Sunday, April 22, 2007

Global Positioning “Goes To Ground”

How the client works: 1) Wireless device receives signals from Wi-Fi sites in range 2) Skyhook software compares these signals to its database of geographically known locations 3) Location data is used to direct safety services, provide driving directions and local information etc. Image Credit: Skyhook Wireless

Global Positioning “Goes To Ground”

In a “complex technology made simple” scenario, one does not need specialized GPS Satellites and the systems that pick up their signals in order to determine a specific location in most cities in the United States.

All one needs is a computer (or Wi-Fi PDA phone), some software that detects and factors in known Wi-Fi hot spots and … BINGO, wherever one goes, there one is here on the Oblate Spheriod.

This from Skyhook Wireless Inc. website -

At a time when the number of mobile devices is increasing into the billions, the connectivity and processing power of these devices is also increasing greatly. This is providing business with productivity gains and enabling consumers greater freedom in how they interact. Additionally, adoption of 802.11 (Wi-Fi) technology by consumers and industry has proceeded more quickly than the most aggressive predictions. Today, more than 10 million Wi-Fi access points have been deployed in both public and private networks resulting in a ubiquitous cloud of radio signals in the metropolitan areas of the United States.
Skyhook Wireless provides a software-only positioning system that leverages a nationwide database of known Wi-Fi access points to calculate the precise location of any Wi-Fi enabled device.

The demand for location-based services has been stifled by the lack of an affordable and reliable positioning system for highly populated areas of the country. The Wi-Fi Positioning System from Skyhook Wireless brings accurate positioning capabilities in real world situations to tens of millions of existing devices.


The Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) from Skyhook Wireless is the first outdoor positioning network to utilize Wi-Fi rather than GPS or cell tower systems to determine location. Building on the explosive growth of Wi-Fi, WPS includes a nationwide network of access points used to accurately pinpoint a user’s position.

WPS is designed for the millions of laptop, tablet PC, PDA and Smartphone owners that have Wi-Fi capabilities and would like to generate driving directions, utilize proximity systems, implement vehicle/asset tracking and communicate location information to friends and coworkers. With WPS, users can easily take advantage of location-based services that are already widely available, without having to purchase additional hardware.

WPS can also complement other location technology, because unlike traditional systems, WPS has no line of sight requirements, is accurate to within twenty meters and can be used indoors or outdoors to determine location in seconds. WPS is compatible with 802.11 devices, integrates with all GPS designed applications and covers metro areas of the United States.
Location Client

The WPS Location Client contains intelligence, which when coupled with the Location Database, calculates a precise location. The client works by scanning the airwaves for 802.11 signals then comparing observed access points against a known database of access point locations. The client features a patent-pending location algorithm that calculates real-time position, speed, and heading. The client also includes advanced filtering and database optimization techniques to continually improve the overall system. WPS can operate on any device that supports 802.11. It can be configured to operate like a virtual GPS device so that any GPS enabled application can begin to use WPS immediately. The client also includes an SDK to allow third party application developers to more tightly integrate location capabilities into their location-based service.

Location Database

The Wi-Fi Positioning System features a location database that contains the world's most comprehensive listing of geo-located Wi-Fi access points. The Location Database is continuously updated with new regions of the country and with new data from existing coverage areas. Employing patent-pending techniques, the Location Database computes the precise location of each access point using hundreds of observed readings. The Database also determines the propagation characteristics for each access point based on its unique local environment. Each access point can perform differently depending on its location within a building, the position of other buildings on a street, the physical topography of the area and a host of other environmental variables. All of these factors are taken into consideration by the WPS location algorithms. With this level of sophistication, WPS is able to produce reliable and accurate readings throughout our coverage areas.

Device Centric

With the device centric model, the database and client are both installed on an individual device. The Location Database is compressed using a patent-pending algorithm resulting in a minimal storage requirement for the device. Positioning is calculated on the device and is then communicated to other applications (e.g. mapping) via a set of API's. With this model, no network connectivity is required which is preferable for many applications. Data on the device is refreshed on a regular basis and can be segmented (e.g. by city, state, region) based on individual customer needs.

Network Centric

With the network centric model the Location Database resides on the Skyhook Wireless servers and only the thin location client resides on the Wi-Fi enabled device. This configuration is optimal for toolbars or other applications that assume a network connection. The Skyhook server can communicate the location back to the client over the network or to another server based application such as a fleet monitoring system.

Coverage map by Google - Link
System Requirements
· Skype version 1.2 and above
· Windows XP
· 802.11 adapter
· Call from Skyhook
Coverage area
Installation Instructions
· Download Skype E911 Plug-in
· Extract to a temporary directory
· Run setup.exe (make sure your Wi-Fi adapter is enabled during installation)
· The installation will also install the Skype COM API. Be sure to follow all the instructions
· The last screen will ask you to start the plug-in

How to Operate

By default the Skype E911 plug-in will be configured to start whenever Windows starts. You should see the target icon in the taskbar. When you place a call using Skype, the E911 plug-in will initiate once the receiver of the call has picked up the call. You will see a message from the taskbar letting you know that your current location has been calculated and sent to the other party. The other party on the call will receive a chat message (below) that includes the nearest street address to your current location plus a link to Google Maps to see your current location plotted on a map. The same process will occur when you receive a call as well.

Image Credit: Skyhook Wireless

Reference Here>>

At Symblogogy, we ask if Wi-Fi signals are good, why not other fixed position broadcast signals?

This excerpt from a press release issued by Boeing Engineering, Operations & Technology –

Boeing-Led Team Developing Surface Navigation Concept for DARPA
Boeing Press Release - ST. LOUIS, April 18, 2007

How would U.S. ground troops navigate precisely and effectively if signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) were not available? Boeing [NYSE: BA] and an industry team are getting the chance to tackle that problem under a concept development contract awarded recently by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The objective of the Robust Surface Navigation (RSN) program is to develop technologies that can exploit various "signals of opportunity" -- electronic waves emanating from satellites, cell phone towers and even television transmission towers -- to provide precise location and navigation information to ground troops when GPS signals are being electronically jammed or blocked by natural or man-made obstacles, such as foliage or buildings.

"The challenge is to develop an integrated system that can use all available signals -- not just GPS -- to provide accurate navigation information through one small receiver, thereby eliminating the need for an expensive, fixed infrastructure," said Bart Ferrell, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for Precision Navigation Programs.

The Boeing-led Robust Surface Navigation team is beginning its 15-month Phase 1 concept development contract.
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