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Smartphone Location-Based Services—The Next Killer App?

paulWhytock168x144Ever get lost making your way around large museum or exhibition? Well, that frustration may soon become a thing of the past.

Semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics has been working with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan, on indoor navigation, which will help visitors find their way around Chinese film director King Hu’s works exhibition. ST's technology modifies mobile phones and other smart consumer devices, creating a handy source of real-time information about the exhibition. It’s a useful facility because it overcomes the frustrating limitation of satellite navigation in indoor spaces.

According to ST, accurate indoor positioning is the key enabler for location-based services, something the company believes will become the next killer application in the mobile world.

A joint effort between ST and CSR, a provider of silicon and software solutions, integrated ST’s MEMS devices with CSR's latest positioning technology. The result was an indoor-positioning system that conquers the problems of poor Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) visibility in cities and indoor environments (see the figure).

ST and CSR created an indoor-positioning system that overcomes the problems of poor Global Navigation Satellite Systems visibility in cities and indoor environments.

Previous attempts at indoor navigation typically relied on labour-intensive manual surveys to build and maintain an indoor Wi-Fi and cellular location database. It ultimately led to inconsistent location data.

To achieve a location and navigation system that delivers a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor navigation, CSR created the CSR Positioning Centre (CPC). The CPC is a cloud-based server that receives location information wirelessly from users’ devices, including indoor devices, to build and constantly improve the location database. This system will deliver the location information to smartphones at the Taipei event.

The CPC uses SiRFstarV architecture, which gathers real-time information from GPS, Galileo, GNSS, and Compass satellite systems; Wi-Fi, cellular, and other radio-based systems; and multiple MEMS sensors, including accelerometers, gyros, and compasses. SiRFstarV then combines this real-time information with ephemeris data, mapping, cellular basestation and Wi-Fi access-point location data, and other cloud-based information using the SiRFusion platform.

The system also uses ST’s MEMS. For example, the company’s compasses integrate a three-axis digital accelerometer with a three-axis digital magnetic sensor in a single package to enhance location-based services.

During the Taipei exhibition, users of the system will be able to navigate through the museum’s exhibits using a standard smartphone equipped with ST’s MEMS and CSR’s SiRFusion platform. The smartphone’s indoor navigation application from VisioGlobe is designed to tell users when they’ve entered a new room in the museum, as well as the name of the exhibit nearest them.

Potential applications for the system are vast. Beyond helping visitors navigate museums, exhibitions, and galleries, it could assume a valuable role in helping people around transport areas, such as subways and airports.

Just one bit of advice, though. Don’t ever forget where you left your ‘phone.
TAGS: Mobile
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