What are location-based services?

Location-based services (or LBS) provide geographic context for applications such as wayfinding, asset tracking, and marketing campaigns. Wi-Fi location-based services rely on ranging techniques from the access point (AP) to the client device to determine position. For this reason, accurate location-based services rely on accurate placement of APs as the reference points for client measurements.

Location-based Services Explained

Location-based services describe the delivery of applications that are location-aware. Several wireless technologies can be used including:

  • Wi-Fi ranging techniques that are based on 802.11mc (fine time measurement) or Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) method
  • Ultra-wideband (UWB) which operates at very high frequencies and requires an expensive overlay network to deliver centimeter-level accuracy
  • Bluetooth battery-operated beacons that can work with Wi-Fi APs

What are the use cases for location-based services?

Digital modernization is accelerating, driving the creation and expansion of location-aware services like turn-by-turn wayfinding, high-value asset tracking, retail customer engagement, business analytics, and smart office initiatives. Yet organizations are unable to deploy indoor location as widely as they would like or to provide seamless user experiences across indoor and outdoor environments due to the complexity, cost, and level of effort existing solutions require.

What is the market opportunity for location-based services?

Gartner projects the indoor location services market to reach $55 billion revenue by 2030, up from $1.9 billion in 2021 (Gartner, Emerging Technologies: Revenue Opportunity Projection for Indoor Location Services). Much of this growth is driven by the increase in trackable IoT devices. Indoor location services have already been widely adopted for healthcare, retail, hospitality, logistics, industrial, and manufacturing application.

How does indoor location differ from outdoor location?

Outdoor location is able to use GPS measurements because they have clear line of sight. Indoor location cannot rely on GPS. For example, when you use Google Maps on your mobile phone outdoors, it can calculate your location to an accuracy of several meters. However, when you use Google or Apple Maps indoors, the error of measurement is much larger.

For the past 20 years, the industry has been looking at new methods to provide accurate indoor measurements. Wi-Fi location-based measurements can use fine time measurement (FTM) techniques based on the 802.11mc standard (also known as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location) to calculate the round-trip time. The APs must know their precise location so that they can act as reference points for client devices.

What is the role of APs in Wi-Fi location-based services?

APs act as the reference point from which client device measurements are based. Traditionally, IT would manually map APs and position them on hand-drawn, site-specific maps. This introduced error, especially because maps were not updated when APs were moved. The measurements were also typically locked in x-y coordinates that could not be used by standard mapping applications such as Google or Apple Maps. Because of the manual effort required, research shows that only 25% of APs are currently mapped.

Aruba has introduced self-locating APs that automatically calculate their location using a universal reference framework (latitude/longitude). This makes it significantly easier to deploy location-based services at scale.

How do APs overcome the challenge of weak GPS signals indoors?

A mobile GPS receiver like the one you have in your phone will fail indoors. These receivers have been optimized to work well within the limitations of a very dynamic mobile device that must deliver a position quickly and support navigation. The GPS system in APs can be optimized specifically for a stationary indoor use case, where we have time and stability to integrate measurements over long periods of time and to combine measurements taken at different times of day when satellites may be in more favorable positions. Because the APs are deployed together and share their location information, those that have a better view of the sky are able to provide very high-quality assistance to improve the sensitivity of those that are more challenged. Because we have precise knowledge of relative positions from FTM, we are able to combine measurements from different APs and resolve those into individual locations.

Why do Wi-Fi 6E and in the future Wi-Fi 7 require accurate location?

Low Power Indoor (LPI) devices are already approved for use in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E and in the future Wi-Fi 7 but for higher frequencies, regulators require that incumbent users of the spectrum are protected. Automate Frequency Coordination services, such as Federated Wireless’s, rely on location determination to protect incumbents and unlock the additional 1200 MHz of spectrum in countries that follow the US FCC model (500 MHz in many European countries). This additional capacity in the 6 GHz band delivers greater speed, supports higher densities, and unlocks new use cases such as high-definition video and virtual reality.

What 802.11mc?

802.11mc is an IEEE definition for Wi-Fi which includes a ranging technology known as FTM. Unlike previous ranging technologies that were based on signal strength (RSSI), FTM uses round trip time to deliver higher levels of accuracy. Signal strength provides ~10-meter accuracy compared to 1–2-meter accuracy for FTM, dependent on the accuracy of the AP reference point placement. The Wi-Fi Alliance has created a vendor certification known as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Location® for solutions that demonstrate 802.11mc functionality. Aruba is the only enterprise AP vendor to acheive Wi-Fi Location certification.

What is 802.11az?

802.11az is an IEEE amendment, also known as the next generation positioning standard. Recently finalized, it enables absolution and relative positioning of client devices using FTM at the same high-level of accuracy as ultra-wide band (UWB) techniques of less than 1 meter without the extensive overlay deployment.

What is Open Locate?

Open Locate is an industry-wide initiative to standardize how APs share their reference locations with the ecosystem, over-the-air and via cloud-based APIs. This enables mobile devices to locate themselves and to support location and analytics applications such as workplace utilization, space analytics, geofencing, and wayfinding services. Devices that lack support for FTM can also participate; they can calculate ranges using the nearest AP using signal strength ranging via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios that are built into the APs. Aruba is working in conjunction with IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance and ecosystem vendors such as Google, Samsung, Zebra, and Tile to formalize Open Locate.

What are the different types of location-based services?

Comparison of Wi-Fi ocation-based services techniques
 Relative Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI)Angle of Arrival (AoA)Ultra-wide Band (UWB)FTM(802.11mc/802.11az)
DescriptionThe oldest and least accurate method to estimate distanceBLE combined with signal strength method to improve poor accuracyLocation is determined based on high-frequency, close range measurementsLocation is determined based on highly granular, round-trip measurement times
LimitationsSignal is impacted by building and environmental materials, thereby reducing accuracyRequires custom RF hardwareOverlay deployment with high effort, high costWi-Fi APs must support FTM
Level of accuracy10 metersUnknownSeveral centimeters1-2 meters to several centimeters

Benefits of Wi-Fi location-based services

Wi-Fi location-based services accelerate the deployment of wayfinding, asset tracking, proximity marketing, and other services ― without costly overlays. Aruba’s Wi-Fi indoor location-based services deliver:

  • Greater IT efficiency: Leverages existing Wi-Fi footprint and Aruba’s self-locating APs to automatically place access points on maps, thereby saving weeks or even months of IT effort.
  • Automatic updates: Aruba’s APs update their location after add/moves/changes so they can act as highly accurate reference points for client measurements.
  • Ease of integration with standard mapping apps: Uses the universal reference framework of latitude and longitude, which is easily consumed by Google, Apple, and Bing Maps.
  • High-precision client location: Precise location data is beaconed over Wi-Fi or BLE frames to client devices using Open Locate and FTM.

Location-based services with Aruba

Aruba access points support FTM and have achieved Wi-Fi Alliance certification.

Wi-Fi GenerationAP Series
Wi-Fi 6E650 Series Campus*
Wi-Fi 6E630 Series Campus*
Wi-Fi 6E610 Series Campus*
Wi-Fi 6580 Series Outdoor*
Wi-Fi 6550 Series Campus
Wi-Fi 6530 Series Campus
Wi-Fi 6510 Series Campus
Wi-Fi 6500 Series Campus
Wi-Fi 6500H Series Remote

* GPS enabled

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