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Sensewhere’s ‘Crowdsourced’ Indoor Nav App

Sensewhere has launched a self-correcting global positioning system (GPS) – that works indoors

On by Tom Jowitt 0

Scottish company Sensewhere has launched the latest version of its indoor global positioning system, which it claims is accurate to less than five metres in up to 99 percent of indoor locations.

The Edinburgh-based company (formerly known as Satsis) specialises in hyper-local positioning technology and applications for mobile devices.

Its approach is based on proprietary software that uses crowdsourced location data to deliver highly-accurate location, even deep indoors where conventional GPS systems cannot penetrate and work.

Indoor Navigation

This, the company claims, will prove to be hugely attractive for pedestrian navigation purposes, as well as for indoor advertising, social networks, and other indoor-location-based applications.

But how does it work? Well it seems that Sensewhere automatically crowd-sources and cross-references radio frequency (RF) access point data via users’ own devices. The company says it does this cheaply and dynamically, “creating an almost limitless proprietary global RF location database that self-corrects with use.”

“Sensewhere will allow social networks, device manufacturers and app developers to finally capitalise fully on the enormous potential of highly-accurate indoor location,” the company boasted.

It seems that Sensewhere uses whatever hybrid RF location reference information the handset can receive in order to fix a location. This location information includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, UWB, NFC, RFID, GPS, etc.

Self Correcting

These signals are then compared against Sensewhere’s database of fixed-location reference points. The company says it uses “industry-leading proprietary low power algorithms to provide an accurate and reliable indoor location.”

The company admits that this database driven approach is used by other indoor navigation systems, but it insists that such an approach is only as good as the accuracy of the database that drives it. Sensewhere claims that in the past comparable solutions have fallen down because the reference points in the ‘real world’ are often disconnected, moved or changed.

Its approach is different however as it uploads updated reference point information as it fixes a location.

“By cross-referencing this information from different sources, at different times, sensewhere improves the accuracy of indoor location over time, autonomously mapping RF reference points in a way that is self-correcting, updated by every device that determines its own position, reliable, and more accurate than other solutions,” said the company.

“This is the first time in the world anyone has produced this kind of automatically self-improving location network, requiring no input from the user,” said Rob Palfreyman, CEO of Sensewhere. “This represents the next stage in the evolution of location. sensewhere is less expensive, less time-consuming, and more accurate than more traditional methods of location database-building, such as ‘war-driving’ or ‘fingerprinting’.”

“List most of the major problems experienced with even the best indoor location networks to-date; accuracy; reliability; automation; cost-effectiveness: sensewhere has provided the ideal balance of these considerations for economical, accurate real-world deployment,” he added.

iPhone, Android, Symbian Apps

“This is the first system capable of offering the level of indoor accuracy and reliability required for, say, storefront virtual advertising or voucher provision, while remaining a realistic commercial proposition for use nationwide,” Palfreyman said. “It has no physical infrastructure or setup costs in terms of installing dedicated reference points. Organisations simply need to ‘tie into’ sensewhere’s software, and let sensewhere’s backend systems do the work.”

The company offers simple APIs so that other companies can tie it into its back-end systems. It also caters for the front-end after producing apps for both iPhone, Android and Symbian handsets.

Earlier this month British chip specialist, Cambridge Silcon Radio (CSR) unveiled a hardware alternative to this system, with its new SiRFusion chip for mobile phones that also allows for indoor navigation.

The CSR chip uses indoor Wi-Fi positioning, as well information from the MEMS sensors (accelerometers, gyros and compasses) on the phone. In order to determine what floor you are on, it uses the phone’s barometer.

These indoor navigation developments come amid concerns that the UK is becoming too reliant on technology for navigation.

In March, a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering warned that people in the UK had become overly reliant on satellite navigation systems such as GPS, making the technology a prime target for criminals intent on disrupting the country’s infrastructure.

Tom Jowitt

Author: Tom Jowitt

Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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