Showing posts with label GPS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GPS. Show all posts

Thursday 7 October 2010

Locating Wireless Devices Where GPS May Not Be Available

Some of you may have read my earlier posts on stealing spectrum via Femtocells and using Femtocells abroad illegally. This presentation tries to answer one such problem on how do you find the location where GPS cannot be used. This could also be used in case of Cognitive Radios. See my old blog entry here.

Friday 23 April 2010

GPS to become commonplace and far more accurate

First it was Nokia that started giving away the Satnav software for free. Now Google is offering free Satnav software for Android phones in UK. Its already been available in US for quite some time and the response is generally positive.

According to comScore, the use cellphones for Satellite Navigation is becoming more common in Europe. According to them, in February, 21.1 million consumers in five large European markets -- Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy -- used their cellphones for navigation, 68 percent more than a year ago. This compares to 20.4 million personal navigation devices sold in those markets in 2008 and 2009 in total, according to research firm GfK.

I talked about Satellite based Internet before but today we will focus on satellite based GPS systems.

The GPS system, which was developed way back in 1989 for and by the military has been used by general public since the year 2000. Its has become very common in the last few years.

The GPS we know and love is part of a larger family of systems called Global Navigational Satellite Systems or GNSS. The following are the members of the GNSS; GPS is the USA system, GLONASS is the Russian system, Galileo is the European system and Compass is the Chinese system

The following is from the IET Magazine:

Satellite navigation systems take their location cues from 30 GPS satellites that circle the Earth twice a day transmitting status, date and time, and orbital information. Soon there will be around 100 satellites to lock on to as GPS is joined by global constellations from Europe (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS), and China (Compass).

GPS wasn't built to help us find our way to the shops - it was a Cold War project funded by the US Department of Defense to ensure that nuclear submarines could surface and target their missiles accurately. There are strategic rumblings about the new satellite constellations too, but the current consensus is that civilians have most to gain from more accurate and reliable location and tracking applications. That's if receiver designers can get the power consumption under control.

Russia's GLONASS system used to be famous for its satellites failing faster than they were launched, but since last month it has had 24 functioning satellites in orbit. Meanwhile, Europe's much-delayed Galileo system will have 14 satellites operating by 2014, according to the European Commission, with the full 30 available by 2017. The US GPS system is being modernised to become GPS III by 2013, with additional navigation signals for both civilian and military use. Information about China's Compass system is sketchier - it was going to be a regional system but is now understood to be global.

'All this activity is great news because whatever the application, there will potentially be multiple constellations to get a position fix from, which will help with signal integrity in safety-critical environments such as maritime, aviation or rail, and accuracy for mobile phone users in urban areas,' says Andrew Sage, director of Helios, a consultancy specialising in satellite navigation.

A GPS receiver should be able to 'see' at least four GPS satellites anytime, anywhere on the globe and establish three position coordinates (latitude, longitude, and altitude). But in city streets hemmed in by tall buildings, a receiver is unlikely to be able detect more than two satellites and the signals will often have bounced off structures.

'For the average pedestrian, the position fix can be a long way out and very unpredictable,' says Sage. 'Most users don't see that today because GPS receivers match us to maps and smooth the errors out. But if you are walking around a city and not on a road in a car, multi-path reflections are a problem.'

The more satellites visible from within these 'urban canyons', the easier it is to carry out consistency checks on the received signals. 'Even when you can't isolate the multipath-contaminated signals, the more signals you have, the more your errors average out,' says Dr Paul Groves, lecturer in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), navigation and location technology at UCL.

Better GNSS integrity would enable new applications, such as road-user charging, enforcing bail conditions and pay-as-you-drive insurance. 'Clearly, if position information might be used as legal evidence, it has to be reliable,' says Groves.

The delayed arrival of Galileo and the resurrection of GLONASS have complicated matters for receiver makers. Galileo was designed to offer the simplest possible upgrade path from GPS to a dual-constellation system. Agreements were made to put the carrier frequencies of the main open services in the same part of the spectrum as GPS, at around 1575MHz, so receivers could share the same radio, analogue components and antenna. Both systems also send their signals using a spread-spectrum code-division multiple-access (CDMA) approach. GLONASS uses a frequency-division multiple-access coding technique (FDMA) and a main open-service carrier frequency of 1602.2MHz.

