The newest Wi-Fi technology can pinpoint specific objects to within an arm’s length, create geofences, and accurately track mobile assets
Wi-Fi is currently installed
in 8 billion devices and is expected to reach 12 billion devices by the year
2020. It carries more than half of the internet’s traffic, with some estimating
it as high as 70%. Wi-Fi is everywhere, in part because it offers extensive reach,
making it an ideal location technology. But where is it going?
Existing Wi-Fi technologies
utilize RSSI, which lacks accuracy, and RSSI fingerprinting, which is more
accurate but expensive and hard to maintain. Additionally, Wi-Fi relies on
proprietary methods. The problem with this is that beacons may have limited
range and need to cover large spaces.
Enter Wi-Fi Location, which
can determine the distance between two Wi-Fi devices by measuring the time it
takes for a wireless signal to be exchanged between them. It measures time of
departure and time of arrival to the nanosecond, and it uses clock
synchronization, round-trip measurement, and location-coordinate systems.
Creators say that it is
highly secure and extremely accurate, enabling turn-by-turn wayfinding indoors.
This is important because it can supplement GPS in areas where the signal is
not strong, like indoor locations or cities in which there are tall buildings.
Whereas GPS typically provides precision within three to 10 meters outdoors,
Wi-Fi Location can get you within 90 centimeters — within arm’s length of a
particular point or object.
This sort of accuracy gives
way to a number of previously unheard-of applications for Wi-Fi Location,
promising big things for the future. Wi-Fi Location allows for turn-by-turn
wayfinding indoors, not only broadcasting latitude and longitude coordinates
for exact location, but also civil location — like 123 Fake Street, Eighth Floor
— which could be a game changer for rescue services.
It can also track mobile
assets quickly and accurately, which might be useful if you’re prone to losing
the remote or want to have eyes on some sort of inventory. You’ll also be able
to improve the maintenance of a network by pinpointing exact locations where
Wi-Fi Location may also be
used to create a geofence, or virtual perimeter, that triggers a specific
action. This may be useful across a number of industries, but it is
particularly impactful for areas in which something is coming or going with
some frequency, like a garage or even a car dealership.
Perhaps one of the biggest
uses of this technology will be for retailers, who can learn behavior patterns
and change shopping experiences based on their findings. Imagine coupons that
could guide you to the physical location in the store or alert you when you
pass an item you might like that’s offering a discount.
The Wi-Fi Alliance also
envisions the technology being useful in the creation of smarter cities,
bridging the gap between indoor and outdoor environments.
A phone can determine its
location with or without sharing that information with others, so there is no
concern for privacy — you can use Wi-Fi Location to navigate but must allow
special permission if you would like it to track.
Wi-Fi Location will become
automatically available with newer Wi-Fi installations without the need for
additional hardware, so eventually, it will be ubiquitous. Developers can and
should begin planning uses now with the assumption that it will be available,
much like Bluetooth. However, most devices on the market today do not have
location capabilities, which means that there will be a transition time as
people upgrade their devices.
is ubiquitous in smartphones and in network deployments around the world,
giving it unparalleled reach for indoor location-based applications,” said
Samuel McLaughlin, research analyst, ABI Research. “Wi-Fi Location accuracy
opens new opportunities for consumer and business applications, filling a gap
left by the unavailability of GPS indoors.”