Magnetic localisation

There is a need to increase the accuracy, coverage and speed of navigation and tracking systems which currently include GPS, Wi-Fi and radio frequency identification (RFID).

The Oxford invention uses the spatial variation of low frequency magnetic fields to enable a device to identify its location by measuring the magnitude and direction of these fields.

The invention

The Oxford invention uses the spatial variation of magnetic fields to enable a mobile device to identify its location by measuring the magnitude and direction of these fields. It is possible to generate digitally coded magnetic fields using electric powered coils, similar to ‘barcoding’ the magnetic fields. With knowledge of the locations of the sources of these unique fields, the position of the device can be established within a 3D space.

Existing technologies

The vast majority of existing technologies for positioning rely on high frequency radio (RF) waves, e.g. GPS, WiFi, UWB. These suffer from multipath and attenuation in cluttered or non-line of sight environments, preventing good fix accuracy. Alternate techniques such as those based on inertial measurements (e.g. accelerometers) drift, leading to large positioning errors after a few minutes of operation.

Limitations of GPS

GPS is the industry standard for space-based navigation technology, and has brought about a revolution in location services. However, GPS positioning can be unreliable in many situations, particularly when obtaining a satellite fix on a location or if a user is indoors or underground.   Retrieving a fixed location, using GPS, requires a significant amount of energy and it is important to keep energy usage as low as possible in order to preserve battery life. Therefore, an alternative method may be advantageous, even when a good GPS signal is available, if it fulfills a similar role whilst consuming less energy.

Advantages of the Oxford invention

The Oxford invention can be used in large buildings such as shopping malls or museums, underground mines and caves or underwater, or wherever there is poor GPS reception. It can be used in mobile devices for positioning of people, or in industrial settings to position equipment.

Patent status

A patent has been applied for and Oxford University Innovation welcomes interest from companies interested in licensing the technology.

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