Hybrid approach to underpin 3G location services

Imagine your mobile phone telling you of hotels, restaurants and other services in your immediate vicinity no matter whether you’re in an underground shopping mall or on a remote hilltop in the Alpujarras. Such abilities are the aims of EMILY.

Positioning based on both GSM and satellite

The problem in the past has been that cellular positioning systems can be highly accurate in urban locations and indoors where special GSM antennae have been installed. However they lose accuracy in remote rural areas. By contrast, satellite-based positioning services like GPS function well in open areas, but are not so reliable when handsets are indoors or underground.

Scheduled for completion at the end of December 2004, participants in IST project EMILY aim to develop a hybrid device location service able to exploit the abilities of both GSM networks and satellite-based positioning. The objective is to provide a service prototype for handset positioning that will work under all conditions.

Project participants have taken a novel approach to counter this problem. According to project coordinator Monica Schettino of Ertico, “By combining the two different technologies, we solve the positioning problems in rural areas where GSM positioning is weak, and also in indoor areas where GPS has problems. Using a hybrid of the two systems improves the availability and accuracy of both positioning technologies.”

3G networks already here

The EMILY approach is intended to provide a basis for the location-based services expected to be in demand for the coming third generation of mobile phones (3G). 3G networks are already a reality in many parts of the world. Japan launched the world’s first commercial 3G network in 2001, and similar networks are now operating commercially in Austria, Italy, Sweden and the UK, with more launches anticipated during 2003-2004.

Testing of the prototype solution is expected to begin in May 2004. Project partner Bouygues Telecom plans to test integration and validation of the system in the Bouygues region of southern France.

There is little if any size penalty for the handsets, says Schettino. “The handset prototype is a typical size, developed for commercial markets.” Potential applications include location-sensitive information and billing, roadside assistance services, proximity detection, navigation services and vehicle/goods tracking. “We have had positive feedback already from navigation-mapping providers for example, and from location-based service providers for cellular operators. There are many people interested in these services.”

Contact:
Monica Schettino
Ertico SC
Avenue Louise 326
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +32-2-4000780
Fax: +32-2-4000701
Email: m.schettino@mail.ertico.com
Source: Based on information from EMILY

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