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Jun 17, 2021 10:59:24 AM

5 Things You May Not Know About Skyhook Cellular Positioning

Posted by Oleg Kamenetsky

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As the popularity and number of uses for connected devices proliferates throughout the IoT space, there are increasing complexities and considerations that must be addressed due to a wide range of hardware, software, and network requirements. One component of connected devices and IoT that’s remained constant, however, is the need for reliable positioning

Cell-Based Positioning

Many connected devices have cellular connectivity, regardless of whether they are also built with Wi-Fi radios or GNSS chips. Cellular signals are critical for many functions like network communications, and transmitting device health and sensor information to IoT platforms and device stakeholders, in a power-efficient way. For example, on LPWAN networks, devices are intended to be used over long ranges with minimal signal transmissions, therefore requiring a low-bandwidth connection. Cell-based positioning is also a powerful component of an independent or hybrid location solution when it’s the only source for location or fallback is required, or when devices need to switch to Wi-Fi in areas where the number of access points can provide enhanced results. Whatever the use case, cellular networks often play a role in returning connected device location.

Skyhook's Cellular Network Location Benefits

While Skyhook may be mostly known as a leader in Wi-Fi and hybrid positioning, we’ve also made a number of investments and advancements in cellular location technology. In this blog, you’ll learn five things you may not have known that Skyhook can do with cellular network location.
  1. Achieve global coverage through our location network of more than 200 million cellular towers, including GSM, UMTS, CDMA, LTE, NB-IoT networks with 5G NR positioning capabilities coming soon.
    • This means that mobile phones, small asset trackers, wearable emergency devices, and more can be reliably located anywhere in the world, regardless of what cellular network type is used.
  1. Leverage newly developed positioning methods that include:
    • Multi-cell positioning that uses more than one cellular measurement in the location algorithm, when multiple full cellular IDs are available from the modem.
    • Exact cell matching, which uses the entire cell ID, instead of a partial match.
    • LTE co-base station fallback using co-located LTE and NB-IoT radios.
    • Enhanced cellular ID using network measurement reports (NMRs).
  1. Enhanced accuracy and yield for LPWAN devices.
    • Connected devices operating on LPWAN networks such as LTE Cat-M1 and NB-IoT gain enhanced accuracy results through cellular and/or Wi-Fi network measurements.
    • This helps support location needs while devices roam outside of home networks or when a fallback solution is needed.
  1. Network Measurement Reports (NMRs) for Enhanced Cellular ID Positioning.
    • Performed in the background by the device’s cellular modem, NMRs are power and time measurements for serving and neighboring cells performed for mobility/handover reasons. This feature is also supported as part of Skyhook’s eSIM and SIM applet integration. 
  1. Zero battery impact to devices that use only cellular location.
    • Because cellular measurements are already available from the modem interface due to their use in connectivity and handover, there is no incremental impact to the device battery when using cellular for location.

Connected Device Location Options 

As a method for connected device location, cellular networks have traditionally been seen as inferior to other methods like Wi-Fi and GNSS, and therefore have been used primarily as a fallback location solution as recently as a few years ago. This outlook and reality have changed thanks to a number of advancements and innovations in algorithms used for cellular location measurements, as well as improved cell tower density, which alone helps improve the accuracy and precision of location results.
We’ve helped a number of customers using cellular network measurements for location across industrial asset trackers, on wearable emergency devices, mobile phones, and much more. We’d be happy to discuss your particular use case and help navigate through the positioning methods available to recommend the best solution. Get in touch with us below!
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