polariswirelessA few weeks ago, I had a briefing with Dr Marty Feuerstein, the CTO of Polaris Wireless, the non-GPS location services company. We discussed the 'state of location', and where it's going.

The wireless signature algorithm at the heart of the Polaris Wireless system is an awesome engine for more precise consumer and enterprise measurement in densely urban settings; two attributes (high precision in urban settings) where GPS typically fails. That's because GPS relies on triangulation with satellites, but with obstructions such as buildings the satellite signals fade considerably preventing in many cases, the necessary data to even make an estimate of where you are.

I experienced exactly this limitation with consumer-grade GPS navigation systems. My family and I flew to Seattle for a week's vacation in the interior of British Columbia. While at the Seattle airport, waiting for our hotel bus in the garage-like structure of the terminal, we did not get a GPS signal, so the system thought we were still at Logan airport in Boston which is where we turned the unit off. Although not life threatening like in many E911 applications, it does illustrate the point that buildings interfere with GPS implementations.

Polaris offers their software to enable three 'planes' of operation:

  • Carrier plane – here the service provider deploys the software within their infrastructure to deliver sufficient precision on location coordinates as to satisfy E911 (a US requirement for mobile operators) and to deliver company-branded location services such as navigation, mobile advertising and buddy proximity locator.
  • Application plane – here an application company integrates with the Polaris software to create a location-based service for users, subscribers or for mobile companies to resell.
  • User plane – an enterprise might deploy the Polaris software to allow the mobile device of employees to communicate directly with the server as part of an integration for applications such as employee safety, travel auditing or mobile workforce operations.

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