Instead of satellites, Locata uses ground-based equipment to project a radio signal over a localised area that is a million times stronger on arrival than GPS. It can work indoors as well as out, and the makers claim the receivers can be shrunk to fit inside a regular cellphone. Even the US military, which invented GPS technology, signed a contract last month agreeing to a large-scale test of Locata at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
“This is one of the most important technology developments for the future of the positioning industry,” says Nunzio Gambale, CEO and co-founder of the firm Locata, based in Griffith, Australia.
Indoor positioning is the next big thing in location-tracking technology, and companies from Google to Nokia have jumped at the chance to prevent users getting lost in cavernous shopping malls, or in the concrete canyons of big cities, where GPS struggles to keep up. But their technologies typically have a short range, and location resolutions in the order of a few metres.
By contrast, Christopher Morin of the US Air Force tested Locata’s accuracy recently at White Sands, and it worked to within 18 centimetres along any axis. Morin says it should be possible to get the resolution down to 5 centimetres.
Ultimately, Locata may work alongside GPS, rather than replace it. The Jigsaw Positioning System, built by the firm Leica Geosystems, uses Locata and GPS signals. The briefcase-sized devices are already increasing coverage and guiding placement of drill rigs at the Boddington gold mine in Western Australia, operated by mining firm Newmont.
Gambale says that units small and cheap enough for smartphones should be available within five years – a similar path to the one GPS took on its way towards world domination.
Locata’s technology will face competition in the race to transform indoor navigation. But it could shine in specific areas, Gambale says. Robots with Locata could easily navigate inside buildings without the complex optical systems they need at the moment. And apps that harness pinpoint location data could not only guide you around a mall, railway station or airport, but take you to the exact shelf in a shop for the product you want, he says.
SOURCES- New Scientist and Locata Corp