Wi-Fi Aids Location Determination for Local Search and Asset Tracking

In speaking with Ted Morgan, CEO, about Skyhook Wireless’ first customer for their Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), one of the potential results of the ubiquitous deployment of Wi-Fi in homes, offices, and elsewhere, is the necessity to put 802.11 chipsets in more handsets. If GPS or assisted-GPS can not accurately meet the requirements for the FCC’s E911 mandates, then Wi-Fi may be the next technology embedded into cell phones and other mobile devices.

No less surprising is the potential for Wi-Fi to assist local search. With all of the interest by Microsoft, Google, MapQuest and Yahoo to compete for advertising dollars and use local search to squeeze more from local market retailers and others, Wi-Fi is an obvious catalyst. Now that laptops outpace desktops in market share, and most laptops now come equipped with 802.11 chipsets as a standard feature, the opportunity to leverage Wi-Fi technology to automatically indentify the location of the individual (with the appropriate permissions) conducting the search for local information is substantial.

Skyhook now has a database of Wi-Fi hotspots in 25 major cities and hope to hit 100 cities by year end. They employ a proprietary scanning technology to "sniff" for Wi-Fi access points and retrieve the base station’s name and unique identifier. Skyhook is in a pilot phase with another company to build a broker layer between A-GPS and Wi-Fi to make the hand off to get a more precise location if either A-GPS or GPS fails to do so. So, the possibility exists that future handsets will employ GPS and Wi-Fi chipsets to aid location determination.

And one final Wi-Fi application is getting traction. Wi-Fi tags are being used to track assets in much the same way that RFID tags are employed. While the RFID tag is better suited for tracking assets inside buildings where RFID readers can be efficiently used, the Wi-Fi tag makes sense for asset tracking over greater distances, where again, more Wi-Fi hotspots are available. So, for tracking the asset across town or across the country, where real-time tracking is necessary, Wi-Fi makes more sense because the networks is more widely available, and certainly will continue to grow. Check out AeroScout’s serices for real-time location services (RTLS).

 


Published Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Written by Joe Francica