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Indoor Location Technology Heats Up: Polaris Offers Universal Location Platform

Wednesday, April 17th 2013
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Summary:

Yesterday, Polaris Wireless announced an agreement with Globe Telecom in the Philippines to enhance the telecommunications company's LBS services. But Polaris' technology offers a more universal solution for LBS, in particular in urban and indoor environments. Editor in chief Joe Francica discussed the company's technology with Polaris' Bhavin Shah, vice president of sales and business development.

Directions Magazine (DM): Polaris offers indoor location technology. Can you explain the patented technology specification regarding OmniLocate? Can you customize the LBS platform for retailers or other indoor customers and what “value-added” functions are most often requested?

Bhavan Shah (BS): The Polaris Wireless OmniLocate universal location platform can be customized to include various location methods based on a wireless operator’s needs. In order to obtain the most accurate indoor location, we recommend the operator deploy Polaris Wireless Location SignaturesTM (WLS), our patented implementation of the 3GPP standardized RF Pattern-Matching (RFPM) location method. WLS provides high-accuracy location in urban areas and indoors, which, in the case of Globe Telecom, would make it uniquely suitable for the densely-populated Philippines market.
 
All digital wireless networks have measurements, such as signal strength or signal-to-interference ratio, built into reporting protocols in the air interface standards in the form of call processing messages used to make handover decisions. WLS uses a pattern matching approach to capitalize on this reporting structure that is inherent in all wireless air interfaces. As a phone measures signal strengths and time delays from nearby cells, it compiles a list of these measurements and reports them back to the serving base station, with the reporting procedure varying from protocol to protocol. These measurements can be correlated against a database of radio environment maps, where the best match indicates the most likely position of the handset.
OmniLocate offers a standard API that any application developer can adapt to for access to location information.
DM: What is the accuracy you are able to achieve in indoor or high density urban areas?
BS: Polaris Wireless routinely achieves accuracy of 50 meters or less in urban areas or indoors, with very high reliability and yield, and low time-to-fix. 
What do you install at the physical locations and what data is collected on retail customers, for example?
 
Unlike some other high-accuracy location solutions, Polaris Wireless offers a software-only solution, so no hardware is required at cellular base stations. We install a standards-based server at the wireless operator’s location, from which the operator is able to obtain subscriber location information. Polaris Wireless has no access to subscriber location information and neither collects nor stores subscriber location information. The wireless operator may utilize this information in accordance with its subscriber privacy policies, which require an ‘opt-in’ from the subscriber to allow the operator to collect location information.
DM: Do you find that your clients are asking the right questions about your technology and that you are able to go beyond most client requirements?
BS: Wireless operators are increasingly aware of the performance attributes of the location methods available to them, but may not always appreciate the connection between high accuracy and increased ARPU from location-based services. Globe Telecom understands this connection and made a strategic decision to enhance its existing mobile tracking applications and experiment with a high-accuracy location capability. In the case of some other clients, who may have deployed our solution primarily for public safety applications (which require the highest possible accuracy), we are in discussions about potential ways to monetize this capability.
DM: Where do you see indoor location technology fitting in with other location intelligence solutions in marketing that retailers are more accustomed to using?
BS: Indoor location is going to become the phenomenon of the future, because more than 60 percent of wireless calls are made indoors as people give up their landlines. In addition, on average, Americans spend more than 80 percent of their time indoors, and more than 25 percent of U.S. homes have only mobile phones. The more technologies that marketers can leverage to pinpoint location and target advertising and messaging, the more relevant they can make their campaigns and the better response they will get from their target consumers. Polaris Wireless isn’t making bets on specific retail marketing applications – there are hundreds out there – but we are making bets that successful ones will require ever more accurate location information, especially in areas such as dense urban and indoors where most people are.
DM: This seems to be the year of indoor positioning. What direction are you hoping to take your technology in the next two years?
BS: With the increasing deployment of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in wireless networks, a corresponding need to provide accurate location of wireless devices in DAS environments arises. Perhaps the most frequently used location method in the US is currently Assisted GPS (A-GPS), which works well in open-sky scenarios, but is not viable indoors or in dense urban environments, the very types of environments in which DAS is typically deployed.  Alternative positioning techniques (RTT, U-TDOA or OTDOA) use network measurements made by either the handset or the base station to estimate location. However, these positioning technologies face new challenges in DAS environments. Even the most commonly-used Cell-ID solutions (with or without timing information) can have very large errors in location estimation, since the distance of the actual base station to the DAS antennas can be very large with unknown delays created by the optical or cable backhauls. Polaris WLS is the most viable candidate to solve the location accuracy problem in DAS environments for technical and cost reasons. 

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