Friday, 18 April 2014
glass photos3The manufacturers of handheld positioning chips are making technology breakthroughs in terms of the precision of position that they are able to achieve both indoors and outdoors. Broadcom has a new innovative chip for smart phones that fuses signal inputs (GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth) with sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter) to provide precise indoor and outdoor location. A similar announcement came just last week with the self-learning SiRFusion platform from CSR that also fuses location information from multiple technologies. With two companies announcing similar news, it's clear that there's a technological leap on the horizon for indoor and outdoor positioning on handheld devices.

The target of these technologies is on the consumer use of handheld communications devices, but there are certainly commercial geospatial applications that could benefit from the purported centimeter-level accuracy. The enhanced positioning chips are designed for the urban environment where there are strong clouds of signals as well as detailed map data to help aid position and improve navigation. They're not aimed at many traditional GIS data collection needs that often take place in remote areas in need of mapping. However, with such accurate positioning possible in handheld platforms that offer robust application development environments, there are clearly going to be a proliferation of targeted data collection and navigation applications to take advantage of this precise positioning.

The frontier of course is with indoor location, where poor GPS performance has hindered indoor mapping and navigation efforts and applications. Connecting consumers with goods and services is the primary market, and beneficiary of this technology, where indoor shopping centers, and in-store navigation will really take off. There's even a quote in the story from a Broadcom spokesperson that the positioning, "could show you where the bananas are within a store—even on which shelf there's a specific brand."

With this precise handheld positioning as a major competitive frontier for handheld makers, there will be a great deal of investment in positioning technologies. A huge advancement of demand will come with better means to visualize an augmented reality, as with Google's Project Glass augmented reality eyeglasses that were unveiled just last week. This putting information into greater context, that hinges on precise positioning in full three-dimensional space, will greatly improve the possibilities for all manner of geospatial application.

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Vector1 Media publishes Sensors & Systems (www.sensysmag.com), Informed Infrastructure (www.informedinfrastructure.com) and Asian Surveying & Mapping (ASM).  Each of these publications deal with the application of sensing and modeling for different scales of geography. Sensors & Systems explores global change, Informed Infrastructure examines smart city applications and technology, and ASM covers geospatial technology application in Asia-Pacific.

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