Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wi-Fi Finds the Way

24.06.2004


In the concrete canyons of city centres, GPS satellite positioning systems often fail because high buildings block the signals they rely on. But an unlikely back-up for GPS is emerging: Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi based positioning system developed in the US and the UK works best where GPS fails: in cities and inside cavernous complexes like shopping malls. And because cheap Wi-Fi technology is already appearing on a raft of gadgets like PDAs, cellphones and laptops faster than more expensive GPS receivers are, the developers predict that Wi-Fi could become central to new location-based applications.

They say emergency services in particular could find the system an essential back-up. Wi-Fi allows people to connect devices wirelessly to the internet. Base stations are springing up in coffee bars, libraries, universities, airports, phone booths and other public places. Each base station broadcasts a radio signal to announce its presence to devices within a range of around 100 metres. This signal incorporates a unique network address code that identifies the base station. Anthony LaMarca of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues at Intel’s research labs in both the US and the UK, have developed software that constantly records the radio signal strengths from nearby base stations. It can identify the origin of the signal from a database giving the location of 26,000 Wi-Fi base stations in the US and the UK. Using the signal strength from at least three base stations, it can then triangulate the user’s location. "This is a poor man’s GPS," says team member Bill Schilit of Intel Research in Santa Clara, California.

At the moment, the new system, called Place Lab, is not as precise as GPS. It can provide accuracy to within 20 to 30 metres, whereas the GPS average is 8 to 10 metres. But with improved algorithms that take into account, say, the height of the base station above the ground, or the building materials in the vicinity, LaMarca says "we could get on a par with GPS" in an area as densely served with Wi-Fi as downtown Seattle. The growth of Wi-Fi means all urban areas should one day have similar blanket coverage. Once a user has Wi-Fi they won’t have to buy extra hardware to use Place Lab, and the software can be downloaded for free from http://www.placelab.org. Increasingly, laptops, cellphones and PDAs are being sold with Wi-Fi capability already installed for around an extra $30. "This is not the case with GPS," LaMarca points out.



Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the UK are planning to test Place Lab’s positioning ability on volunteers equipped with Wi-Fi enabled PDAs during this year’s Edinburgh Festival in August - despite the city’s patchy Wi-Fi coverage. And next year, new software for the PDAs will help people find their way around Edinburgh and keep track of their friends. Place Lab is not the first software to use Wi-Fi for positioning but- belying its name- it is the first to bring the idea out of the lab and into the real world. "Microsoft once set up arrays of access points in a lab, but we are using the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure," LaMarca says. Place Lab has already been tested in Berkeley, San Diego, Seattle, Manhattan and Cambridge in the UK, among other cities. The Place Lab team have other applications in the works. Jason Hong, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, is developing a "location-aware" version of Microsoft’s Instant Messenger software. This will allow users to transmit their Place Lab data so that "buddy lists" will not only reveal when friends are online, but also where they are. It could also be used to direct a user to the nearest petrol station or coffee bar, remind them their books are overdue as they pass the library, or warn them of traffic congestion ahead.

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.newscientist.com

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano
20.10.2017 | Brown University

nachricht New software speeds origami structure designs
12.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>