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Taking GPS Indoors: Is Improved Tracking Capability Coming?

Anyone who loves electronic gadgets has probably identified a discrepancy in the way GPS and smartphones function. GPS is a wonderful thing. It can tell you where you’re going when traveling to the beach or trying to find the right building for a job interview. Just put on your GPS shade hood, turn on the device and you’re ready to navigate streets, highways and back roads. The problem is that once you step inside, you’re on your own.

Smartphones, on the other hand, seem quite capable of receiving signal when under a roof and surrounded by four walls. That’s because GPS utilizes satellites that are too weak to penetrate structures. That’s also why we sometimes experience dead zones when driving near mountains, in valleys or near other signal-blocking land features. Once you step indoors, the GPS receiver won’t be able to lock on to the signal because it is further weakened by walls.


IS GPS Going Indoors?

Manufacturers are doing what they can to allow GPS to function inside. Some have developed receivers that are more sensitive. These can work – with a good antenna – but are far from perfect. Another solution is to equip GPS receivers with a satellite orbit and clock that utilizes the mobile network. This works better, but is still lacking in terms of reliability.


GPS World’s authors created an article discussing this issue as well as tests they personally conducted using a number of possible solutions. Their conclusion is that while we’re not quite at the point of accurate positioning indoors, improvements and the possibility of a multi-system approach are steadily pushing the technology in the right direction to get us there.

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