Association Says Indoor Location Technology Not Ready

May 29, 2014  - By
Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy

Not everyone is talking up the accuracy of indoor positioning. Arlington, Virginia-based Telecommunications Industry Association says the technology, which is seen as the one way location-based services providers will be able to capture consumer interest, is not ready. In other LBS news, AT&T has come out with data pricing for its connected vehicle initiatives.

In a recent FCC filing, the Telecommunications Industry Association said that indoor positioning technology is not sufficiently developed to support ongoing wireless E-911 location accuracy requirements.

While TIA supports the FCC’s goal to improve location accuracy, “Imposing location accuracy mandates at this time would be premature, given the nascent stage of the technology that will be needed to accomplish the Commission’s objectives, and should neither favor nor disfavor specific technologies,” said the association in its filing.

The NPRM proposes a requirement to achieve “rough” indoor location information, TIA said. It proposes to require providers to provide horizontal information for wireless 911 calls that originate indoors, specifically a caller’s location within 50 meters.

TIA also disagrees with an FCC proposal to require mobile operators to provide z-axis, which is vertical location within 3 meters of a caller’s location, for 67 percent and 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls — ranging from three to five years after adoption. Again, TIA says that the technology is not fully developed.

TIA quoted AT&T’s filing: “[The] time [is] right to begin discussing Indoor Location Accuracy for E-911” but the “FCC should be careful to ensure that any proposed rules on location accuracy are aligned with proven capabilities of the current state of technology and they should set realistic accuracy benchmarks that the industry and public safety can embrace.”

The location industry has been counting on indoor positioning, with its beacons and Wi-Fi enhancements, to jump-start a location-based services market that always seems to have tremendous potential, but the numbers don’t back it up. Some big-time analysts have said that while the promise of indoor positioning is huge, it just isn’t there technically yet.

In fact, one analyst said that the biggest technological breakthrough last year was indoor mapping. Such major retailers as Home Depot and Lowes launched indoor maps with product search locators. These same analysts say that indoor Wi-Fi positioning is not accurate enough for macro location.

The big deal coming up is how FCC positioning accuracy regulations will affect beacons or Bluetooth low energy for micro location and proximity services.

TIA said it supports initial FCC location accuracy requirements back to 2007. However, don’t ask TIA for more location regulation. “To date, the development of 911 and E911 location accuracy technologies and applications has been fostered by a voluntary and consensus-based standards process. This process has proven quite successful to date, and the Commission should refrain from imposing regulations that could slow additional development,” the association said.

AT&T Announces Connected Car Pricing

AT&T Mobility said standalone pricing for new LTE-enabled OnStar service will be $5 or $10 per month, depending on whether the driver is an OnStar subscriber. The company said it will allow customers, with a GM LTE-capable vehicle, to add the car as another device for $10 — which is the same price as a tablet.

OnStar subscribers will get coverage ranging from $5 for 200 MB of data per month to $50 for 5 GB. GM is also allowing customers to buy one-time data packages.

At this year’s CES, General Motors announced its first LTE-enabled vehicles — in which AT&T Mobility is powering the LTE network for GM’s OnStar service. The first LTE-enabled vehicles, which will be available this summer, are Impala, Spark, Volt, Orlando, Spark RV, Silverado, Silverado HD, Malibu, Equinox and Corvette Stingray. GM plans to have 30 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles LTE-equipped by the end of the year.

AT&T also made recent deals to provide connectivity for Ericsson Connected Vehicle Cloud which connects to the AT&T Drive platform for automakers.

CEA Hosts CES on the Hill

Members of Congress and their staff had the opportunity to observe location technology during the Consumer Electronics Association’s recent CES on the Hill event in Washington. Exhibiting companies include Origo Safe, distracted driving; AT&T Drive; DashIt; Qualcomm, which showed off a geofencing product around schools; and RideScout.

Washington-based Ridescout is a cool, and free, mobile app that allows a user to find the nearest subway, bus, taxi, bikeshare, sedan service, carshare, pedi-cab or carpool. A user can choose from a list of options by proximity, cost or arrival time.

“We launched in November in Washington, D.C. We are in Austin, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and planning several new markets,” said Steve Carroll, Ridescout vice president of operations.

The app, which is on the iOS and Android platforms, generates revenue by sharing with the ride providers, large organizations and universities and the public transport network, Carroll said.

Some of Ridescout’s partners include Mozio, RidePost, Metro of Washington, Bandwagon, Sidecar, Car2Go, Arlington Transit, Capital Bikeshare, Yellow Cab, DC Circulator and Dash.

RideScout, founded by two Army veterans, was hatched when founder and CEO Joseph Kopser wanted an application to show him the best way to get to work in the Washington area. He could not find one and started the company with Craig Cummings. The company initially launched an alpha product at South by Southwest in 2013.

Though it was the first to combine all modes of transportation in a single application, the company has some competition. Of course this competition is from the 800-pound location gorilla, Google.

Google, with its Google Maps platform, shows the directions to the nearest transportation mode. Now it is incorporating Uber, which is an on-demand transportation provider.

This is not the first time Google has launched a product in an effort to dominate a market place or niche. When it launched Google Maps in 2009, it put the hurt on many companies in the location industry, which underwent a three-year period of consolidation, company closings and layoffs.

About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.