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Is the Growing Importance of a Wi-Fi Positioning System Making GPS Redundant?

By Steven Scheck | Small Business

Is the Growing Importance of a Wi Fi Positioning System Making GPS Redundant? image WiFiIs the Growing Importance of a Wi Fi Positioning System Making GPS Redundant?

Traditional LAN-based internet connection is a thing of the past now. Hardly anyone these days pays for wired connection. On-the-go internet has become widely popular and, as a result, network providers are offering speedy wireless connection.

What is the biggest advantage of Wi-Fi connection?

Wi-Fi enables you to connect to the World Wide Web from any place that has wireless network coverage. All you need is a portable machine; could be a PC or a Smartphone/Tablet and you are good to go.

Wi-Fi Positioning System

Wi-Fi positioning system or WPS is relatively new. The crux of WPS is WAPs or wireless access points. Access points are like nodes; they connect wireless devices. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous these days. Airports, hotels, restaurants and libraries — are all offering it. They know customers might want to browse the web while taking a sip in the coffee or checking the latest arrivals in the library’s online catalog.

Some commercial providers are even allowing customers to access public hotspot via specific routers. Wi-Fi hotspots, in actuality, are public applications of access points. WAPs are to extend the reach of the connection. Corporate enterprises purchase several WAPs and then funnel the connection to the local area network in the office through wires.

Signals from wireless access points are first received and then their intensity is measured. The WAPs are located by their SSID and MAC address. As new positions are added to the database, the accuracy of geolocation technique increases.

Vulnerabilities of GPS

As Wi-Fi Positioning System is gaining popularity, GPS is losing it. In fact, WPS is used on many occasions as a credible alternative to GPS. Even though GPS is still regarded as the gold standard for location tracking, it has too many shortcomings too. Here’s a look at some of the major setbacks faced:

  • Satellite Geometry – If all the satellites from which the receiver is receiving signals are in the same direction, poor satellite geometry will be the outcome. It prevents the GPS from providing accurate position reading to the receiver.
  • Multipath - When a radio signal bounces off a mountain steeple or a building, it takes longer to be intercepted by the GPS receiver. The GPS receiver, as a result, couldn’t pinpoint the satellite’s location.
  • Delay in Propagation - The speed of radio signals slows down when they enter the earth’s atmosphere and move through ionosphere and troposphere, resulting propagation delay.

Why WPS has the Upper Hand?

Indoor tracking is the most useful aspect of WI-Fi Positioning System. A triangulation of satellites is being used by GPS. For tracking something indoor or inside a dense forest where the sky isn’t open, GPS is hardly of any use. Wireless positioning system could come really handy in situations like this.

Besides, the number of people who use handheld devices is skyrocketing with each passing day. Subsequently, Wi-Fi apps are plenty in number. For watching movies, streaming audio, transferring images from digital camera and sharing files with a PC, a user needs Wi-Fi. Because Wi-Fi has multifaceted usage, more access points are being set up. This, in turn, translates to better positioning.

It is, therefore, clear that WPS is more accurate for localization than GPS and indispensable for indoor tracking. Hence, WPS enjoys the upper hand over GPS.

Why is GPS Still Needed?

For the same reason it was needed before. GPS is used these days for:

  • Weather forecasting
  • Preventing car theft
  • Rescuing survivors of a natural calamity
  • For the military

Navigation and target tracking are two most important aspects of GPS for the military. The US Armed Forces use GPS-enabled digital assistant system for better navigation. Weapons like ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles use GPS to track targets on ground and in the air.

Many next-generation weapons that are still in the pipeline require GPS. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, precision-guided munitions, cruise missiles, and others depend on the signals sent by the GPS. Not only the long-range weapons, their short-range counterparts like artillery projectiles also have embedded GPS for guidance. Reconnaissance could be better carried out with GPS. Nuclear detonation detection is pretty much incomplete without GPS satellites.

Henceforth, GPS has specific usage, which WPS can never replace.

Managed Network with GPS and WPS

Some commercial providers combined their WPS clients with GPS location abilities. Their aim was to exploit the vast database of WPS. The stat figures pointing out the comprehensiveness of one such provider’s WPS database are pretty astonishing. The mapped access points in the US covered nearly 70% of the total population in 2007. The number of APs in the database is no less than 15 million. And this is just one provider.

The reason one would rely on WPS despite the availability of satellite support is downtime. GPS-enabled handheld devices take time to triangulate a position. The localization techniques of WPS, on the other hand, accurately locate a place, an object, or a person in less time.

Is Hybrid Positioning the Future?

It seems so. Not only because an amalgam of WPS and GPS tracks something better and ensures uptime, but also because in the future, Wi-Fi Positioning System may become so advanced that it would require just any wireless signal to function.

From a user’s point of view, it doesn’t matter whether it’s WPS or GPS or hybrid, as long as it serves better. And hybrid systems will serve them best.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Is the Growing Importance of a Wi-Fi Positioning System Making GPS Redundant?

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