Microsoft’s Cloud-Offloaded GPS is Fast and Consumes Less Power

GPS is now a popular application in many smartphones and mobile devices. Because such location services consume lot of power, mobile devices quickly drain battery power when used for couple of hours continuously. Microsoft (News - Alert) Research is working on a GPS solution that is expected to slash power consumption in GPS chips used in mobile devices. As a result, it promises to extend the battery life of smartphones and tablets.

MIT (News - Alert) Technology Review reports that Microsoft Research is working on a GPS technology that cuts power requirements by offloading the heavy number crunching to the Cloud called Cloud-Offloaded GPS (CO-GPS). To put this idea into practice, the software giant’s research arm is testing it on a new mobile sensing platform called CLEO.  

According to The Verge, the research group’s findings were recently published in the 10th ACM Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems. Per details provided b the Microsoft paper, the GPS antenna in your smartphone is its biggest energy consumer, completely running down the battery in about six hours if it’s left on constantly. The Microsoft Research team stated that by using CO-GPS, the researchers can theoretically get constant sensing for a year and a half with one measurement per second granularity using just two AA batteries.

The GPS chip in your mobile phone needs to work for 30 seconds to pull down necessary information from satellites and then do the processing to fix your location. In fact, according to the researchers, there’s also heavy signal processing work that needs to be done just to acquire a connection and track the satellites as they move. By simply offloading heavy signal processing to the cloud, researchers have shown that they get an initial fix in just few milliseconds. The researchers claim they can achieve orders of magnitude lower energy consumption per location tagging.

For example, an initial GPS fix on a smartphone with current technology takes about one Joule of energy. Using Microsoft’s CO-GPS technique, the energy consumption is reduced to 0.4 milliJoules — a 99.96 percent improvement.

Microsoft researchers believe that this improvement in efficiency will give rise to new services based on continuous GPS logging. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to further improve efficiency by developing new compression techniques and refining its signal processing algorithms.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli