A Wi-Fi based positioning system

An important tool where GPS doesn't work

Global positioning system (GPS) technology is accepted as a dominant tool for establishing location, although it takes considerable time to do its job. The accuracy of GPS also decreases in closed or underground spaces, where satellite beams are hard to receive; sometimes, it won’t work at all.

PlaceEngine is an alternative, designed to establish positions by using MAC addresses, transmitted from a multitude of unspecified Wi-Fi access points, and other reception information, such as field intensity. Thus, the engine is capable of locating any object in any place, down to the specific floor in a building. PlaceEngine also has the ability to store reception data in a digital camera photo, and, based on that data, determine where the photo was taken.

A user-controlled positioning database

Deducing where photos were taken requires a database that tells which Wi-Fi access point was detected—and where. With PlaceEngine, the database updates every time users retrieve a position or register. This increases the corresponding areas and improves the accuracy of the deduction. Simply put, PlaceEngine acts as a user-participatory infrastructure for positioning data.

Compatible with other approaches,
widening the scope of use

PlaceEngine’s positioning accuracy depends on Wi-Fi reception data about the place users are seeking, or the situation of the database. It has an allowance of 5-100 m. Positioning is impossible for an area with no access points nearby but by combining it with GPS and other systems, it becomes possible to deduce the positions of users wherever they are. PlaceEngine was first proposed by Jun Rekimoto, head of Sony CSL-Interaction Laboratory, as part of his research on real-world interface. He was joined by Takahiko Sueyoshi and Atsushi Shinozaki, both of Sony CSL and currently with Koozyt. The PlaceEngine technology, now licensed to Koozyt, has materialized in a raft of applications.

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