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 Supercomputing the emergence of material behavior
18.05.2018 | University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

nachricht Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss
18.05.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>