Navigating the Great Indoors

The smartphone industry is gearing up to get you around when out of sight of GPS satellites

3 min read
STMicroelectronics and others want smartphones to get you around in malls and other indoor spaces.
Image: STMicroelectronics

Google, dumped by Apple as the iPhone’s default navigation app, is doing more than chortling at Apple’s well-documented mapping troubles. It’s fighting back with more navigation features, many likely intended for use indoors. And a number of major mobile device makers and cellphone service providers have teamed up to develop a standard for indoor navigation, an effort that neither Google nor Apple is part of. 

Indoor navigation technology is going to be quite a bit different from its outdoor counterpart. Outdoors, navigation relies for the most part on GPS, whose accuracy ranges from 1 to 10 meters. Indoors, because of attenuation and scattering, GPS falls apart. And even outdoors, GPS is vertically challenged; it’s about one-third as accurate at pinpointing your elevation as it is at telling where you are on the ground. In other words, even if you do get a signal inside, it’s unlikely that GPS will have any idea whether you’re trying to navigate the first, second, or third floor of your local shopping mall. 

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How Nanotech Can Foil Counterfeiters

These tiny mechanical ID tags are unclonable, cheap, and invisible

10 min read
University of Florida

What's the largest criminal enterprise in the world? Narcotics? Gambling? Human trafficking?

Nope. The biggest racket is the production and trade of counterfeit goods, which is expected to exceed US $1 trillion next year. You've probably suffered from it more than once yourself, purchasing on Amazon or eBay what you thought was a brand-name item only to discover that it was an inferior-quality counterfeit.

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