The complete IET Magazine article can be read here.

There is another interesting article titled 'GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Compass: What GNSS Race? What Competition' here. Interesting analysis.

Thursday 25 June 2009

SatNav need an integrated solution

Satellite navigation has evolved significantly in the past decade and the technology is now used in almost every walk of the life. Every body uses the satellite navigation to reach to certain destination.

But imagine that you have a navigation tool or gadget which acts as your own personal travel guide. It has satellite navigation, so when you get into your car it can direct you to where you want to go. It can choose the most carbon-efficient route and make sure you avoid crowded town centres, traffic jams and road works. It can let you know where the next petrol station is, and whether there is an Italian restaurant near your hotel. Before you arrive you will know which of the town car parks have spaces left. And when you've finally parked the car, take your guide with you and it will direct you, on foot, to your final destination.

For anyone who has found themselves stuck in a traffic jam, or has been unable to find a car park in a busy town centre, or has got lost on foot, it sounds too good to be true. Yet the technology to make it happen is already here. So why aren't we all carrying such a device in our pockets?

The question which then arises is that why the universal travel widget isn't at hand. One of the reasons for that is that several different worlds have to collide and co-operate. First of all there is a massive competition together with a huge confusion regarding the platforms in which such device can be built on. To start with we have got proprietary platforms like TomTom and Garmin, and then we've got the at least five major mobile phone operating systems.

The obvious competition between these different platforms has instigated some suspicion but apart from this the mobile companies also have yet to ¬recognize the potential of phones as navigation devices.

You can argue that many mobile phones are already GPS-enabled but in my opinion this doesn't necessary make them effective at navigation. For instance try using your blackberry as a navigation device and you’ll find that battery has quickly drained out. The mobile phone world is slowly coming to terms with the needs of navigation on mobiles, such as better ¬battery life and bigger screens. Infact GPS alone doesn't offer the precision needed to navigate pedestrians, and so to be useful needs to be combined with another positioning service such as Wi-Fi. This has been done with the iPhone, for example.

The accuracy and granularity of data used in satellite navigation systems is very critical and has to be improving all the time. The real problem lies in integration where the data needed to provide a coherent information service to a navigation device is held by different organisations in a number of different places. While there are companies that are providing some location-based information such as information about ATMs, speed cameras, train times or tourist sites but there is no company in my knowledge that offers everything.

Combining all the information and hence provided through a single device at a one point of time that information isn't going to be easy. The challenges which lies in this are not solely technical for example there's a data aggregation problem to bring it altogether, including highway changes, updates from local authorities and then there's a physical problem in gathering all that up.
Even if the above issues are solved there is still a major part of the problem which is revenue. How one would make money out of integrated Satnav device? There's a difference between what can be done technically and a viable ¬product that can be sold. How do you turn that into something that fits in a business model?"

Organisations that have valuable data rarely want to give it away for free, licences to reuse companies or government’s mapping data commercially are expensive. Similarly, there is no incentive for the Highways Agency or local authorities, for example, to share information about traffic conditions. Even the government website Transport Direct, which provides free up-to-date transport information, has restrictions on the integration of its content with other services.

So now you may realize that how trying to highlight the potential of the problem. It’s a mammoth task to bring all the above information together into one place as everyone wants their pound of flesh because everyone has developed their own data infrastructure and it's just very difficult to get them to agree.

I certainly hold the opinion that inspite of all these hiccups the demand for an all-in-one travel service almost certainly exists. People simply really want a so called integration or integrated device which can work across different ¬locations i.e. home, work, on the move etc.

It’s evident from the above facts that the emergence of a ¬genuinely integrated solution will depend on a government initiative to force public sector organisations such as Highways Agencies, Transport for London and local authorities to collaborate, or on a private sector organisation taking a ¬commanding lead in terms of developing location technologies.
Google is one such company which is creeping up with a whole series of ¬initiatives that are steadily putting the pieces in place. Best example for this is Google Maps which are now readily available on all mobile platforms and is integrated with traffic data from the Highways Agency. Not only this, the Google Maps application interface (API) allows third parties to build their own applications as well.

Google, no doubt is leading with an example in terms of it’s initiatives towards serving the customers in best possible way. Google certainly knows what the customers want which I believe a mini innovation in these current economic climate.

Location has always been such an absolutely fundamental framework for our lives, and we inevitably must embrace tools that allow us to manage that. I envisage a society in 20 years' time revolutionised by the ability to know all the location based information.

Monday 1 June 2009

Is GPS really going to fall over?

The satellite navigation has become one of the staples of modern, hi-tech life. Using satellite navigation tools built into your car or mobile phone to find your way from A to B is one of the most basic things we are used to in our day to day activities.

But experts have warned that the system may be close to breakdown. A recent US congressional report says that the GPS system that could be on the verge of breakdown, thanks to a lack of proper investment.

The thought of the GPS not working itself is scary let alone it's a worrying possibility, not just for the Pentagon, which is having its ability to manage a complex service like GPS called into question, but for the companies that have built businesses on the solidity of the global positioning system.

As you might be aware that GPS data is made free to use by the US government, primarily with the concept of fostering the growth of the system and adoption by a wide range of companies - from the makers of in-car satellite navigation systems to high-end mobile phones, tagging the criminals and even child-locating wristwatches.

But what do they think about the possibility that GPS could fail?

The satellites are overseen by the US Air Force, which has maintained the GPS network since the early 1990s. The study by the US government accountability office (GAO) continbues to argue that mismanagement and a lack of investment in GPS technology means that some of the crucial GPS satellites could begin to fail as early as next year.

The impact on ordinary users could be significant, with millions of satnav users potential victims of bad directions or failed services. There would also be similar side effects on the military, which uses GPS for mapping, reconnaissance and for tracking hostile targets.

Among the companies that could be seriously affected is TomTom, the Dutch satnav maker that was founded in the early 1990s - around the same time as GPS went live.

The contents of the report from the government accountability office suggest that the reliability of GPS will begin to drop drastically, with at least five years of deterioration before things might get better.
However I still believe that GPS is, and remains, an excellent technology for all who use it. Although these report appears to be serious but I’m not overly concerned about this, and there is no reason to believe it will. I’m pity sure that the US government will pledge full support for GPS and will not allow it to falter.

I would be very much surprised if anyone in the US government was actually OK with letting it fail – it's too useful. Instead, the theory which is emerging now is that the worries generated over GPS are merely the push and pull of Washington politics and that the problem isn't really a serious one.The failings of GPS could also play into the hands of other countries – including opening the door to Galileo, the European-funded attempt to rival America's satellite navigation system, which is scheduled to start rolling out later next year.
Russia, India and China have developed their own satellite navigation technologies that are currently being expanded.

For the above reasons US government is taking it very seriously and it appears though are now considering to appoint organizations to monitor the development of GPS, which are good signs in terms of looking ahead to ensure GPS continues to deliver the great quality it has to so many people.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Keep your kids safe, get num8 from Lok8u

Launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Num8 (pronounced 'new mate')watch from British company Lok8u (pronounced 'locate you') is said to be the first tracking device specifically designed to help parents keep tabs on wayward offspring.

The £149 Num8 looks much like any ordinary digital wristwatch, but it houses a GPS chip similar to that contained inside a satnav unit. This constantly keeps tabs on the location of the child - it is accurate to within 3 metres - and beams it back to Num8's website for monitoring.

Relatives can receive text messages about the watch's location direct from the device, pinpointing the street address of their youngster at the touch of a button.

"As far as the child is concerned it's a digital watch - for the parent it's a child locating product," said Steve Salmon, Lok8u's chief executive. He added that he hoped it would be used as a way to give children more freedom, rather than restricting them or promoting lazy parenting.

"Only 20% of children are now allowed to go out and play. It's my profound hope that Num8 will help parents feel more comfortable about letting their children go out to play," he said.

It is not the first time that a company has offered parents the chance to track their children by GPS, but most previous devices have been built into mobile phones - expensive pieces of technology that are notoriously easy to dispense with. By contrast, Worcestershire-based Lok8u says it has improved the situation by locking the watch on to the child's wrist.

If an errant child forcibly removes the watch - or has it taken from them - the system immediately trips an alarm, sending an alert to the mobile phone of a parent. Removing the gadget also triggers a warning that is sent by email, just in case the worried parent happens to be sitting in front of a computer.

And to get around the limitations of satellite tracking technology - such as going indoors to prevent the satellite overhead from establishing a direct connection - the system can also use mobile phone signal triangulation to determine a more approximate location for its target.

An Australian children's advocate is very upset with this device. He has already labeled this device as 'alarmist' and 'flippant'. According to him "There won't be a huge market here because I think Australians are smarter than that."

Even though this device is claiming to be the first, there have been other services that can already achieve this. In this article in Guardian, couple of years back, the author successfully tracked his girlfriend using a similar technique via some spying website. The accuracy was not as good though but because of many more cell sites, some of them micro-cell sites and with the use of A-GPS this should be easy.

Anyone aware of similar services out there?

Sunday 5 October 2008

Customer service is the key, Location Based Services will grow

Back in The Day, before the Internet and deregulation the phone companies understood customer service. With the current experience I have with some of other people whom I know I do believe that the customer services ahs gone down.

Let me give you an ugly first-person example. Two years ago, a friend on mine moved from a townhouse into a house, literally "across the street with a similar post code. He had two phone lines to move and his nightmare with the phone company to move phone service started on a Friday and went through the weekend. That weekend was full of promises and excuses to send techs out for "installing" service on a known-good phone line, before he finally got a hold of a supervisor on Monday to turn on the one line - no installer necessary; it would have taken two to three weeks to reschedule, since he had been bumped out of the queue due to no fault of his own. So another TWO WEEKS before he could get the second line up and running. And he still had to pay charges for "installing" the line.

Two years later and nothing has changed in terms of services by these phone and ISP companies.

Customer service matters and it influences existing business and future sales.
This is where most of the mobile companies these days trying to win the battle with the traditional phone companies. I have experiences people moving away from the traditional landlines and ISP’s with the good deal on their mobile with the mobile broadband together with amazing applications to go with the deal. The mantra of being "all about the customer" is definitely the key for the mobile operators and vendors. When it comes to delivering entertainment content and other applications such as GPS etc, the deal with the mobile phone companies definitely fits into the vision of the customers.

In the past few months we have already seen the deals where you can download songs and listen to them on your mobile just like an MP3 player. Continuing into this direction the operators and vendors have started showing signs of flexing their muscles in another interesting area i.e. LBS applications. There is no doubt in my mind that any location based services will have future and it definitely interests the customers.

Companies like Vodafone, O2 and AT&T have already hinted in the direction of launching LBS applications for their customers.

AT&T will launch navigation applications using LBS in first quarter 2008. Location, location, location is the key to win new customers and AT&T Inc went into this direction by announcing the deployment of assisted GPS technology (A-GPS) within its wireless network to enhance existing and planned location-based services (LBS) used with A-GPS capable devices. AT&T deployed assisted GPS technology throughout its network, paving the way for more enhanced location-based services. The carrier, which initially deployed a cell-site triangulation technology to meet the 2006 FCC E-911 requirements, has now added GPS to its technology portfolio.
AT&T also announced recently that it will launch two new navigation applications in the coming weeks, MapQuest Navigator and AAA Mobile navigator. In addition, the operator hinted that it would soon be expanding into other LBS categories including location-enabled social networking and a family-oriented service along with privacy controls.

The above developments clearly is the sign of providing superior navigation tools to the customers and thus giving them more choice.

A-GPS technology gives capable devices a significant jump-start on identifying the user’s initial location. GPS devices search satellites each time they are turned on to determine starting latitude and longitude, a process that previously took as long as several minutes. With A-GPS, the operator’s network speeds up that query by identifying nearby cell sites, helping the device more quickly hone in on the appropriate satellites. Assisted in this way, A-GPS capable devices can identify a user’s initial location in fewer than 20 seconds, delivering greater convenience to customers using LBS.

