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Last week Rivada Networks was granted a Japanese patent, covering its enhanced Location-Based Services (LBS), to add to its patents in the US, Canada, South Korea, Australia and Russia. Rivada’s eLBS offers up to a five-fold increase in location accuracy in “GPS-stressed environments” by using a combination of sensor fusion and, where available, ad hoc mesh networks between nearby devices to pinpoint the location of a mobile device.

LBSs have been widely used in outdoor environments for navigation services in cars, airplanes and smartphones, where GPS allows a user to identify their coordinates on a map with an accuracy of approximately 10m. This fact, combined with the system’s poor performance indoors (due to no line of sight with the satellites) and its high toll on battery life, render it unsuitable for use within indoor settings.

Location Based Services

In smart buildings due to their connected-indoor nature, it is of primary importance to locate the user in order to enable the interaction with other interconnected systems. By doing so, the location of the user can be used to provide a wide range of novel services.

For Rivada, the unprecedented level of accuracy facilitates a range of innovative location-based services on mobile devices. “Rivada’s eLBS will improve everything from location data for ride-sharing services or driverless cars to contextual advertising” and more, according to Rivada CEO Declan Ganley. “We’re delighted that patent protection for eLBS has now been extended to Japan”.

Rivada’s eLBS technology provides a degree of accuracy that was previously impossible without a strong GPS signal and ideal conditions. eLBS uses a patented algorithm for location finding combined with the ability to create a mesh network among local devices to triangulate from. Rivada’s latest development of that technology feeds that same mesh-networking information back into the network equipment itself. “So a handset can help tell a transmitter where it is”, based on the handset’s best estimate of its location.

Without this technology, shared access systems such as the one being tested in the FCC’s “Innovation Band” rely on manual entry of location information for network infrastructure. Manual entry can lead to simple data-entry errors, but is also only as good as the position of the fix of the person entering the data. What’s more, it can easily become outdated if small cells or other transmitters are moved. Rivada’s latest generation of eLBS eliminates these problems by allowing equipment to report their own location automatically, based in part on information about the locations of handsets using that very transmitter.

“Traditionally, we located phones based on where we knew the cell tower was,” Smith explains. “Thanks to our latest innovation, we can locate the cell site based on where we know the phone to be”. Rivada has filed its 11th eLBS-related U.S. patent application to cover the invention. “As the industry moves toward more shared spectrum access, distributed antenna systems and small cells, pinpointing the location of those base stations and transmission points has become more important than ever”.

While Rivada are doing new and innovative things in the indoor LBS space, the space itself is not so new. In 2013 Qualcomm released ‘Gimbal’ that uses the recent iBeacon protocol by Apple. Similarly Estimote in 2014 released a combination of Beacons and an SDK that can be used to develop micro-location applications. Several other large tech firms have been moving towards this direction like Google and Cisco, as the IoT market begins to expand, equipping smart buildings that can enhance geo-location.

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“The opportunity for indoor location is beyond just the obvious, `Hey, I’m giving you promotions’”, said Dan Ryan, CEO of Boston-based LBS software firm ByteLight, acquired by market leading lighting solutions provider Acuity Brands. “It is going to be an enabling technology for applications and services that we couldn’t even conceive, in the same vein as GPS. Nobody predicted Uber when GPS first came out. Indoor location is going to be just as transformational”

However, Ryan said this in early 2014, and while there have been some developments in LBS in the past two years, there have been no obvious signs of an Uber level development. One growing area of LBS, according to Richard Morrison, technical director at AECOM, revolves around location-based services, which indicate where people are located within buildings at a given time and allow for the optimisation of air-conditioning and lighting control according to this information.

“I think we will really see location-based services take hold where we are heating, cooling or lighting facilities based around where people are”, Morrison said, a view in line with our report on the Transformation of BAS into the Building Internet of Things. “I think the trend where people want technology-based solutions will continue, and they will be happy to use their mobile to notify the building of where they are” he said.