the signal, but to be able to pinpoint which direction the signal is actually coming from.

    Steve Statler 04:10

    Okay, so yeah, how many individual elements are there in one of those things

    Fabio Belloni 04:15

    Is Barrios so as I said, we have different designs for that. And typically the more elements you have, the more you are able to kind of focus for in the interview.

    Steve Statler 04:29

    Okay, well, you got three whole pages in the book. And I kind of gave an example of a very early phase antenna array, which is probably not doing you guys justice. But during World War Two, then both sides were using that technology to try and figure out the vector of approaching aircraft. And so for floats, it's a different thing.

    Fabio Belloni 04:52

    But it's got a similar point that actually it's cooler I've been using in my PhD thesis is some picture from the World War One where we were actually using a To see calorie one are just fantastic. If you check it online, they were actually like corn with many different kinds of corn, and then be able to, you know, steer physically left or right to be able to identify where things were coming from. And the idea was the same, because instead of doing it in the, in the acoustic in the radio domain, you do it in the acoustic domain. And actually, if you think about it, the locator is something that you can think I mean, every one of us has an antenna array, inbuilt into their head, or your ears. So the reason why, if you close your eyes, you can tell where someone is talking around you is simply because by having two antennas, you are actually able to process with your brain, the direction from which the signal come from. That's what the locator does the locator that's there, but in the radio domain, it can process the direction.

    Steve Statler 06:00

    And so the phase is basically kind of where the signal is in that rising and falling. And so if you have two antennas, and they're looking at the same signal, then basically, the speed, the difference in space is such that the phase will have changed when when the signal goes past one element to the other. And from that you do a simple trigonometry, I'm sure. And you can figure out the.

    Fabio Belloni 06:27

    Couple of more steps in between, okay, I come from the signal processing.

    Steve Statler 06:34

    But that's how I've kind of explained it to myself. And I feel like, that's enough.

    Fabio Belloni 06:42

    If you go online, there is a cartoon picture that is called and then the miracle happens. And it's it's at least very well known in the in the signal processing community. And there is one student writing on the blackboard and teaching Italian to his professor how he came to a certain result. So there is some formula at the beginning, then there is a cloud that says, and then a miracle happens. And then at the end, there is the result. And then there is a professor that points to the cloud and says, I think you should be a little bit more accurate in here. So that's what Quuppa does, we can make the miracle happen.

    Steve Statler 07:23

    That's good. And I mean, I think it's really timely. So it's good for people to kind of get in the head angle of arrival, because that is basically where the standards are going. And you guys are at the cutting edge in terms of commercializing that, but, you know, let's look at our crystal ball. You know, my my guess is that eventually this will be in the standards of how does that place Quuppa when, when that's standardized.

    Fabio Belloni 07:57

    So, I mean, we are very excited of the standard to come and as a matter of fact that we have been among the one of the company contributing into that already in the very early stage. And we have been following, then the past year very closely, what the BTC, and all the standardization bodies within Bluetooth have been working on. There is a working group called direction finding working group. And I think that they have done a very good job, but tremendous work in trying to put the pool together or the string and trying to come up with a very comprehensive standard protocol that could be used and adopted. So we are looking forward for when the standard would be ready. And when that happens, we will just make all of our product fully compliant with the standard, it would be very, very straightforward to do that.

    Steve Statler 08:54

    It seems like your solution is really focused on asset tracking, right, as opposed to Wayfinding for people with smartphones. Is that correct?

    Fabio Belloni 09:06

    Well, okay, so if the first part of the interview I told you 20%, so far, we have reached the 40%, maybe 45. So now I can open the other chapter that is the mobile tracking part. So the Quuppa device is the coupon technology, we can actually track mobile devices in the same accuracy as we are tracking tags, because since Android five and and iOS ever opened the manufacturer specific API, so every application software provider can actually build an app that effectively can make the mobile device into broadcasting to beacons and by making it into a beacons, it means that now you can include into the payload of such beacon signal the training sequence that you need in order to be positioned with high accuracy. That's what we call target emulation. So practically, we have at Quuppa, it's an open specification, which describes in few lines of code how to actually build such such application. And therefore, if we go into an environment, now let's take the warehouse or the retail space that we were discussing before, you could practically have a shopping cart and shopping baskets, where you ever touch inexpensive tags for being able to track their position in real time. But at the same time, the locator can track the position of the mobile phone, whichever and kidnap and all with the same accuracy and the same delay.

