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Apple patents indoor navigation technology which uses pre-existing wi-fi access points

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Apple logo (in black)Apple has received a patent today for an indoor navigation technology. This patented navigation technology works on already existing wi-fi access points, and does not use mobile data or satellite signals.

As per the patent (Patent no.8,700,060) filed  with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O.), the title of the patent describes this technology as “Determining a location of a mobile device using a location database “. The technology, by accounting multiple factors, can narrow down the location with the help of pre-existing wi-fi access points. The main highlight of the technology being, it can even work on devices with no GPS facility.

The technology works using a location database, which is stored on the mobile and a server. The entire area is divided into certain “geographic grids”. When the mobile device moves and connects to an access point associated with a location that is outside the group of cells, the mobile device can request an update of the location database. The mobile device can calculate a current location of the mobile device using current access points that are within its communication range  by performing a lookup in the location database using identifiers of the current access points. The device can then calculate the current location using the locations corresponding to the current access points in the location database.

Apple patent diagram
Source : U.S. Trademark and Patent Office

The technology’s first requirements, as described in the Patent’s summary, include a location-aware mobile device (e.g. a GPS enabled device). This is device should be located within a communication range of access points of a wireless communication network. A centralised server, then calculates the location of ach pointusing the data it received from the mobile devices. Based on these received locations, the server divides the access points in the form of a geographical grid (as shown above).

As soon as the mobile device connects to a particular access point (whose info. is stored in the server computer), it can then receive the location information of that particular access point, and nearby access point by contacting the server computer.

This patented technology, is similar to the one patented by another indoor GPS firm, WifiSlam, which was acquired by Apple for $20 million in March last year.

This apple patent was filed in January 2010, and the inventor is Ronald K. Huang.


Editor-at-large and co-founder at The Tech Portal. He is a tech enthusiast with interests in new-age technology fields like Ai, Machine Learning, AR/VR, Outer Space and related stuff. Drop him a mail anytime, very reachable.


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