GPS accuracy improved to within 3 feet, researchers claim

Researchers at a Spanish university say they've developed a system that can improve GPS precision in urban environments to 3.5 to 6.5 feet, an amazing breakthrough when you consider that some devices can be off by as much as 160 feet because of interference from a variety of objects.

The prototype developed by the researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid combines information from a conventional global positioning system signal with data from other sensors, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes.

GPS information is supplemented with data from an inertial measurement unit, which collects velocity and maneuvering info with three accelerometers and three gyroscopes.

The data from the devices is continuously sent to a computer running a program that merges the data and corrects the errors in the geographic coordinates.

“This software is based on an architecture that uses context information and a powerful algorithm -- called Unscented Kalman Filter -- that eliminates the instantaneous deviations caused by the degradation of the signals received by the GPS receiver or the total or partial loss of the satellites," Enrique Martí, a researcher working on the project, said in a statement.

The prototype developed by the researchers can be installed in any type of vehicle. Accurate location information in urban areas is particularly important to the researchers, who are using the location tech in the development of a smart car.

Their ultimate goal is to capture and interpret all of the information processed by a driver when that person is behind the wheel of a vehicle.

In addition to their super GPS unit, the researchers’ intelligent car also has optical cameras, infrared sensors and laser beams to gather data on road positioning, pedestrian awareness, traffic signal behavior and even driver alertness.

Moving their GPS system to a smartphone is the next step for the researchers, whose work is a joint project of the Applied Artificial Intelligence Group and the Systems Intelligence Laboratory at the university.

“We are now starting to work on the integration of this data fusion system into a mobile telephone," Martí noted, “so that it can integrate all of the measurements that come from its sensors in order to obtain the same result that we have now, but at an even much lower cost, since it is something that almost everyone can carry around in his pocket."

Although the Spanish researchers have chosen to tweak conventional GPS signals to improve their accuracy in challenging conditions, others are looking into GPS alternatives to obtain accurate location information.

Finnish researchers have created an indoor location system using the Earth's magnetic field.

Researchers in Finland, for example, have developed an indoor positioning system that uses the Earth's magnetic field to pinpoint location.

Meanwhile, an Australian company has been experimenting with a tower system for urban environments that its developers claim is accurate to seven inches of true location.

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