Continuing in the direction of providing enhance customer services the telecomm companies are now providing new downloadable applications that give its customers more ways to use compatible mobile phones as navigation devices.
I absolutely believe and I think most of you would agree with me that using a mobile phone for navigation is affordable, convenient and intuitive because it eliminates the need for consumers to buy or carry yet another gadget. And unlike traditional navigation devices, which can be hard to transport from car to car or difficult to use while walking or riding a bike, a mobile phone is always on hand or in hand.
Most of the time I have seen people with their car broken down and hence calling for the road side assistance.
The first question which is being asked to the customer is about their current location. With the use of A-GPS through their mobile, customers can now send GPS location directly to a roadside assistance operator.

Applications such as MapQuest Navigator, powered by Telmap, gives customers access to turn-by-turn, voice-guided driving and walking directions, 3-D moving maps, 16 million points of interest from MapQuest’s database, quick route recalculation for missed turns, real-time traffic alerts, gas prices, gas station locations and City’s Best restaurant and venue ratings.
The above services have been highly successful since their rollout, and LBS has ranked among the fastest-growing categories of applications especially for the mobile operators.

Together with the above services customers with the help of navigator can now get the turn-by-turn driving directions, full-color moving maps, a fuel finder feature that lets customers identify the cheapest nearby gas and access to YELLOWPAGES.COM’s database of millions of business locations.

Telecomm companies can see the potential in A-GPS and hence it paves the way for new offers from the operators in the LBS space, which include plans for a family-oriented service and a location-enabled social networking service. Dating and social networking service surely is a bit hit the youths and thus new source of revenue generation.

Future network enhancements will also allow users of non-GPS devices to enjoy location-based services such as local search tools from YELLOWPAGES.COM.

Clearly all the above services sound good but then everything comes at a price. These days’ teenagers having the mobile device with the A-GPS technology can access to some unwanted materials. It is thus very important for the vendors and operators to continue to build out a comprehensive suite of parental and privacy controls. For example, AT&T is developing best-in-class tools to enable parents to manage how their children can share their location. For services sold by AT&T, the tools can be applied on a phone-by-phone and application-by-application basis and will launch alongside the first applications enabling users to share their location with others.

The growth for the A-GPS is very promising which is further supported by MapQuest when it announced the beta launch of MapQuest 4 Mobile, a free, downloadable application that extends capabilities to compatible BlackBerry smartphones. MapQuest 4 Mobile offers users an easy-to-use interface and the same accurate directions and maps they rely on from the site. Local search is also accessible, enabling users to search for businesses by proper name or category. Additionally, MapQuest 4 Mobile provides hybrid imagery, traffic and incident information as well as a GPS "find me" feature which locates a user and tracks the progress to their destination. MapQuest 4 Mobile also utilizes smaller map tiles allowing for faster downloads and quicker screen refresh. Smartphones are growing at a record pace and this an important market segment to address as more users rely on their phones for maps and directions. MapQuest 4 Mobile is a step in that direction for providing next generation services to customers that mirrors the intuitive interface and simplicity. MapQuest 4 Mobile is the latest addition to MapQuest's suite of mobile products which include voice-guided navigation from MapQuest Navigator. The newest mobile product continues MapQuest's on-going mission of providing mobile services that help consumers get to where they need to go, anytime, anywhere. MapQuest 4 Mobile can be downloaded from a mobile browser at For additional information about MapQuest 4 Mobile please visit

It is really exciting to use all these services and I must admit that having them is like a new toy which always keeps you interested.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Next Generation GPS Mobile Applications

While attending some seminars, which I cannot give more information about, I heard about exciting NextGen-GPS mobile applications being developed by various companies. GPS is going to make our life very simple (and maybe our brains lazy) .

Imagine the following scenarios:
  • You are going from place A to B and someone asks you to drop something where he is (place C) then he can just send you an G-SMS (Its a name defined by me but please feel free to use it) to his GPS mobile. Your phone will ask you if you want this is 'final detination' or 'via destination' or you want to do something else (store, ignore, etc). You can set this as 'via destination' and your original destination remains unaffected.
  • You are supposed to visit a particular shop in the city and the area is quite big. Your girlfried goes regularly so you give her the remote-control of your GPS and she can point the area (final destination) where you should be going.
  • You are going to watch some match in a particular stadium and around that place there are say 4 car parks. You can select your destination based on 'number of free spaces in a car park' or 'cheapest car park' or 'most secure car park'. You will automatically be routed to the car park based on your criteria. If you have a live update on then this information will be dynamically updated till you reach your final destination. If there are far more parking places then the cars then these car parks can bid for your custom and this will be handles by the GPS transparently.
  • You are a member of car sharing organisation. Whenever you need a car, you press a button on your car sharing application and it immediately tells you how far is the nearest car available and gives you an option of different cars which you can select in an area. You select one of the cars and press reserve and then walk to it. I remember hearing of something similar put PC based and that would (I suppose) have lots of limitations as you have to book it in advance and you have to know your location when you require the car, etc. With this GPS based approach you can be anywhere and you can see real-time information.

