9. Bluetooth beacons
Very precise location can be achieved in a specific area, such as inside a retail store, using beacons that send out signals via Bluetooth. The beacons, smaller than a cellphone, are placed every few meters and can communicate with any mobile device equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, the newest version of the standard. Using a technique similar to Wi-Fi fingerprinting, the venue owner can use signals from this dense network of transmitters to identify locations within the space, Broadcom's Abraham said. Nokia, which is participating in a live in-store trial of Bluetooth beacons, says the system can determine location to within 10 centimeters. With location sensing that specific, a store could tell when you were close to a specific product on a shelf and offer a promotion, according to Nokia.
10. Terrestrial transmitters
Australian startup Locata is trying to overcome GPS' limitations by bringing it down to Earth. The company makes location transmitters that use the same principle as GPS but are mounted on buildings and cell towers. Because they are stationary and provide a much stronger signal to receivers than satellites do from space, Locata's radios can pinpoint a user's location almost instantly to as close as 2 inches, according to Locata CEO Nunzio Gambale. Locata networks are also more reliable than GPS, he said. The company's receivers currently cost about $2,500 and are drawing interest from transportation, defense and public safety customers, but within a few years the technology could be an inexpensive add-on to phones, according to Gambale. Then, service providers will be its biggest customers, he said. Another company in this field, NextNav, is building a network using licensed spectrum that it says can cover 93 percent of the U.S. population. NextNav's transmitters will be deployed in a ring around each city and take advantage of the long range of its 900MHz spectrum, said Chris Gates, vice president of strategy and development.