    Steve Statler 10:47

    And so that's not passive, we're not talking this is not like Cisco would kind of have less accurate Wi Fi tracking, that is just the fact that you've got Wi Fi on, it's good enough for them what you're talking about as someone who's downloaded an app, which is maybe a retailer or an enterprise app, and it's it's kind of driving the radio to use the sequence that you've taught.

    Fabio Belloni 11:07

    I mean, we are not doing the kind of sniffing or opportunistic communication, right? Also, because we want to really be able to identify who is because we want to try that option. We are not looking at knowing how many devices are in a certain area, and or kind of passively trying to figure out how someone is moving between the different area, we are talking about having, for instance, mobile application where in a retail store, someone could get discounts, location based advertisement, or in a museum get location based information, or in an industry environment, get real time answer notifications, as soon as they would access a certain area where they are not supposed to be.

    Steve Statler 11:55

    So let's, let's kind of get into the home streets wrap things up by talking a little bit about the market. So you've now relocated so you, you were based in Finland, which I think is where the company, the company came out of like Nokia r&d, folks, is that right? You're all kind of research type people.

    Fabio Belloni 12:15

    Yeah, I mean, the founding team of COPPA, we were working in, in Nokia, and all of us, including myself, I was a principal researcher at Nokia Research Center. I have wonderful memories from that time. And at one point in time in 2012, we practically spun out of Nokia, and we took our baby with us. So the technology that we have been concepting, early prototyping, and they will open the fruit through the years, it's practically what we have been repackaged and restructure and recreate in the, for becoming a full scalable product. And that's what Quuppa is selling nowadays.

    Steve Statler 13:03

    So does Nokia have a stake in your company, what's the kind of the equity structure you sell funded or?

    Fabio Belloni 13:10

    Quuppa is a is a private company. So we are one of the things that we are still quite happy to say about that. So we have been able to grow very organically from the early days. And we had had business in the US from the very beginning. So as a matter of fact, our first deal was, was in the US close to Boston, our first commercial deal. So the business in the US has always been very positive for us. And we have seen a very steady and positive grown throughout the years. But then, last, last end of last year, beginning of next year, we have seen that, that grow become over exponential. So we have in the time in which a lot of the projects that we were running other early stages as demo, and then became pilot and and then became an advanced pilot or an extended pilot. They were they were on the verge of turning it commercial. And that's where we felt that it was very important to to build a local presence of Quuppa into the United States to be able to stay closer and to work closer with our existing partner and to be able to better support them on their everyday activities, and also to be able to get in contact with other companies and other potential partners with whom we will be more than happy to discuss and find a way to work together.

    Steve Statler 14:55

    And just see what you have right from the start. You've been very partner orientated, you're not kind of one of these companies, I think you've maybe paid a little bit of a price for that. I think your approach has been more channel orientated, where you work with an intermediary who can kind of understand your technology and and create solutions. And I don't think there's a right or a wrong answer. And maybe your approach is, is just a function of the level of you know, this is not just stick up one beacon that costs 50 bucks or 25 bucks or whatever. And then there's some, you know, there's some operational details that need to be thought about. But my, I'm not sure what the question is, but it seems like your approach is more channel solution focused? Is that fair comment?

    Fabio Belloni 15:43

    That's absolutely right. So we operate through through channel partners. And so Koopa, we are really, you know, we understand technology, and we are able to build technology. And that's the kind of domain where we feel comfortable to operate. So we have always wanted to remain as in horizontal player, horizontally across different geographical market, the different vertical markets, and be able to build on a complete platform that could go from the hardware to the software, software, application tool monitoring, and few others are coming along as the time will go, we have been launching just recently what we call the Koopa. Data player. And and there are other interesting tool coming in very soon into the market. But all of these tools, they practically are really built for making this platform more complete, more scalable, and easier to use. And what we do, we practically want to deliver such platform, to the domain expert to the candle landmarks into their own market, we don't want to compete with that. So they will believe that the indoor space and the indoor market is huge. And this is not just endure, because I said, we also track objects outdoor. So if we talk about the location market, beyond the somehow the GPS is tremendously huge, and so big, that there is no really one company that could embrace it all by itself. So there are a lot of very interesting partners and companies that are scattered across the geographical areas, and across the vertical markets. And we, we really would like to work with all of them. And we will like to provide them a components that they could just, you know, use take use and build on top of that, without having to somehow worry of how does it work? Why does it work? It just needs to be easy. It just needs to be something that is almost like in play.

    Steve Statler 18:01

    So that's interesting. So and I think that may be as the secret to your organic growth as well. And the beaker system, I look upon it as a really amazing soap opera with all the different companies have different characters. And so you guys have got this design aesthetic, it's kind of a little bit more cerebral, less amped up. And, and I think you were kind of removed because you have that Nordic base. But now here you are in the States. And so I'm looking forward to seeing the partnerships that develop and it's obvious that you'd be a good fit for people who are in the app space above the beacon technology, would you ever consider partnering one with one of the other big beacon guys where you know, their beacons have a coupon mode and you provide the locators? Is that? Or is that just to a step too far?

    Fabio Belloni 18:54

    I mean, it's absolutely not too far at all. And we actually are in discussion already we company that build beacons across the world, I mean, we have discussion with companies in the US, but also in Europe and in other parts. I mean, one one company that recently we started to work with, it's always been a company called blew up and blew up has always been building just beacon device, right? Or be really focusing on trying to build different beacons with different mechanics, different time light battery and so on. And they realize that that these beacons, why do they need to be just stack, they could actually become a mobile device and if now they become the mobile device because attached to mobile options, if without changing anything in the hardware, or in the design, which is very costly to do, but simply by adding a few lines of code into the firmware, they could give a second life to this device. Eyes, oh, that's beneficial for, for everybody. So we really want to be just an enabler for for for other people and play into into an ecosystem where everyone could build his value across the value chain. And, and we really want to be we see ourselves like imagining the car, that's the example that we use to give, you know, we are the engine, we can be the sole engine into your car, or if you have a big track, and that can be several engines. And in our direct customer, which are system integrator and solution provider, they're actually the one they build the car. And they are the one that can decide the color, they can decide whether it's a sport car, or a family car or a van, depending on the needs at the end customer is gonna have so and we are more than happy to take all the feedback that our partner brings to us to try to enrich and expand and make our platform even easier to be adopted and use.

    Steve Statler 21:01

    Okay, I'll get to this is maybe getting more controversial than we normally get on this this show. But there was a an article which she where a journalist quoted the CEO of Euclid, you know, the analytics retail analytics company. And I don't know whether he actually the CEO of Euclid said this, but basically, the tagline is Bluetooth beacons are dead. And I you know, what's your reaction to that? Would you Would you agree with that?

    Fabio Belloni 21:27

    Well, it's definitely an interesting title be concerned dead? Well, I think that depends on the point of view, I think that I don't feel like they're dead, they might be changing skin, you know, it's like a snake, it might be change his skin and become something else. But the core functionality might still be the same, I feel that Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy Technology will have a very long life ahead of them. Because I think that the the general Bluetooth Low Energy Technology is getting so much more enriched with the new feature that the BDC is now releasing out. And, and I think that once also, the possibility to do directional estimation will come out is going to be something that could be very disruptive for many different verticals. And and the fact that the Bluetooth devices are already so much use into everyday options, from my headset, to my loudspeakers that I have just here on the desk to my PC and tablet phone. It's It's just incredible. So I believe that more and more devices are coming and leveraging on the volume of production, that's also what is actually driving the costs significantly down. One thing that I heard from the market is, for instance, an interesting discussion related to passive RFID versus active RFID. Because nowadays, a lot of company in logistics or so they actually use passive RFID, which are supporting, you know, very inexpensive, and very effective stickers. And I think that our passive Knology will probably still have a very long life, because there is a lot of needs for that. But at the same time also logistics, and industry, there are certain objects that might be a little bit more valuable than others. And those objects, or maybe someone is willing to spend the per tag instead of one cents, or 10 cents, maybe a buck or five bucks. And, and but at the same time to be able to get to know much more about the device that has been tagged, and not just in terms of position or monitoring how it moves around the space, but also in terms of sensor data. And the sensor data is something that in some industry is pretty crucial to know the temperature, the humidity, whether it is moving or not moving. That's what opens the door to all of these kind of new features.

