WiFi Alliance launches certification for precise location technology

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Positioning a person or object precisely within a building remains one of the challenges of wireless communication, and can be essential to safety, as well as valuable for marketing services based around hyperlocation. Cellular solutions based on very dense small cells; and specialized technologies like UltraWideBand are among the options, and now the WiFi Alliance has announced a certification program for the WiFi approach to this issue. The Alliance will be certifying products which comply with its WiFi Location specs. These use the ‘time-of-flight’ technique, which is defined in the Fine Timing Measurement (FTM) protocol, part of the latest release of the IEEE 802.11 standards on which WiFi is based. WiFi Location is the commercial brand name for that protocol, and will support meter-level accuracy, according to the Alliance’s VP of marketing, Kevin Robinson. The technology enables access points to provide their global coordinates, combined with a floor number, which will be valuable for emergency services personnel responding to calls from within tall buildings.

This approach is far simpler for end users than those based on altitude above sea level, which are used in GPS and cellular, according to an Alliance white paper about its latest technology. And it is able to cover large spaces more effectively than another popular loca-tion awareness method, Bluetooth beacons. There is privacy protection too – the infrastructure requires user consent to share the lo-cation, and an AP may only request a location and share the results if the mobile device is connected to that same AP. Other applications for WiFi Location include improved indoor navigation services, asset tracking, smart cities, network management, geofencing and hyperlocal marketing, said the organization. The Alliance expects infrastructure providers to start evaluating the technology soon and to ship it in mainstream commercial products from 2018.

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.

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