Future GPS Chip Will Be Accurate Within Centimeters

September 25, 2017 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Broadcom has announced that it is working on a GPS chip that is able to work with a new type of GPS satellite to achieve accuracy on the order of about 30 centimeters. The powerful new chip is already in the sampling phase, which means that it’s almost ready for mass marketing, and has been dubbed BCM47755. In testing thus far, it has not only proven vastly more powerful than existing chips, but it actually uses half the electricity of most current systems, and is able to work through concrete surfaces and between buildings. The new chip is reportedly so close to being ready for mass production that it’s actually set to be included in some smartphones that will be coming out in 2018, though the semiconductor company is not saying which models.

These new chips can utilize a new type of GPS data signal given off by the newer satellites. Older satellites, all the way back to the first generation of GPS satellites, all use what’s called L1, a signal type that includes data on the GPS satellite’s location, the current time, and a unique identifier that tells the GPS equipment on the ground which satellite it’s getting data from. L5 signal, used by the newer satellites, includes a bit more information. This more complicated, unique, and powerful signal is given off not in lieu of, but in addition to L1 signal, allowing the new satellites to transmit to legacy equipment. Broadcom’s new BCM47755 chip uses both, utilizing the L1 signal to get a base location, then refining that data for a more precise location using L5 signals. 

L5 signals, which are more accurate and less prone to interruption, are already being used in some commercial applications. Construction, gas and oil, and other fields often call for a more precise set of location data than can be supplied by current consumer equipment. Satellites equipped with L5 are in wide use, but are thus far not in the consumer market. Broadcom’s new chip will be a first on two fronts; not only will it be the very first consumer equipment to use L5 signals, but it will be the first use of equipment with L5 signals in smartphones, consumer or otherwise.