Wifi Positioning for Indoor Tracking

WiFi Positioning Systems for Indoor Tracking

Accurately tracking assets indoors is a recurring pain-point in the telematics industry. GPS/GLONASS signals have trouble penetrating buildings; and when the device does not have a direct line to these signals, it malfunctions.

So, how do you manage indoor assets or assets that are frequently on the move between indoors and out?

WiFi Positioning Systems (WPS)

Two of our devices (The Yabby WiFi and The Falcon) feature WiFi Sniffing modules to track assets inside warehouses, factories, garages, basements, and other buildings where even the best GPS just doesn’t work.

So how does WiFi positioning work?

  • The WiFi Sniffing module on these devices scans for all WiFi access points in the vicinity.
  • The device does not actually connect to the WiFi networks, it simply explores which networks (access points) are available around it, and measures signal intensity
  • We also send the Cell ID of the tower that the device is connected to assist in the position algorithm.
  • This information is then used to triangulate a position – Easy!

WiFi vs GPS

  • GPS is more accurate but generally battles to get a fix indoors.
  • WiFi is great to get a location even when indoors.
  • WiFi is lower power – it only takes the device a few seconds to scan for WiFi access points, whereas GPS can take 30 seconds or longer for a cold start (we use GPS aiding data to speed this up, but GPS still uses more power on average).
  • WiFi will not get an accurate location if the device can’t find WiFi access points. So, if it is in a remote location, then positioning will be limited.

What about Accuracy?

The accuracy of WiFi Positioning is impressive, especially in urban areas with a lot of WiFi access points. Expect accuracy between 10m to 40m in most locations.

Devices with WiFi Positioning

The Yabby

The Yabby is our tiny, battery-powered tracking device, available with either a GPS/GLONASS module (Yabby3) for primarily outdoor tracking applications or WiFi Sniffing (Yabby WiFi) for indoor localization. Given the device’s compact size, The Yabby is perfect for tracking smaller assets as the device can be concealed easily.

The Falcon

The Falcon GPS + Sensor features both a WiFi Sniffing and GPS/GLONASS module, which allows for a combination of GPS and WiFi tracking for managing assets practically anywhere – indoors or out. If the Falcon can’t get a GPS fix in a certain amount of time, it switches to WiFi Sniffing to conserve power. The amount of time it waits to switch to WiFi can also be configured by users. The Falcon is a larger, more advanced tracking device, with multiple inputs, outputs, an I2C interface, and can be hard-wired of battery-powered to meet almost any tracking application.

When to Use WiFi Positioning?

When indoors, traditional GPS devices will struggle to get a fix, which uses a substantial amount of power. This becomes a serious problem if the GPS is also battery-powered. Devices with WiFi sniffing modules will use less power when tracking assets indoors or tracking assets that frequently travel between indoors and out, such as:

  • Delivery Vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Refrigerated Trucks
  • Stock / Inventory on Palettes
  • Parcels
  • Beer Kegs
  • Bikes
  • And much more!

When Not to Use WiFi Positioning?

WiFi positioning isn’t needed when your asset has a strong GPS signal, and it does not work well in remote areas where there aren’t nearby WiFi networks. Substantial data charges can arise if the device is constantly failing to locate any nearby WiFi networks.

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