New Part Day: Indoor Location Systems

GPS is an enabling technology that does far more than the designers ever dreamed. If you want a quadcopter to fly to a waypoint, GPS does that. If you want directions on your phone, GPS does that. No one in the 70s or 80s could have dreamed this would be possible.

GPS, however, doesn’t work too well indoors. This is a problem, because we really don’t know what is possible if we can track an object to within 10cm indoors. Now there’s a module that does just that. It’s the decaWave DWM1000.

This module uses an 802.15 radio to track objects to within just a few centimeters of precision. It does this by sending time stamps to and from a set of base stations, or ‘anchors’. The module is also a small, and relatively high bandwidth (110kbps) radio for sensors and Internet of Things things makes it a very interesting part.

Some of the potential for this module is obvious: inventory management, and finding the remote and/or car keys. Like a lot of new technology, the most interesting applications are the ones no one has thought of yet. There are undoubtedly a lot of applications of this tech; just about every ball used in sports is bigger than 10cm, and if ESPN ever wanted even more cool visuals, just put one inside.

If you’d like to try out this module, decaWave has an eval kit available through distributors for about $600. Somehow, there’s also a Kickstarter for a board that uses the same module, Arduino compatible, of course.

Thanks [Roy] for the tip.

Location Tracking? ‘Droid Does


Last week, the Internet was alight with stories of iPhone location tracking. While this wasn’t exactly breaking news in security circles, it was new information to many people out there. Lots of blogs were full of commentary on the situation, including ours, with many Android users chiming in saying, “Android doesn’t do that”.

Well, that’s not entirely true – the playing field is far more level than most people would like to admit.

Android does have the same tracking capability, as do Windows Mobile phones for that matter. Both companies also monitor the cell towers you have connected to, as well as which Wi-Fi hotspots you have passed by. All three companies anonymize the data, though they do assign a unique ID to your location details in order to tell you apart from other users.

Where things really differ is in regards to how much information is stored. Microsoft claims that they only store the most recent location entry, while Andriod systems store the 200 most recent Wi-Fi hotspot locations as well as the most recent 50 cell towers.

At the end of the day each vendor does allow you to opt out of the tracking services, and if you are seriously concerned about the data they are tracking, you can always periodically wipe the information from your handset, should you desire.

[Image via TheTelecomBlog]