Low-power GPS chips to make smartphones smarter

GPS chip in smartphones

All of you who have ever used satellite-based GPS navigation system on your Smartphone know exactly how much of your phone’s precious battery is consumed by the onboard navigation chip to let you know where exactly are you on the earth’s map. A Microsoft research project now aims to reduce the power consumed by GPS chips, while still managing to provide precise navigation. The GPS chips will not only extend the battery life of smartphones and tablet computers, but also allow the integration of GPS chips to more devices.

The reason why GPS chips drain batteries is that they normally at least 30 seconds just to get a fix on a satellite from where the data will be produced, further the chip has to process complex codes to calculate the position. To reduce the power consumption, the research team at Microsoft offloaded some of the work to the cloud. The new system collects just a few milliseconds of the most crucial information from satellites and combines that with other information from public databases to calculate the location, while saving a lot of power.

The approach, dubbed cloud-offloaded GPS, is used in a system called CLEO (Cultivating the Long tail in Environmental Observations). The team anticipates that the CLEO can perform continuous GPS sensing for about 18 months using just two AA batteries. Since the CLEO consumes far less power than what a conventional GPS chip onboard your smartphone does, it can be kept turned on continuously and can make your smartphones even smarter by giving you access to a new variety of GPS based services.

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