Magnetic Fields Used to Accurately Pinpoint Smartphone User’s Position

A Finnish firm has developed a program that uses the earth’s magnetic field to locate a smartphone and its user to a degree of accuracy never seen before.

The technology, developed by software engineers at IndoorAtlas, is capable of pinpointing a device’s position to within 0.1 metres by reading fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic fields. Rather than employing the GPS technology found in many smartphones, the new software uses a device’s internal compass to measure tiny magnetic signals, meaning an internet connection not needed for it to work.

Suggested uses for the technology include helping people to navigate around large spaces such as airports, and delivering targeted advertising and promotions in shopping centres.

Janne Haverinen, the project’s leader, told tech magazine Wired: “Each building, floor and corridor creates a distinct magnetic field disturbance that can be measured to identify a location and generate a map.

“Until now, it has been necessary to install Wi-Fi networks or other beacons inside buildings for location-based services.

“With our software, however, mobile apps can locate a mobile phone user in the building by utilising nature’s infrastructure, the Earth’s magnetic field”.

Various tech companies such as Intel and Ericsson have been developing services that can pinpoint a user’s position using methods more accurate than those currently available but all have so far required an internet connection.

IndoorAtlas’ unusual approach is unique and although a final version has not yet been made publically available, the firm has released software licenses it hopes will be picked up by other developers for commercial use.

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