Today, CSR plc is launching two chips, the SiRFstarV and SiRFprimaII, into the market that incorporate the ability to utilize multiple navigation constellations in addition to GPS, including Europe's Galileo, Russia's GLONASS, and China's COMPASS. These new features will be able to improve the "edge experience" in urban canyons and indoors where reception is inconsistent according to Kanwar Chadha, chief marketing officer. In addition, these chips will "sniff" for Wi-Fi hotspots and utilize other smartphone technology such as accelerometers and gyros to determine more exact positioning, especially indoors, as well as to conserve battery life.
The objective, according to Chadha, is to use implicit location like a search engine. Once a user's position is determined, this information can be passed to other search-related applications to refine the search request and improve the relevance of the content. "Fundamentally, the shift we see is that we are moving from a self contained device world to much more cloud connected world where some of the content is in the device but some of the content will be from the cloud," said Chadha. "This will have an impact on the content and navigation space."
But improving the search capability of applications by constantly updating the handset location has drained the battery life of many of today's smartphones. Before now, location technology has not been well integrated intelligently enough to manage power with existing applications. CSR thinks that with their new chips it will be easier to monetize search much better, especially indoors, but to do it without draining the battery. For example, by using the handset's accelerometer to sense whether GPS is necessary, the location API will send a request for a location; then the location subsystem will provide a location accurate enough for the application's needs. If an application needs only an approximate location then it will use one of the sensors that uses less power.
The use of multiple location sensors and the smartphone's microelectromagnetic system (MEMS) sensors, like accelerometers, is a key part of the SiRFusion location platform that is the basis for its chipset architecture. "Today... for indoor location, the accuracy uses Wi-Fi only.
With SiRFusion when you combine MEMS sensors with GPS that error becomes much smaller and when other information can become available, you might be able to navigate [inside] a store.
CSR had acquired
SiRF Technology in 2009, a company that Chadha had founded. Earlier this year CSR acquired
Zoran, a manufacturer of imaging and video technology. Both deals put CSR on the track to take advantage of the trend to bring more content and better visualization technology into a mobile handset. As such, when technology like augmented reality becomes much more a part of the navigation applications in both smartphones and in-vehicle navigation systems, the company believes they will be well-positioned.
The two chips, the SiRFStarV for mobile phone applications and the SiRFPrimaII for the automotive market are expected to be on the market by the middle of 2012.