‘SuperGPS’ technology accurately identifies your position within centimeters: ScienceAlert

Many of us rely on GPS (Global Positioning System) to estimate travel times, find our way to new places, avoid traffic jams, keep track of children, and generally avoid getting lost.

But it’s not always the most reliable system, especially in built-up areas where it’s difficult to get a direct line of sight to and from a satellite.

Now, researchers have developed new and improved technology that could eventually replace GPS in some scenarios. Called SuperGPS, it’s accurate to within 10 centimeters (or 3.9 inches) and doesn’t rely on satellite navigation systems.

The new approach uses networks similar to cellular networks, but instead of streaming data to our phones, the network gets an accurate solution to the device.

A combination of radio transmitters and fiber optic networks form the basis of the system, with a few more clever tweaks.

“We realized that with a few cutting-edge innovations, the telecommunications network could be transformed into a highly accurate, GPS-independent alternative positioning system,” says physicist Jeroen Koelemeij from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

“We have succeeded and have successfully developed a system that can provide connectivity just like existing mobile and Wi-Fi networks, as well as precise positioning and time distribution like GPS.”

In a test site with six radio transmitters, the researchers were able to demonstrate their system in action over an area of ​​660 square meters (7,104 square feet). The timings of transmitted radio signals can be measured and interpreted to gauge distance, which then reveals the position of individual devices.

One of the key components of the new network positioning system is a synchronized atomic clock: perfect synchronization means more precise positioning. Essentially, fiber optic cables act as connections that keep everything in sync and accurate to billionths of a second.

SuperGPS system
The SuperGPS system combines transmitters, receivers, a data center and a synchronized atomic clock. (Delft University of Technology)

The system also deploys a much larger than normal radio signal bandwidth – although radio spectrum bandwidth is expensive due to its scarcity, the team used multiple low-bandwidth radio signals combined to form a band greater virtual bandwidth for network communication.

This extra bandwidth overcomes one of the biggest problems with standard GPS, which is that radio signals are reflected off buildings and can quickly become confusing.

“This can make GPS unreliable in urban settings, for example, which is a problem if we ever want to use automated vehicles,” says electrical engineer Christiaan Tiberiusfrom Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

In addition to automated vehicles, the new system could be useful in planning quantum communication networks and next-generation networks for mobile devices, according to the researchers who developed it.

While Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including GPS, certainly have their uses and will continue to do so for a long time to come, experts are continually researching ways to improve and refine it.

Further testing will be needed to establish that it is a real alternative to GPS. The proposed network-based system would also take time to set up, although its transmission protocols and hardware are already in use. Current mobile and Wi-Fi masts might at least be suitable for the job, the researchers say.

“This work provides a glimpse of a future in which telecommunications networks will provide not only connectivity, but also GNSS-independent timing and positioning services with unprecedented accuracy and reliability,” the researchers say in their published article.

The research has been published in Nature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *