Modern smartphones are laden with many sensors and radios, such as networking radios (encompassing 2G, 3G and 4G LTE, plus 802.11 Wi-Fi radios), very short range communications radios (typically NFC or HotKnot), personal area networking radio (typically Bluetooth), positioning sensors (GPS, GLONASS), consumer-grade Infrared, gravity, barometer, compass, temperature, and ambient light to name but a few. One of the reasons for this abundance of sensor technology is because modern smartphones are simple more capable than they were several years ago, although there is an element of the chicken and the egg here: what came first, the sensors or the need for a sensor? However, regardless of the technology packed into a given device, if a particular sensor is unable to sense what it is designed to do, it will not work. The Wi-Fi radio on our device is useless where there is no Wi-Fi radio, and for the positioning GPS and GLONASS radios, if these are unable to receive a signal from four or more orbiting satellites, they are not useful.
Today, an announcement from InvenSense, a major sensor partner, has highlighted the importance of positioning and location technology. InvenSense have announced that they are supplying Huawei’s HiSilicon with the InvenSense Positioning Library (IPL), which is described as a “software sensor-assisted positioning technology.” The InvenSense technology is licensed and built into the HiSilicon Kirin 950 System-on-Chip in order to help devices know their location even when the sensor suite is unable to obtain a lock onto the necessary number of satellites. The Huawei Mate 8 is the first smartphone to benefit from this partnership, and InvenSense and Huawei will work together in order to improve the technology going forwards.
In the detail, the InvenSense Positioning Library takes sensor inputs from the device gyroscope, accelerometer magnetometer and barometric pressure sensors to generate a software inertial navigation system (or INS), which in turn is used to “dead reckon” the device location through changes in direction or speed. Less sophisticated location sensor suits still perform an element of dead reckoning but are unable to cope with changes in direction or speed. Eitan Medina, vice president marketing and product management at InvenSense, said this on the subject: “Today’s consumers are increasingly using smartphones for turn-by-turn navigation in vehicles, creating a strong need for a higher quality user experience that decreases the occurrence of confusing or stressful re-routes and GPS lost signal messages. We are pleased that HiSilicon, a market leader in end-to-end chipsets and solutions, has chosen our IPL technology for integration into its mobile platforms.”