Technology

Super Accurate GPS Chips For Smartphones Coming Next Year

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in smartphones will be more accurate going forward, according to the IEEE Spectrum, Broadcom is working on a mass-market GPS chip which can determine a device’s accuracy within 30 centimeters or just under one foot.

GPS chips
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Current GPS solutions have an accuracy of up to five meters or up to 16 feet away. This range error is one reason why a phone often can’t tell if its user has taken the highway or is on the off-ramp. Android phones, however, try to enhance location accuracy by collecting data from other components in the smartphone.

An Android user can use the GPS sensor if the location mode is set to Device Only or set it to battery saving mode, in which the device will try to figure out its location based on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the mobile network. There are some Android features which require the user to have the location mode set to High Accuracy so that the phone can use data from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and the mobile network, notes XDA.

However, the new GPS chips will make Android phones even better when it comes to location data. Broadcom stated that the new GPS chips would not go slow even if the device is surrounded by concrete infrastructure. Further, they will consume less power than the current GPS chips.

Broadcom showcased its new GPS chips dubbed BCM47755 at the ION GNSS+ conference in Portland. The company is expected to launch the new GPS chips next year. According to the IEEE Spectrum, the new BCM47755 chip is already slated for use in some smartphones which are due to be released next year. However, there is no information on which smartphones will get the new GPS chips.

Though the term “GPS” is frequently used to mean all types of satellite-based navigation systems, it technically refers to the Global Positioning System developed by the United States government. Thus, the real term for all global systems is GNSS, which includes GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and Europe’s Galileo, notes New Atlas. Reportedly, the new chip will be compatible with them all.

Usually, GPS systems use the signal L1 to broadcast their location. In addition to L1, new GPS systems use the more accurate signal known as L5. Broadcom’s BCM47755 will be the first mass-market chip to use both signals. After connecting with L1, the chip will refine its position with L5, which is less likely to send distorted location data in crowded areas or around other obstacles.

“Further, combining this accurate location with the lane’s traffic pattern gives consumers a significantly better estimate of arrival times. In the same vein, ride hailing applications can be enhanced to more precisely pinpoint driver and client location,” the company said in a statement.

On being asked asking why the L5 signal is being used only now and not before, Manuel del Castillo, associate director of GNSS product marketing at Broadcom, said, “Up to now there haven’t been enough L5 satellites in orbit.”

Currently, there are roughly 30 such satellites, and therefore, now is the right time to launch the tech, says Castillo.