During the Qualcomm 5G Summit, the company presented the evolution of 5G Positioningwhich combines the use of 5G signals and Artificial Intelligence to obtain the positioning of a device with precision of 30 centimeters.
Internal positioning has been in the works for more than a decade, but it still hasn’t taken off.
There are several reasons for this. Most indoor positioning systems require dedicated infrastructure and use non-standard wireless protocols.
Qualcomm’s approach to 5G positioning is twofold. In the first place, 5G positioning uses wireless communication infrastructure. It’s already there and not just installed for location services.
It works by having your phone (or some other 5G device) send a very simple 5G signal to nearby 5G hotspots with a timestamp. The amount of data transmitted is negligible and uses virtually no bandwidth.
Each access point receives the signal at a slightly different time and from there it is possible to triangulate the position of the transmitter. It’s the same principle as the GPS system, but indoors.
However, it is not enough. unfortunately, the real world is full of situations where walls, corners, trees, etc. they can obfuscate the signal. All these things can make the accuracy up to 8 meters which is very inaccurate for many use cases.
That’s where AI comes to the rescue. Qualcomm engineers have shown that it is possible to train a neural network to correct environmental interference in the 5G signal.
The training consists of placing QR codes that precisely mark 100% of the exact positions and using this “field truth” to train the AI. Engineers then use the approximate 5G positioning as inputs to the neural network and compare it to data from the field truth to feed back the wrong results until AI fails to improve 5G positioning accuracy.
It works. There are cases where the positioning accuracy has reached 30 centimeters, which is a remarkable result.
This accuracy is more than sufficient for consumer-grade indoor positioning, but is also usable for industrial robotics. As more and more companies want to deploy private 5G networks at their premises, this is a great “extra feature” that comes with a 5G infrastructure.
While this is a very convincing proof of concept, we don’t know when we will be able to use this feature in our daily lives. The good news is that our 5G phones already have the necessary hardware. As 5G deployments become denser, the opportunity for indoor location services will increase.