There are many more interesting things being developed but they are all conceptual at the moment. I am not sure when they will come to the market. I suppose IMS will be one thing that will be required for these kinds of applications. Whenever they are available, they are surely going to make our like far simple.

Monday 12 May 2008

GPS Phones to become norm

GPS phones are sent to become common with Nokia announcing that it plans to sell 35 million GPS phones in 2008.

"We expect to ship about 35 million GPS-enabled Nokia devices in 2008, which is equal to the entire GPS device market in 2007," CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told the annual shareholders' meeting.

Nokia's $8.1 billion acquisition of U.S.-based navigation firm Navteq, which is still pending regulatory approval in the European Union, is a good deal, Kallasvuo said.

"When we look at it with the eyes we have now, when regarding pedestrian navigation, map services, digital maps, we are even more excited about the opportunities than when making the decision," Kallasvuo said.

Most phones sold this year go to customers who already have a phone, and Nokia CEO said: "Globally, we expect replacement sales to represent more than 70 percent of the industry's volume in 2008."

The Finnish cellphone maker said recently it is set to introduce many new phone models through U.S. carriers in coming months to grab a bigger share of the market there.

Kallasvuo said he sees better times ahead for Nokia in the United States, where according to the research firm Strategy Analytics its market share has collapsed from 20 percent to 7 percent over the past two years.

This compares with Nokia's own estimate of a 39 percent global market share in the first quarter.

Another report from ABI research says that 550 million GPS handsets will ship by 2012:

In the wake of personal navigation devices’ success, cellular carriers have started to offer on-board and off-board navigation solutions, as well as a range of LBS (Location Based Services) such as friend finder and local search on GPS handsets. Community and social-networking-related functionality, such as the sharing of POIs (Points of Interest) and geo-tagged pictures, is also becoming popular and is expected to boost GPS-enabled handset uptake as carriers, handsets manufacturers, and service providers look to capitalize on the LBS trend.

“While most CDMA handsets are already GPS-enabled and GPS is set to become a standard feature in GSM smartphones, GSM feature phones are next on the agenda to be equipped with GPS technology,“ says ABI Research principal analyst Dominique Bonte. “GPS chipset vendors increasingly target handsets, looking for new markets and spurred on by the recent dramatic growth of personal navigation devices.”

However, as GPS begins to penetrate lower-end phones, the cost, power consumption, and footprint of GPS chipsets will have to be further reduced. This will be made possible by single chipset technology and the emergence in 2009 of combination chips integrating GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi all on one die. Major silicon vendors such as Broadcom, NXP, and Atheros are well positioned to develop such solutions following the acquisition of GPS chipset vendors Global Locate, GloNav, and u-Nav, respectively.

At the same time, the thorny issue of indoor GPS coverage has to be addressed, since handset-based LBS services are frequently used in challenging environments with reduced GPS signal strength. Network-assisted A-GPS and high-sensitivity GPS-receivers are becoming key requirements to reduce the time necessary to acquire fixes and to improve location accuracy.

ABI Research’s report,
GPS-Enabled Mobile Devices, examines the market landscape and future potential for GPS-enabled mobile phones. It discusses critical business and marketing issues, as well as market opportunities and challenges for handset vendors, mobile operators, semiconductor vendors, and other industry players who address the GPS-enabled handset market.

This report forms part of two ABI Research Services:
Mobile Devices and Location Aware Services, which include a variety of Research Reports, Research Briefs, Market Data, Online Databases, ABI Insights, and Analyst Inquiry Support.

Lets hope we dont see too many people with similar problems everywhere.

For more info on GPS see: