u-blox Chip, Module Improve Global Positioning Accuracy

Among the key challenges for positioning technology are accuracy, especially in dense urban areas, and the ability to trust the reported position of a device. Swiss chip and module developer u-blox says its new M9 global-positioning platform addresses these issues, offering meter-level positioning accuracy and the ability to detect spoofing attacks when combined with special RF filtering and detection algorithms.

Based on a new Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) chip, UBX-M9140, the M9 platform provides positioning and security features to protect the integrity of applications in automotive, telematics, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) markets. The platform can receive signals from up to four GNSS constellations (GPS, Glonass, Beidou, and Galileo) concurrently in order to achieve positional accuracy to within 1.5 meters even in difficult conditions such as deep urban canyons. It also provides a position update rate of up to 25 Hz, enabling dynamic applications such as UAVs to receive position information with low latency.

Detecting and mitigating RF interference (Image: u-blox)

In a briefing with EE Times Europe, Bernd Heidtmann, a product manager for GNSS at u-blox, highlighted the security challenges for GNSS devices, especially spoofing attacks. “In automotive applications, where a GNSS device reports the wrong time or position, it could destroy the business model of a company that relies on a vehicle’s exact location” for measuring usage and billing, for example. He said an attack could easily be done with reasonably low-priced equipment.

“The u-blox M9 monitors all four received GNSS signals and, by performing various consistency checks, can detect a spoofing attack and report it to the host,” said Heidtmann. Together with advanced detection algorithms, the platform reports fraudulent attacks quickly so that users’ systems can react to them in a timely fashion.

Detection and mitigation of RF signal interference to allow normal operation even with strong RF interference (for example, when a cellular modem is co-located with the platform) are enabled with a notch filter offering RF in-band filtering of small-bandwidth signals with static or varying frequencies in the UBX-M9140 chip. To reduce the impact of outband RF interference, the NEO-M9M module — the first module featuring the new chip — integrates a surface acoustic wave (SAW) filter combined with a low-noise amplifier (LNA) in the RF path.

Heidtmann added that the company redesigned the chip architecture in the M9. Unlike its predecessor, the M8, the M9 firmware can be upgraded by uploading the firmware image from flash memory or from the host to the GNSS. The ability to upload from the host saves the cost of a flash and reduces the amount of space on the host board.

Developers using the M9 will also be able to design using a single PCB and then migrate to a different positioning approach, such as dead reckoning augmenting GNSS technology, with very little change to the board design.

To help developers evaluate the new platform, u-blox is releasing the Explorer Kit, a miniature plug-and-play device supplied with user-friendly u-start software, which includes a number of preset scenarios. The u-blox M9 technology platform complies with the ISO/TS 16949, ISO 16750, and AEC-Q100 standards. Engineering samples of the NEO-M9N module, the UBX-M9140 high-performance chip, and the Explorer Kit are available now. ■