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?
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]