Gadgets That Know Exactly Where Their Friends Are

The mantra for gadgets these days is location, location, location. Now, researchers at MIT are making electronics talk to each other in new ways to see just how accurate their pinpointing skills can get.

Instead of a GPS-like system in which all the different devices send their location to a single receiver, researchers at MIT's Wireless Communications and Network Sciences Group are making gadgets talk directly to one another. But what's novel about their approach is that the devices aren't just saying where they think they are; they're broadcasting all the possibilities of where they might be:

Among their insights is that networks of wireless devices can improve the precision of their location estimates if they share information about their imprecision. Traditionally, a device broadcasting information about its location would simply offer up its best guess. But if, instead, it sent a probability distribution - a range of possible positions and their likelihood - the entire network would perform better as a whole.

By relying on cooperation amongst the devices themselves as opposed to a single, fixed infrastructure a la GPS, the researchers have created networks of devices can locate themselves with reliability and sub-metre accuracy.

The downside of having the devices broadcast their possible location data is that it gobbles up more power and creates more interference than traditional methods, though the researchers are working on optimising their system for practical applications. Like having my phone help me find my missing Xbox controller. [MIT via Wired]

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