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Products & Services

u-blox drives innovation in all market sectors for embedded positioning and wireless communications

Drivers

Our product and service development remains driven by two main factors: tangible technology trends and what we foresee our key markets demanding in the future. We have a strong record when it comes to looking ahead in this way. Our ability to develop products and services that match our customers’ future needs is proven by the number of long‑term clients we have. Many of them also seek our advice around future‑proofing their own products.

In the industrial market, there is a continued drive to make manufacturing, critical infrastructure and logistics more automated and smarter. This is underpinned by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This shift demands ever‑greater levels of reliability and security from positioning and communications technology, particularly when deployed at scale. In the automotive sector, in‑car navigation and the future autonomous vehicles remain the key focus. This requires high‑bandwidth connectivity to the Internet, functional, safe, high‑precision positioning and robust vehicle‑to‑everything (V2X) communications.

And in the consumer space, speed of product development is an important requirement: our customers want chips or modules that are quick and easy to integrate into their designs. At the same time, there is the need to be able to deliver our products at scale. We must also strike the right balance between size, cost, features and energy consumption, to ensure our customers’ products can be attractively priced and marketed.

Achievements in 2017

We have made significant additions and advancements right across our product and service portfolio.

 

Cellular

Our IoT‑targeted cellular LTE Cat 1, LTE Cat M1 and LTE Cat NB1 modules, which enable our customers to migrate to LTE based standards, achieved the necessary certifications to allow them to be used globally on the major communication networks. This gives our customers a complete, ready‑to‑use portfolio of wireless communication products for the IoT market, ready to be deployed throughout the world.

 

Elsewhere in cellular, we launched the TOBY‑L4, a high‑bandwidth LTE Cat 6 module, aimed at the automotive sector. It boasts the most powerful CPU found on this type of module in the industry. This enables our customers to do the significant processing work required in these scenarios, without necessarily needing a discrete CPU.

 

Our firmware update over‑the‑air (FOTA) service also underwent successful trials on a number of our cellular modules. Key among these was a project to help a customer achieve certification to use its product on a major US communications network.

Short-range communication

In the short range communication space, we launched new Wi‑Fi, Bluetooth and combined products. The JODY‑W1 series, for example, is a high‑end combination module that addresses the simultaneous dual‑band needs of the automotive market, in applications such as in‑car hotspots and video streaming. Meanwhile, we expanded our Bluetooth range with the launch of next‑generation Bluetooth 5.0 modules (NINA‑B1 and NINA‑B3), offering longer ranges and support for mesh networking.

                                

And we also released the NINA‑W1 Wi‑Fi modules, which support our Secure Boot service. This gives customers extremely high levels of assurance that the u‑blox module will not run if its software is maliciously tampered with. This addresses a real risk for anyone connecting equipment to the IoT.

Positioning

In positioning, new launches included the ZOE‑M8 series, the industry’s smallest complete GNSS module. Its ultra‑compact form factor and super‑low‑power ‘Super‑E’ option make it perfect for wearable system designers, while its highly integrated nature helps accelerate their time‑to‑market. We also released the standalone M8230‑CT GNSS chip in a tiny package, built on the same M8 platform, again ideal for portable electronics.

                         

Our positioning‑related software and services enjoyed significant success. CellLocate, our cellular‑based location service, is now used more than 150 million times a month, while AssistNow, our GNSS accelerator service, broke through the 1 billion uses per month barrier.

 

We also launched Sapcorda, a joint venture with Bosch, Geo++ and Mitsubishi Electric. Sapcorda will provide a correction data service that enables the high‑speed, high‑precision positioning required by applications such as autonomous vehicles.

Solutions

We continue to look at ways to blend our chips into integrated solutions that answer real market demands. This year, we added the C030 to our range of application boards. This product brings together u‑blox NB‑IoT, 2G/3G and GNSS chips with a processor running ARM Mbed applications, and comes with out‑of‑the‑box connectivity, a first for u‑blox. For designers, the C030 provides an off‑the‑shelf open prototyping platform, to support rapid product development.

Future focus

As we continue to develop the portfolio, there are some key areas we will be concentrating on over the coming year. These span our three core markets: industrial, automotive and consumer.

 

Security

This has long been a focus of ours and will remain at the heart of everything we do. Our customers (and theirs) are becoming increasingly security‑conscious, and we want to help them develop products that are secure at all levels, and remain secure throughout their lifetimes. Consequently we have defined our Five Principles of Security (which includes our Secure Boot service for updating critical software securely over the air).

Open platforms

We remain committed to providing open platforms that make it easy for our customers to develop their solutions. We will be investing more in this area over the coming year.

Our own silicon

To give us complete control over our products’ road map, quality, cost and availability, we will be transitioning more of our module line‑up to using our own silicon.

Developing our services

To complement our products, we will be further developing our services portfolio, with a particular focus on lifetime security. This will involve setting up strategic partnerships with other organizations whose capabilities complement our own, to give customers the assurance of comprehensive security throughout the lifespan of their u‑blox products.

New product highlights

TOBY-L4 series

Cellular TOBY-L4

This LTE Cat 6 module incorporates the most powerful application CPU in the industry, enabling our customers to run sophisticated applications directly on the module. As a result, they can save on cost and free up board real estate by eliminating the need for an external processor.

NINA-B3 module

Short-range communication Bluetooth NINA-B1 and NINA-B3

These two modules address the growing market demand for latest‑generation Bluetooth Low Energy devices supporting Bluetooth 5. Both include an OpenCPU running ARM Mbed and Nordic SDK application development environments. They are aimed at a variety of scenarios, from large‑scale industrial mesh networks to smart cities, low‑power remote sensors and health devices.

Short range communication Wi-Fi NINA-W10

Our new NINA‑W10 series is a highly secure Wi‑Fi IoT solution for industrial markets. Using our Secure Boot service, the compact and globally certified modules will only function if they are using authorized u‑blox software, thereby providing exceptional protection against tampering.

Positioning ZOE-M8 series

Our ultra‑compact ZOE‑M8 GNSS modules streamline our customers’ design processes. They make it quicker and easier to integrate positioning capability into their products, while occupying minimal space on the circuit board. Suitable for both industrial and consumer markets, this range includes the ZOE‑M8B, which offers ‘Super‑E’ low‑energy mode, for applications with limited power budgets.

u-blox Icon Infrastructure

Services Firmware update over-the-air (FOTA)

Our FOTA service, available on a growing number of u‑blox products, enables our customers to keep their products up‑to‑date and secure in the field. With many communications network operators now requiring this capability before products are allowed on their infrastructure, FOTA addresses an immediate and pressing need for our customers.