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Summary:

What if virtually every cellular handset on the planet enjoyed accurate location awareness? That’s the question I pondered after meeting with GloPos, a startup that’s about to leave stealth mode whose self-learning software algorithm enables any basic GSM or CDMA cellular phone to provide extremely precise […]

glopos-logoWhat if virtually every cellular handset on the planet enjoyed accurate location awareness? That’s the question I pondered after meeting with GloPos, a startup that’s about to leave stealth mode whose self-learning software algorithm enables any basic GSM or CDMA cellular phone to provide extremely precise locational data without using GPS — or even Wi-Fi, for that matter. The patent-pending technology offers positioning to within 1-40 meters, including indoor and underground locations.

Think about it — your old RAZR from 2005 suddenly gains precise location awareness that rivals or beats the location fixes from a high-end smartphone of 2009. With near-global handset support, and no additional radios required, GloPos could effectively commoditize location.

Location fixes by cellular triangulation are nothing new, of course, but they’ve never been as accurate as GPS. Until now. GloPos’ “secret sauce” is in its location algorithm, which sends small amounts of data — as little as 100Kb — from a standard phone to a server that returns a precise location within milliseconds.

GloPos is run by Mikael Vainio and Alexander Le Bell, who together have more than two decades of mobile experience with Nokia and Ericsson. They founded GloPos in March of this year by spinning it off from 4TS, a Finland-based company that offers location and sensor technologies for the logistics and shipping industries. 4TS is a major shareholder of GloPos, but the company is funded by an angel investor. Vainio and Le Bell currently outsource technical support and R&D to 4TS; they plan to expand the executive team within weeks.

GloPos has an placeholder web site up, but details of its location solution won’t be live there until next week. After that launches, we should hear more about the company’s business model plans. Its technology has obvious advertising possibilities, or it could be that GloPos licenses it to carriers and handset makers. Or perhaps it will offer the service to consumers directly. That possibility — and the fact that I met with Vainio and Le Bell in San Francisco, aka the unofficial iPhone capital — led me to ask about getting their software onto that device. After all, any software in the App Store goes through Apple’s direct and/or AT&T’s indirect scrutiny.

While Vainio sees an opportunity there, iPhone sales are a drop in the bucket when compared to the global handset market as a whole. Remember, there’s no need to have GPS or Wi-Fi radios for the GloPos solution, so practically any and every handset can leverage it. Still, he hasn’t lost sight of the iPhone platform. “There are over 2,500 location-based apps in the App Store,” he noted, so if GloPos could make an inroad with the platform, every one of those apps could leverage the more accurate position fix using nothing more than than a device’s cellular radio.

We already know that location-based systems are the future. But while some think the way to get there is by adding radios to new hardware, the team at GloPos believes it’s by combining intelligent software with legacy handsets. They may be right.


This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

  1. The problem is no longer location – it’s the service it attaches to. There’s free software out there that allows your mobile browser to send location and device data to any web server on the planet (no need to code a mobile app) all you need is a script to read the incoming data.

    So now you have the data – what service do you deliver back?

    Also one other question – do they encrypt the location data they send to their servers?

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    1. GloPos is a technology that enables indoor positioning on any phone, it’s not a service nor an app.

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  2. “its location algorithm, which sends small amounts of data — as little as 100Kb — from a standard phone to a server”

    So, that 2005 RAZR has a 3G data plan?Anyone on a pay as you go plan would see their bill shoot up dramatically. For example, VZW hits you with a $1.99 charge per MB, and they don’t round down. How many times per day would GloPos be phoning home?

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    1. Yes the dependency is a connection, but the actual data is less than 0,1kb =100 bytes per position. So for example, turn-by-turn navigation could be used for a whole day with less than one megabyte of data

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  3. So the dependencies are “an internet connection” (fine as we’re all going to have one soon).

    Next question – can it go to any server or is it just their servers?

    Plus what format is it in? NEMA?

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  4. Huxley and Orwell must be spinning in their graves.

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  5. Alex,

    >> it’s not a service nor an app.

    Then what is it?

    What format is the data in?

    Does the data go to GloPos servers or can you send it anywhere ie… to any web server?

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  6. [...] technology offers positioning to within 1-40 meters, including indoor and underground locations. GigaOm Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)SlingPlayer Mobile 1.1 for iPhone picks up App [...]

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  7. Is there some reason why the phone with this capability cannot phone the server / home to impart this location information? No internet connection is required.

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  8. >> Is there some reason why the phone with this capability cannot phone the server / home to impart this location information? No internet connection is required.<<

    Let's say it does. What do you do with the data? Does it have as much "value" if you cannot communicate back to the individual on the phone. Essentially it becomes a tracking device and I suspect will be difficult to monetize especially when everyone is now connecting to the Internet via their phones and there's free software out there that can send location to any web server.

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  9. [...] here and find new ways to leverage navigation solutions. With that in mind, Point Inside and others like GloPos are going where the big boys don’t yet tread — in fact, Point Inside is actively [...]

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