March 12, 2014, 1:10 PM — By combining location data gathered using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, German upstart Locoslab wants to improve the accuracy of indoor positioning, while at the same time implementing privacy features to assuage any fears users have.
The company is taking part in the Code_n startup contest at the Cebit trade show in Hanover. The indoor location services market has been getting a lot of attention lately, thanks to technologies such as Apple's iBeacon. But even though many heavyweights are entering the sector, Locoslab CEO Marcus Handte is convinced it can compete.
The company was founded at the end of 2012 as a spin-off of the University of Duisburg-Essen and is based in Bonn.
"We had been working on in indoor localization from a research perspective, the algorithms and models you need, for several years and then at some point we decided that the science was done and we should be able to create a product," which is what the company now has done, Handte said.
The company's system uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals from mobile devices to locate users. Using the two wireless technologies instead of choosing one means Locoslab's system can improve precision in some cases and increase the number of devices it can locate.
Older Android-based smartphones don't have the Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) technology used for indoor localization and on Apple devices developers like Locoslab can't use Wi-Fi because Apple doesn't allow access to the necessary API, according to Handte. Therefore both technologies are needed. However, on newer Android smartphones it can use Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi at the same time, he said.
The company has seen interest from logistics companies that want to keep track of their equipment; airports and airlines that want to help travellers find their gate, and shopping malls. The system can also give users information about their current surroundings and help them find friends and family more easily.
An advantage of Locoslab's system is that it can be quickly calibrated to work in a new environment. The company thinks this part of the system is so valuable it has applied for a patent. Calibrating a new system in less than 30 minutes is no problem, which also means it can be set up in a temporary environment, according to Handte.
Privacy immediately becomes a big issue when people are being tracked, but all the systems Locoslab are selling are opt-in and users have to install an app for it to work. The company also operates the central system, which lets it ensure that data is being anonymized, Handte said.
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