University research uses smartphones for precision GNSS

September 17, 2018  - By
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New research conducted at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and published in the August issue of Journal of Geodesy demonstrate that it is possible to achieve centimeter(cm)-level precise positioning on a smartphone.

The research, conducted in collaboration with Curtin University, Australia, combined signals from four different GNSS, according to Otago’s Dr. Robert Odolinski and Curtin University colleague Prof. Peter Teunissen.

“It’s all down to the mathematics we applied to make the most of the relatively low-cost technology smartphones use to receive GNSS signals, combining data from American, Chinese, Japanese and European GNSS. We believe this new capability will revolutionize applications that require cm-level positioning,” Odolinski says.

He said to understand the new technology, a look back at the historical scientific context is needed.

Precise centimeter-level positioning on a smartphone during 24 hours in Dunedin, New Zealand. Blue dots show repeatability of one epoch data in comparison to precise benchmark coordinates. The repeatability is more or less the size of a one-dollar New Zealand coin (diameter of 2.3 cm) in all three dimensions. (Image: University of Otago)

Precise centimeter-level positioning on a smartphone during 24 hours in Dunedin, New Zealand. Blue dots show repeatability of one epoch data in comparison to precise benchmark coordinates. The repeatability is more or less the size of a one-dollar New Zealand coin (diameter of 2.3 cm) in all three dimensions. (Image: University of Otago)

“For decades, construction, engineering, cadastral surveying and earthquake monitoring have relied on high-cost, dual-frequency GPS positioning to obtain centimeter-level location information. The challenge is that GPS signals, traveling from Earth-orbiting satellites to receivers on the ground, are disrupted along the way, and this generates errors and limiting precision.

“The traditional solution is to combine GPS signals sent at two different frequencies to improve the positions, but the antennas and receivers required have been expensive, far beyond the reach of many who would benefit from the technology,” Odolinski said.

The new approach uses only one of two frequencies but collects data from more satellites for a multi-constellation GNSS solution. The extra data and algorithms are used to improve the positions without adding cost.

Odolinski and Teunissen have shown that this approach can work in smartphones, producing competitive results compared to dual-frequency GPS solutions (see figure).

Odolinski believes that countries and industries of all sizes can benefit from using smartphones as GNSS receivers, and is confident commercial application and development will spring from this research.

“This significant reduction in costs when using smartphones can increase the number of receivers that can be deployed, which will revolutionize a range of disciplines requiring centimeter-level positioning, including precise car navigation, surveying and geophysics (deformation monitoring), to name a few.”

Read the full research paper.

Robert Odolinski configuries a smartphone to collect multi-GNSS data. (Photo: University of Otago)

Robert Odolinski configuries a smartphone to collect multi-GNSS data. (Photo: University of Otago)

About the Author:


Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006, and also is editor of GPS World’s sister website, Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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