5G could make indoor tracking really work

5G could make indoor tracking really work

Qualcomm is demonstrating a very accurate indoor location system, thanks only to 5G and a dose of artificial intelligence.

During the Qualcomm 5G Summit, the American giant was demonstrating its 5G Positioning Evolution system which uses a combination of 5G signal and artificial intelligence to establish the position of an indoor device with an accuracy of 30 centimeters.

Qualcomm demonstrates highly accurate indoor location system

As you may know, indoor localization has been in the works for more than ten years and unfortunately the general public has hardly any truly usable solutions. There are several reasons for this. Most indoor positioning systems need specific infrastructure and use wireless protocols that are not standard.

A direct line of sight between transmitter and receiver can also be lost, resulting in poor accuracy. Finally, the signal can pass through objects like trees that interfere with the signal.

Qualcomm’s approach is in two phases. First of all, the 5G positioning which uses the wireless communication infrastructure, already existing and not installed only for location. It works with your phone (or any 5G device) that beams a 5G signal to nearby 5G hotspots, with a timestamp.

The amount of data transmitted is very low and uses virtually no bandwidth. Each access point receives the signal at a slightly different time. It then becomes possible to triangulate the position of the transmitter. It’s the same principle as GPS, but indoors. An ingenious and practical solution.

Only thanks to 5G and a dose of artificial intelligence

That being said, it is not enough. Unfortunately, the real world is full of problematic situations to say the least, with walls, corners, trees, all obstacles for signals. So many points less for the final precision. And this is precisely what we are looking for in indoor geolocation.

This is where artificial intelligence comes into play. Qualcomm engineers have shown that it is possible to teach a neural network to correct environmental interference with the 5G signal. The learning in question consists of placing QR codes that mark 100% accuracy of positions and using this “ground of truth” to teach the AI.

Engineers then use the approximate 5G positioning as input data to the neural network and compare the results with those of the ground of truth to feed back the incorrect results to the AI ​​until the accuracy of the 5G positioning improves.

In some cases, this precision, from 2.5 m with 5G alone, has dropped to 30 cm, which is quite remarkable. Such precision is absolutely fantastic for general public indoor positioning, and it could obviously be very interesting also for industry and in particular robots.

More and more companies want to deploy private 5G networks for their buildings, this would be a very nice “bonus feature”.

Still, while this demonstration is indeed impressive, we have no idea, at present, when we could possibly use this technology in our daily lives. The good news is that our 5G smartphones already have the necessary hardware.

With the proliferation of 5G infrastructure, the opportunity to install such indoor location will increase. We’ve never been closer to such a simple and accurate indoor positioning system.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.