The CTC Technology Centre is developing an enabling technology to incorporate more precise positioning solutions into mobile phones. Its integration into smartphones, combined with the rapid evolution of this market, is expected to multiply the range of services based on geolocation in the short term, from augmented reality services for outdoor environments to navigation aid applications for the visually impaired. All this with an accuracy of less than one metre and a reduced investment.
CTC’s work in this area is the core of the APPUNTA project (Solution for Precise Location Applications in Mobile Terminals). An initiative financed within the “Support for R&D Projects 2018” call of the SODERCAN I+C=+C programme, with a budget of over 175,000 euros.
With an execution period of 24 months, this research will allow the development of new applications based on high precision positioning. In this sense, the Navigation and Robotics Systems team at CTC has developed GNSS Precise Point Positioning algorithms, whose integration into mobile phones will open the door to a location solution with almost professional quality for many users. This enabling technology offers new possibilities to disciplines in full expansion such as augmented reality, big data, the Internet of things, smart cities or mobile health—understood as the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices. It will also generate high value-added services for consolidated sectors such as surveying, navigation, logistics and transport.
This project allows CTC to further expand its knowledge in navigation systems and maintain its specialisation at the level of European benchmark centres and companies.
The rapid evolution experienced by applications operating with data from the Global Navigation Satellite System, GNSS, is one of the determining factors of this innovative project. GNSS receivers have been integrated into all the smartphones of the market for a few years now given their miniaturisation and high computational capacity. Applications such as turn-by-turn navigation, information and entertainment apps or social media use location data to optimise their performance.
However, until 2018, the technological solutions incorporated into mobiles did not make the full potential of GNSS profitable, partly because they could not exploit information from several frequencies or all the satellite constellations covered by the system (GPS, GALILEO or GLONASS, among others).
The consolidation of satellite constellations such as GALILEO, with which CTC has been working for several years, and the emergence of multi-frequency devices have brought the precision of mid-high range mobiles into line with that offered by professional mid-low range systems. Progress has been very rapid in a short time, so projects like APPUNTA are expected to help bridge the gap.
The projects to improve the quality of the positioning of various devices are by no means new to the researchers at the CTC Technology Centre. The team led by María Campo-Cossío has worked on multiple initiatives to maximise the performance offered by the European Galileo satellite to optimise location services.
The autonomous location and navigation subsystems installed in the GreenPatrol robot are one of the most recent cases. The technologies implemented in this robotic solution, whose main objective is to optimise the integrated pest control in greenhouses autonomously, enables determining where the prototype is located inside the greenhouses with a margin of error of only 20 centimetres.
The difference in accuracy is mainly due to the limitations of the mobile phone hardware compared to that used in this European project led by the Cantabrian Centre. While GreenPatrol operates based on a high-performance antenna and receiver, APPUNTA works with the range offered by a smartphone’s receiver and antenna. This is why, in one case, positions are obtained with centimetre accuracy and, in the other, work is underway to reduce the margin of error to less than one metre.