Apple has been granted a new patent for a system that enables a smartphone to change seamlessly from GPS signals to wireless networks when moving from outside to inside buildings, in order to plot your location more quickly and accurately.
This could help with existing plans for Apple Maps, which will soon let you navigate inside a building. The new patent describes a system that will let an iPhone establish whether it is inside or outside — or going between the two — without the user doing anything at all, AppleInsider reports.
When you’re using maps outside, an iPhone determines its location from GPS satellite signals. But GPS signals can be weak or non-existent in some places, in which case your smartphone must figure out its location by detecting wireless access point signals, the patent explains.
However, it can take many seconds for a phone to determine if GPS signals are available. But with the patented system, the iPhone would be able to switch seamlessly from a weakening GPS signal to wireless access points as you move into a building, so you can keep navigating. There’s no time lost. This could also work the other way round as you moved out of a building.
This image from the patent shows a portable device moving out of a building:
The patent calls this process moving from a venue-independent state (outside, where mapping data comes from GPS) to a venue-specific state (inside a building, where mapping data comes from a wireless network or Bluetooth):
In an example provided in the patent, the phone could display the floor plan of a shopping mall that includes store names when located indoors, and automatically switch to a street map when the you move outside.
AppleInsider points out that while the patent doesn’t mention them specifically, it looks like the system could also rely on bluetooth-enabled iBeacons to provide and verify location data when inside a building. As an iPhone receives a bluetooth signal from an iBeacon, the iBeacon can figure out exactly where that person is, and make sure the indoor map accurately reflects the spaces where people would walk.
Apple has already been gathering indoor mapping data using tiny robots equipped with iBeacons.
The system would also be able to tell when you are moving between floors in an elevator, which might mean it will be able to switch between maps of different floors in a building. The iPhone would sense changes in barometric pressure, and match that with other data from an gyroscope, hygrometer, microphone, accelerometer or light sensors, the AppleInsider report added.
The patent was originally filed in December and credits Lukas M. Marti, Robert Mayor, and Shannon M. Ma.
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