Location services used to mean one thing: applications that leveraged GPS and other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to fix your location and then… do stuff with that information. Of course, GPS isn’t reliable indoors, so there were holes in the system, but, for its time, it was pretty spiffy.
Meanwhile, in a separate corner of the technology world, MEMS hit high gear, and inertial sensors allowed some indoor navigation (better with expensive chips; so-so with commercial grade; greatly enhanced by good sensor fusion). As we’ve seen, the two work together, each standing in where the other was weak, and bolstered by the use of indoor networks like WiFi and Bluetooth as further triangulation tools.
But, despite their mutual affinity, GNSS and inertial systems remained distinct. One talks to satellites; the other uses MEMS. It was up to systems integrators to bring them together.
Well, it looks like that’s changed. Broadcom has announced a combo GNSS/sensor hub chip. Yes, it’s not just an inertial system; it’s a more generic sensor hub. But the obvious application is to plug in some accelerometers and gyros, perhaps augmented by a magnetometer, and get them dancing with the GPS.
Of course, part of the story is power reduction, afforded by the microcontroller in the sensor hub as it offloads a phone application processor, but that’s the case for any hub. What’s different here is that GNSS becomes, in essence, just another sensor. Which is kind of what it is, right? A satellite sensor?
They can also do indoor network triangulation… Think of it as a WiFi (et al) sensor.
You can get more details in their announcement.
Image courtesy Broadcom