Five leading experts in location-based services, and I, shared a lively discussion on the current state of mobile phone location accuracy at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s December, 2012 Mobile Forum: Locations & Beyond. Our 50-minute conversation focused on how to improve the accuracy of mobile phone location fixes, both indoors and out.
Here are a few highlights from the panel:
Ganesh Pattabiraman, Founder/President at Next Nav, pointed out that less accuracy results in less opportunities to monetize the data, and that the price per thousand impressions (CPM) is limited by the lowest common denominator. Poor location accuracy also impacts emergency response, since time spent locating the patient during the first “golden hour” after a serious injury can cost lives.
Peter Marx, Vice President of Business Development at Qualcomm Labs, pointed out that most advertisers don’t want greater location accuracy — ad targeting based on behavior is more reliable, and makes a mobile phone user “more than just a blue dot.” Peter leads a group at Qualcomm that offers “Gimbal,” a platform for application developers to access location data.
Clint Mundt, Program Manager at Raven Industries, discussed improvements that are coming soon to outdoor GPS, including new satellites being launched by the European Union and China. GPS augmentation offers highly accurate location fixes — this is where a local correction is broadcast that provides adjustments to satellite GPS fixes for things such as sunspots, weather and interference. It’s difficult to deliver augmentation data within mobile networks, per Clint, and development is needed to make this possible.
Scot Gordon, Director of Advanced Technology at Polaris Wireless, described how RF “fingerprinting” works, and how it is a useful tool for law enforcement applications such as lawful pursuit. RF “fingerprinting” involves cataloging all of the RF signals available in venues of interest (TV, radio, cellular, Wi-Fi, etc.), then using this fingerprint to identify a mobile phone’s location. Scot says fingerprinting results in fixes that are within 50 meters about 60-70% of the time, both indoors and out.
Fabio Pasolini, General Manager, Motion MEMS Division at STMicroelectronics, discussed how mobile phone sensors are used for location determination. Mobile phones can use data from their accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses and other sensors to dead-reckon a user’s position in-between network or GPS location fixes. I did not know that air pressure sensors could be used to determine altitude, which can be translated into the floor of a building!
This was, as usual, a first-rate event from the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley. If you live in or travel to the Silicon Valley, keep an eye on their Calendar of Events for more sessions packed full of current, actionable information. Thanks to the TC for inviting me to moderate this session on mobile phone location determination!
Get the full run-down on the agenda, participants and sponsors for the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s December 11th Mobile Focus: Locations & Beyond here.