Move Over GPS, A New Positioning System Has You In Its Sights

GPS is now so widespread that we take it for granted. But it's not always perfect -- so what if a new technology could achieve more than those triangulated military satellites in the sky?

In fact, a team of researchers has been mulling exactly that, and come up with a new positioning technology called Locata. New Scientist explains:

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 mobile phone. 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.

You see, GPS often struggles with indoor environments and big cities: towering concrete buildings make it hard to get a signal, and tight road and pedestrian networks mean inaccuracy is problematic. By contrast, Locata already has accuracy of 18cm along any axis, and claims to be able to get that number down to 5. Crazy.

The technology is, however, still in its early days, and it would take some impressive performance and marketing if it's ever to supersede GPS. Chances are then that it would work alongside GPS, creating a hybrid system which combines the best features of both technologies. In fact, such a thing already exists: Leica is trialling a briefcase-size Jigsaw Positioning System which is being used to guide drilling in the gold mines in Western Australia. How quickly that can translate into a consumer product remains to be seen. [New Scientist]

Picture: Mukumbura/Flickr.

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    God knows why the US military needs any further accuracy, how much more accurate does a laser guided, infrared tracked, GPS guided cruise missile need to be....

    When it takes out an entire block of buildings

      "When it takes out an entire block of the wrong buildings"


        It will still be able to do that.

        When it takes out a wedding party or a mime school.

      It sucks how every new piece of awesome technology will be taken advantage by the government. The cell phone in our pocket is essentially a tracker for them to spy on us at all times. EVERYTHING you do on the internet or phone is being monitored by them.

      Just imagine what it will be like when those augmented reality glasses come out. Since those will always be internet connected, the government will be able to both see & listen to everything you're doing. Oh, saying something bad about the government? They'll use a word filter that pinpoint a potential free minded thinker and then lock them away.

    Radio based positioning systems, as well as GPS based correctional data streams have been around for a while now, and will probably beat Locata's 5cm accuracy already.

      Don't know any RF systems that work over 10s of km, don't know any correction systems that can correct for the fact that GPS sats can't be seen in mines, buildings etc.

      This is great.... It avoids having to correct for random GPS variations in instances where critical positioning is necessary, a long as the base station knows its position (probably using differential GPS, for a fixed location over a long time giving it a "very good estimate of its current location...

      Airports, and the already stated uses (mining, surveying etc) will be able to make se of such a system, especially if the receivers automatically hand over to the less-accurate but wider area GNSS (GPS, Glonas, etc).

      Remember that GPS is "very" inaccurate in the height axis (measured in metres, for better measurement above ground additional sensors are really needed), this is claiming better accuracy than GPS in all axes (generally GPS (Differential / Augmented...) is regarded as being no better than 10cm accurate in the N and E axes , this is for Military and Survey spec equipment (for friendly countries only) )

      BTW, can you tell me the system which is sub-5cm accurate already???

      (interested , (Quick search) Starfire (DGPS) gives around 4.5 cm (don't know if in height axis as well ) which is good, but I don't think is freely available (John Deere) , or WAAS (FAA, Wide Area Augmented System), specs are for 7. metre accuracy...., generally around 1 metre in all axes)

      Even Google needs laser sensors and cameras to navigate accurately (obvioulsly also needed to avoid hitting moving things.)

        The "friendly countries only" bit finished with clinton, selective availability as it was called encrypted the last few bits of the clock to mess up your day and gave 10m. Locata are smart and the product is good but it's almost a product looking for an application, the US gave us a bunch of cash and was testing for carrier landings etc,(I used to work for locata), but aside from mining not so much interest. City GPS has issues with buildings and moving in and around a city means you have to always be searching for new sources which brings it's own problems.


          Didn't, selective availability only relat to the coarse acquisition civilian signal, Military use the Coarse signal, and the Precision signal (encrypted) for as it says, higher precision....

          Switching off S/A only gives nominal 20m accuracy (previously 100m for normal Civil users), that is not quite 5cm... Still DGPS allows better resolution than the Basic GPS, and It is likely that in theatres of war, the military have an even more precise DGPS, to improve the encrypted P signal...

          So it appears that Friendly nations still get access to a Better GPS system than unfriendly ones...
          (20m off may mean that the wrong building gets hit, also, WAAS is only for specific continental areas.. (ie USA and Canada), also for carrier landings and that type of precision, Differential, precision GPS is used, and the onboard system is augmented by the INS to increase precision beyond the update rate of the GPS.

          Cheers again...

    Super precision mapping technology? I like the sounds of that, just think of house useful that could be for marking out exact locations of things to send to friends, such as a branch in a tree you climbed or the position of buried treasure. Or in a more practical sense if you forgot or lost your phone you could use this to find online exactly where it is so that it may be retrieved by you or a friend.

      ...or different profiles per room/floor of a building/museum/house/etc

    Ground RF? So they gave to build transmitters every where? How's that going to work in hostile environments like a war zone in a foreign country?

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