Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Will be the Year of the Chips for Indoor Location

Chip manufacturers including Broadcom, Qualcomm, TI, CSR and others will launch micro indoor location solutions this year. These chipset makers are investing in indoor positioning because they plan to incorporate indoor location features in their cellphone chips, including motion tracking abilities in sensor processing chips and signal triangulation in RF chips. Indoor location capabilities will complement their existing GPS solutions to be embedded inside upcoming mobile devices that we will use everyday.

Today, more than ever, indoor location positioning looks poised to be the next hot mobile service with its ability to enable pinpointing users inside a building and provide in-building wayfinding, deal offers when user is inside a mall, or point customers inside a retail store to products they want to buy. Indoors is the last mile and the next frontier for the location services market and indoor positioning offers too many advantages for mobile technology companies to pass up.

By combining real-time Wi-Fi positioning information, pedestrian dead reckoning (i.e., MEMS) and aiding data from a cloud-based location server, these new solutions will be able to achieve the rapid and more accurate indoor position fixes needed to make indoor location a reality on a mass scale.


It is expected that Broadcom will launch a WiFi-based micro location offering mid 2012 capable of 10m location accuracy. This will upgrade its hosted Location Based Services and network to provide positioning services to enable faster, more accurate location performance in deep urban and indoor environments. It will also enable Broadcom to offer integrated hybrid positioning services that supplement AGPS and cellular network capabilities. The combined solution also capitalizes on the emerging trend of integrating multiple wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM and GPS into cellular handsets.

Broadcom anonymously collects information from a crowd-sourced sources and ties MAC addresses to physical locations. Then they are plotted on a heat map and can be viewed in a three dimensional format (with a slick six-axis joystick). After enabling cellular towers on the map, areas that are colored red (meaning a higher density of people and therefore heat) become cluttered with access points, painting a digital map of connectivity.


InvenSense provides motion processors. Its MLP solution for Android 2.3 delivers sensor fusion data to new API structures in Android OS. The new APIs allow application developers like Point Inside, for example, to leverage the benefits to provide indoor navigation.


CSR has been working on 'deep indoor location technology', a subtle integration of data from multiple sensors to extend GPS-like facilities to equipment that is out of range of satellite signals. CSR’s technology covers Bluetooth low energy, GPS and deep-indoor positioning solutions. MEMS technology is also useful for building sensors for the dead reckoning used in deep indoor location, and also for making RF oscillators.

Unlike many other systems that require manual surveys to build and maintain an indoor Wi-Fi and cellular location database, the CSR Positioning Centre cloud-based server is able to receive anonymous and voluntary location information wirelessly from users’ devices, even indoors, to improve the database.


At CES 2012, Intel announced that the first Intel smartphones will be Lenovo (launching on China Unicom ) and Motorola. Intel has a lot of catching up to do on the mobile, specifically location and sensor technology.


Google is not a chipset maker, of course, however, with it’s intended purchase of Motorola, Google will be looking forward to enabling indoor location on Motorola devices to make them more competitive, either by leveraging what the chip guys have to offer, or by opening up its indoor location API to 3rd parties.

Want to know more? Get the full report here.