    Steve Statler 24:14

    And I don't think anyone's arguing that Bluetooth is dead on and really I think in this case, he was thinking about beacons in retail and specifically the interaction between beacons and consumers and the ideas of getting kind of I'll level product level alerts. And you know, I he's, I'm sure dealing with a lot of retailers and so he's got a very informed perspective, but I think his point is almost Okay, the technology can do this, but do Pete his point is, people aren't getting their funds out whilst they're shopping. And so, you know, there's always some truth to these things, but I disagree publicly on Twitter with that, because what I'm seeing is there are companies that are making money on this, this broad beacon deployments by retailers. And sure most of it is presence in the store. But are you seeing retailers who are interested in ilevel accuracy as opposed to just presence in the store, which is really where 90% of the activity has been? I think up until now.

    Fabio Belloni 25:25

    Yes, so we have seen actually a change in trend from the retailer from the past year, to today. So in the past, what three to five years is absolutely true that a lot of retailers have been have been experimenting by using beacons and actually using them even commercially on an everyday basis by relying on the communication with the mobile phone of the of the people. And so and you know, also in the retail domain, there is a lot of colors in there's meaning that there are small retailer, big retailer, that is grocery store with respect to, you know, clothing, industry, retailers, very different environments. But what we have noticed is that, even though I don't believe he's gonna die, the beaconing part because I still believe that there will be a use for someone with this phone to know the proximity and the distance, and be able to have some actionable information, the retailer are also noticing that there is no enough incentive incentive for the for the end user like me when I go to the store to actually pop up my phone, and using an app in order to enhance my experience my shopping experience. And that is actually something that is hurting banks, because that means that out of 100 visitors that they have, they only capture information of less than 10%. And that's something that is not potentially good enough to be able to really draw long term and large statistics. So what we have been engaged with is the trend that okay, I eventually also want to go to the phone of the user. But why don't I track the shopping cart and shopping basket where they are present in the store. Because that way, I actually can know 100% of what is happening in my store. And already with that information in a kind of passive and anonymous way. Or who moves where you can already provide information for brands, for the store owner for the store chain on you know, hotspot called spot and dwell time, can pass through and direction of motion within the aisle and be able to create zones that are smaller and smaller and smaller. And and you do all of this simply by having the locators on the ceiling. So the locator gives you sub meter accuracy. So effectively, you can actually build results that are one meter wide, or even less in certain area. And then you can build all the analytics based on top. So I don't believe that there is going to be a black and white I think that there is definitely a trend change in to be able to do more the asset tracking part. And but I believe that the beacon will will still be a very interesting component, complementary component into the location based service domain.

    Steve Statler 28:44

    Well, Fabio, thanks so much. We've covered a lot of ground. Welcome to America. Congratulations on the success your company is doing some really very exciting things and love to see the partnerships as they develop and do do stay in touch with us.

    Fabio Belloni 29:02

    Please, I'm thanks a lot for the chance and therefore the interview was great talking to you. And if anyone has any question, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

    Steve Statler 29:13

    Very good. You guys got some good work done done with your selection of font for your name. How did that come about?

    Fabio Belloni 29:31

    Well, the our creative director is very creative. So actually, our creative director got full on board working with us about a year and a half almost three years ago. But he has been with us from the very beginning. So when we found it Quuppa is a personal friend of our CEO chemo and one evening he was having dinner in his family and the chemo was So I'm sharing with him the name of the company. And the guy just started to spin the wheel in his mind. And he spent a few hours of nighttime until 3am. Throwing different fonts and then the next day we actually got an email and said, This is going to be your fonts. This is gonna be your logo.

    Steve Statler 30:21

    That's a beautiful font and it's kind of evokes the shape of receiver that you have.

    Fabio Belloni 30:28

    That the locator is like circular Yeah, and we have the little tick, which basically shows the direction of the decide planner employer tool, we have this kind of similar kind of icon.