Mobile

CSR demos technology for tracking mobile devices indoors

CSR is adding the new feature of indoor tracking to its line of SiRFusion location technology, the company announced today.

The chip-making company is demonstrating the technology today at the Locations & Beyond Summit in San Francisco. CSR has pulled together several different technologies to create reliable and accurate indoor navigation possible, according to chief marketing officer, Kanwar Chadha.

The company’s SiRFusion platform and its SiRFstarV mobile chip architecture amount to the latest navigation technology that customers could use in smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to track a person’s location as they’re walking through a big building like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Chadha said in an interview.

“Indoor has been a much tougher problem to solve,” Chadha said.

CSR — a big chip maker that was gained heft with the mergers of CSR, Sirf, and Zoran — hopes that puts it at the center of a hot market.

“Our research clearly indicates that location has quickly gained traction with consumers as an essential contextual component for many of the applications they use and depend upon with their mobile devices,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a market analyst firm. “The SiRFusion platform will shine a bright light into what until now has been a location dead zone.”

The motion-tracking system for indoors isn’t perfect, but it puts together as good a fix on a person’s location as it can with three technologies: navigation data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) and other satellite info services; WiFi radio network triangulation; and motion-sensing devices in the smartphone itself, such as gyroscopes and compasses. Separately, each one of these systems has its own limitations. But together, they can do a decent job.

Chadha’s demo features a smartphone containing the first chip using the SiRFstarV design created by CSR. That chip uses the  wireless network to tap the brains of the servers of the SiRFusion platform, which gathers information from multiple sources to make its best guess about where a given person is located.

GPS can track your location outside by determining your position relative to a satellite network. But once you go inside, the network can no longer locate you, and it doesn’t work as well in urban canyons, or streets in between skyscrapers. The system also uses cellphone network and WiFi network location systems, such as those used in the Apple iPhone, to determine your location. But those don’t work in areas beyond the range of WiFi or in a cell phone reception dead spot.

Lastly, the sensors inside a phone can offer clues as well. A compass can indicate what direction you’re walking. And motion sensors such as gyroscopes can tell if you are moving or not. If you add all of that up, the signals can be fairly accurate about your location, inside or outside. Once the technology figures out where you are, it can compare your location to known location information, such as a map of big casinos in Las Vegas that show the outlines of the buildings.

“The result can be very reliable,” Chadha said. “We think this takes location to the next level.”

Effectively, CSR’s platform is a cloud computing solution, mashing up a bunch of data sources and computing them together to get some really useful information. What’s useful about it? The data could be computed in real-time to show whether you’re walking in the right direction inside a giant building, from a casino to a parking lot. It isn’t fool-proof, but it works well enough, Chadha said.

Chadha said the systems will use only anonymous and voluntarily supplied location information as it is broadcast from users’ devices. It will then use that information to improve its database. The CSR SiRFstarV family of chips will debut sometime next year with the new indoor location platform.

Of course, if you turn your phone off, no one will find you. And if you lose all connections to the outside world, you won’t be able to find your indoor location at all. But overall, the SiRFusion platform is self-learning and self-sensing.

“If two of the elements are there, it can be accurate,” Chadha said.

CSR has also announced a new version of its car navigation and entertainment platform, the SiRFprimaII SoC. The platform can be used to create better and cheaper location-aware car entertainment systems. The chips support all global navigation satellite systems as well as features such as WiFi or Bluetooth. The chip has a 1-gigahertz ARM A9 application processor, or twice the speed of the previous chip and several times more graphics power. The chip will begin manufacturing in 2012, and parts that can be built into cars are targeted for 2013.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.
0 comments