Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has
made its way into most of our lives either through social networking (when you
check in somewhere on your Facebook) or when driving a vehicle. Current GPS
tech uses satellites to pinpoint a device's location,
but Australian company Locata has developed ground-based location technology
that is more accurate.
Locata's new system consists of devices called "LocataLites," which are
ground-based versions of GPS satellites that are the size of a hardcover book.
LocataLites will be installed locally in several locations, sending out signals
using the same frequency as Wi-Fi that receivers utilize to calculate an
accurate location. These signals can cover several kilometers, and since
LocataLites placed in the ground as opposed to tens of thousands of miles into
space like traditional GPS trackers, it takes less time for LocataLites'
signals to reach receivers.
While traditional GPS devices pinpoint
a device's location accurate to a few meters, LocataLites will pinpoint a
location accurate to a few centimeters. This sort of accurate positioning could
have many benefits, such as enhancing cell phone apps and keeping track of
goods and machines at construction sites and other businesses. In fact, the
technology has already been promised to the U.S. Air Force, which will use the
LocataLites to track aircraft on the Air Force's White Sands Missile Range in
New Mexico. Also, the LocataLites are already in use at the Boddington gold
mine in Western Australia to position digging and drilling equipment.
In addition to accuracy-related benefits, Locata's
new ground-based GPS tech also has cost-related advantages. Traditional GPS
satellites use expensive atomic clocks to "timestamp" the signal it
sends back to Earth, and receivers use that timestamp to calculate the distance
from a satellite based on the time it took to get there. LocataLites do not
have these pricey atomic clocks, but rather a cheaper timing chip coupled with
Wi-Fi technologies that are simpler to deploy.
Locata plans to release more information next
month that will allow other companies to manufacture receivers.
"It's like the early days
of GPS," said Nunzio Gambale, one of Locata's co-founders. "The
real explosion will happen when there are chip-scale receivers that can fit
into your pocket."
quote: A GPS receiver on the ground uses this information, combined with knowledge of the satellites' positions to determine it's location by comparing the relative time of flight from several satellites.