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Tufts boffins track device location without GPS or towers

Because everybody wants better tracking, right?

Tufts University boffins believe the combination of 5G and the Internet of Things will make it impossible for networks to track the expected tens of billions of connected devices.

Their answer, proposed in this week's Proceedings of the IEEE, is an algorithm that places less importance on anchors like base stations or GPS satellites, and instead distributes location-gathering among devices.

The problem with those anchors, the researchers explain, is that the number of anchors needed will get out of hand: “such centralised positioning solutions may become unwieldy as the number of users and devices continues to grow without limit in sight”, they say in the abstract of the paper.

Their “cooperative linear distributed iterative solution”, they wrote, only needs local measurements, communication, and computation at each agent.

Lawyer warned FCC of Securus phone-tracking risks 10 months ago


The paper, by Usman Khan, Sam Safavi, Soummya Kar and José Moura, proposes that location be determined by way of device-to-device communication, meaning it can happen indoors, underground, underwater or under heavy cloud – all of which can defeat GPS-based location.

Rather than use computationally-costly nonlinear calculations for position, the Kahn algorithm uses “a linear model that quickly and reliably converges on the accurate position of the device”, the university explained.

The announcement went on to say that devices measure their location “relative to each other, or a point representing the 'centre of mass' of neighbouring devices”, instead of each individually getting its position from stationary anchors.

Offloading positioning to the devices makes it feasible to track large numbers of devices in real time.

And, of course, everybody implementing this will remember user privacy this time around. Right? ®


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