The Future Of Mobile Location Lies With “Hybrid Positioning”

The Future Of Mobile Location Lies With Hybrid PositioningThe location-aspect is making its way into nearly every mobile service imaginable, but current location-gathering methods aren’t as precise as they could be.

Leading up to the Location Business Summit that kicks off tomorrow in Amsterdam, experts are turning their attention to the concept of “hybrid positioning,” or the method of obtaining location data through a variety of sources, including GPS, cell tower triangulation, WiFi and others.

GoMo News today posted an in-depth interview with Ian Sheret, the founder of Polymath Insight Limited — a company focussed on developing advanced hybrid positioning algorithms — which included some interesting insight into where the mobile location industry is going.

Sheret indicates the future of mass market positioning lies with the recent trend emerging with global scale Wi-Fi positioning providers such as Skyhook Wireless.  “For me, the most interesting area of development is how the required database of hotspot locations is collected and maintained,” says Sheret.

The number one problem remains the lack of precise location-gathering methods indoors where GPS signals are weakened, and that’s where WiFi positioning is filling the void.  In addition to WiFi, there’s been an increase in the practice of using motion sensors (accelerometers, gyros, magnetometers) to provide accurate indoor navigation.

“This is an area I’ve been working in for about five years, but it’s only quite recently that it’s become a realistic option for mass market applications,” explained Sheret.  “The key challenges are developing algorithms that can give good accuracy, while avoiding battery drain – I foresee significant improvements in both these areas over the next 12 months.”

Another area of limitation is in mobile devices.  While GPS is being included in a wide variety of devices, other positioning technologies aren’t.  When asked what the future holds on this front, Sheret responded “what will happen (and already is happening) is that the complexity will be wrapped up and hidden from view – companies like Broadcom, Qualcomm and CSR are already integrating Wi-Fi positioning with their GPS solutions. If inertial navigation catches on, the same thing will happen.”

There’s still a ways to go before true hybrid positioning is a viable option for mass-market applications, but as the demand intensifies, so to will development and integration from those involved.  It’s an exciting concept to watch evolve, and it’s likely that we’ve only seen the beginning of what’s possible.