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Accuware products and services enable a wide range of location-aware applications in various industries.  Enclosed is the terminology we use throughout our literature to describe these applications.  In alphabetical order:

Accuracy

A locating system’s accuracy is the degree of closeness of a measurement made by that system to the location’s true value.  In other words, high location accuracy means that the location measurement error is low, and the measurement is closer to the actual value.

Note that, though the word precision is often used in colloquial speech as a synonym of accuracy, their meanings are quite different: a measurement system’s precision refers to that system’s ability to produce the same results in multiple measurements regardless of accuracy.

Ambient Signals

Is the set of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio signals that can be sensed throughout a building or site.  Wi-Fi signals emanate from access points, while BLE signals are emitted by BLE beacons.

Ambient-based Locating

Is a technology that relies on ambient signals to locate mobile devices.  The set of uniquely identified Wi-Fi and BLE signals, and their respective strength varies widely in different areas of a site, enabling their use for estimating mobile devices’ locations.  A snapshot of signals (and their strength) at a given location is referred to as a fingerprint.  A database of fingerprints can be built through a process termed fingerprinting.  Later on, a mobile device can generate a local fingerprint at its current position, enabling the device’s location to be estimated by looking up that local fingerprint in the fingerprints database.

Beacon

Is a hardware device that emits radio signals that can be used with a locating system to determine a mobile device’s position or proximity relative to the beacon’s location. See BLE beacon and iBeacon™ for further details.

BLE Beacon

Is a hardware device that emits a radio signal using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology.  See Bluetooth Low Energy. and iBeacon™ for further detail.

BLE

See Bluetooth Low Energy.

Bluetooth 4.0

See Bluetooth Low Energy.

Bluetooth Low Energy

Also referred to as Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth 4.0, and BLE, it is a wireless technology designed to enable production of inexpensive, low-powered devices with a range similar to classic Bluetooth, which can run for months or even years off small batteries.  Bluetooth Low Energy is highly suitable for powering beacons (see BLE beacon, iBeacon™) used to implement location-based services.

Bluetooth Smart

See Bluetooth Low Energy.

Client-side Library

Also referred to as SDK (Software Development Kit), these are platform-specific libraries designed to provide custom mobile apps with access to system resources, such as device location.  Mobile platforms supported include iOS and Android.

Client-side locating

Is the process of determining a device’s location by estimating it at the client, that is, by a mobile app operating in the mobile device using data downloaded from a locating system server.

Fingerprint

Is a snapshot of ambient signals and their strength, taken at a specific location in a site.  See ambient signals for details.

Fingerprinting

The fingerprinting is the process for creating a fingerprints database that can be used to determine mobile devices’ locations throughout a site.

Geofencing

A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. Geofencing is the technique that enables delineating a virtual boundary around an area of interest to trigger actions when mobile devices enter, dwell in, or exit this area.  The virtual boundary can be implemented by locating devices to determine if they are inside or outside the geofenced area. Geofencing may be used with known devices, that is, devices that have been registered with the geofencing system, such as bracelets carried by patients at a hospital.  It may also be used with unknown devices, such as, when alerting that an unauthorized device has entered a secure area.

Global Positioning

Is the process of determining the position or location of a mobile device in urban areas around the world.  Though global positioning is normally accomplished using GPS or assisted GPS, in our context, it means determining a mobile device’s global location in areas where GPS falls short (a.k.a. GPS-denied areas), using as reference the known locations of cell phone towers and Wi-Fi access points instead of GPS satellites.

iBeacon

iBeacon™ is Apple’s trademarked program to provide native support for BLE technology across Apple’s mobile products, such as iPhones.  Though iBeacon™ devices are actually BLE beacons, the significance of the iBeacon™ program lies on the ability of compliant apps to automatically react in the presence of BLE beacons without users’ manual intervention.  In other words, once users have installed the app on their phones and granted the required permissions, there is no need for users to manually open the app for it to act.  Instead, the presence of nearby BLE beacons is automatically detected and conveyed to the app without requiring manual action by the users.  The goal is enabling the smooth implementation of location-based services.

Indoor Location

Refers to the set of technologies used to determine a mobile device’s location or position in areas where GPS is not available (indoor GPS).  It also refers to applications of these technologies.  Indoor location is normally used inside buildings.  In spite of the indoor connotation, these technologies can also be applied in outdoor settings, such as parking lots and garden areas around buildings. Indoor location is implemented using multiple approaches, such as network-based locating, ambient-based locating and visual-based locating. Given that indoor location technologies deliver accuracies ranging from a few meters down to sub-meter rather than the dozens of meters typically delivered by GPS, the term micro-location is often used interchangeably.

Location

A synonym of position, location is the geographic placement of a mobile device expressed by three coordinates: latitude, longitude and level.   Note that level stands for 1st floor, 2nd floor, basement, and so on, and does not refer to a device’s distance off the floor.   Therefore, we sometimes say that a location is expressed in 2-and-a-half dimensions (lat, long, level) rather than 3 dimensions (X, Y and Z).  The vast majority of business applications require only 2-and-1/2 dimensions.

Locating

Is the process of determining the current location of a mobile device.

Locating System

Is a system capable of locating mobile devices, that is, determining their location in a global or local context. Note that using a locating system does not imply that a mobile device requests the device’s location (although it may); only that the device’s location is somehow determined by a system.  The implications of this distinction are:

  • a mobile app may query a locating system to obtain its current position
  • a locating system deployed at a monitored site can automatically determine a device’s current location, with or without the cooperation of, or awareness by the mobile device being located

Locating Technologies

These are used to estimate a mobile device’s location in a global or local context.  See each one for specific details:

Micro Location

It is often used to mean indoor location, emphasizing that mobile devices’ locations can be determined with an accuracy ranging from a few meters down to sub-meter.

Navigation

Is the process by which users move between two geographic points aided by systems that either deliver step-by-step instructions or display routes in a convenient format, such as lines drawn on a map or floor plan, updating the device’s current position as the trip progresses.  Global navigation may be aided by GPS and/or hybrid global positioning technologies, while indoor navigation makes use of indoor location.

Network-based Locating

Is a technique for locating mobile Wi-Fi-enabled devices that relies on detecting the radio signals they emit.  Detection is done by a network of nodes deployed monitoring the site.  Detected signals and their strength enable sensing a device’s proximity and estimating their location by triangulation.

Node

Is a hardware device used for Network-based locatingNodes are Wi-Fi access points that run custom software to perform data collection, reporting their findings to a public or private cloud-based server.  Unlike beacons, nodes may not advertise their presence by broadcasting an identifier.  Nodes are normally set to monitoring mode, though it is possible to use them also as regular access points to provide Wi-Fi service.

People Counting

Is the process of estimating the number of people present in a specific area by counting the number of unique mobile devices active at that site.  The monitored area is roughly defined by a virtual radius surrounding the point of measurement.

Position

A synonym of location, position is the geographic placement of a mobile device expressed by three coordinates: latitude, longitude and level.   Note that level stands for 1st floor, 2nd floor, basement, and so on, and does not refer to a device’s distance off the floor.   Therefore, we sometimes say that a location is expressed in 2-and-a-half dimensions (lat, long, level) rather than 3 dimensions (X, Y and Z).  The vast majority of business applications require only 2-and-a-half dimensions.

Positioning

Is the process that enables a mobile device to obtain its current position or location in a global or local context. In a global context, a mobile device’s position may be determined anywhere around the world either by GPS, assisted GPS or a hybrid system. In a local context, a mobile device’s position may be determined by a system that provides its location in relation to markers whose geo-location is known.  The latter is often referred  to as indoor GPS, though it may be used in outdoor spaces such as garden areas.

Precision

A locating system’s precision refers to the ability of such system to generate the same results in multiple measurements regardless of accuracy.

Note that, though the word precision is often used in colloquial speech as a synonym of accuracy, their meanings are quite different: a measurement system’s accuracy refers to how close a measurement made by that system is to the true value.

Proximity

Closely related to geofencing, proximity is a technique that relies on detecting whether a known device is physically close to the location of a marker or beacon, triggering actions such as downloading media (e.g. in front of an exhibit)  or activating an external system (e.g. opening a door).  The difference between proximity and geofencing is that proximity means being at a close distance from a physical location rather than crossing of a virtual boundary.

Real-time locating system (RTLS)

Is a system capable of locating mobile devices throughout a monitored area in real-time and historically over time.  An RTLS may be implemented using various technologies, such as  network-based locating, which enables mobile device locating and tracking with or without their cooperation.

Server-side locating

Is the process of determining a device’s location by estimating it on the server.  This means that the server receives either

  • a request from a mobile device containing data that depicts the environment the mobile device is in, such as a snapshot of local ambient signals,
  • a data upload from hardware devices (e.g. nodes) deployed throughout a site, which collect identifying information about mobile devices present at the site, such as Wi-Fi MAC addresses and their corresponding signal strengths

Estimation of mobile devices’ locations is done by triangulation.

Site Survey

Is the process of walking around a site, taking successive snapshots of ambient signals to create a database that will enable positioning throughout the site.

Tracking

Is the ability of a system to detect and follow, in real time and over time, the whereabouts of mobile devices throughout an area of interest.  Central to the notion of tracking, as opposed to plain locating, is the fact that the sequence in time of successive device positions can be obtained by a monitoring (or tracking) system operating in the area of interest.

Triangulation

This is a misnomer deeply ingrained in our lexicon: triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points located on a baseline.  In our case, the correct term is trilateration, which is the process of determining the relative location of points by directly measuring distances using the geometry of circles, spheres or triangles.  In indoor location, the position of mobile devices can be determined by collecting radio signals (and their strength) emanating from these devices.  This data is used to estimate devices’ positions by measuring distances relative to the location of known markers, such as nodes, using trilateration.

Wayfinding

Architectural or indoor wayfinding is the spatial problem-solving process of learning where you are in an environment, figuring out where your desired destination is, developing a plan to get there, and executing that plan aided by sensory clues and features such as colors and signage, and/or by handheld navigating systems.  Positioning and navigation are key components of a wayfinding solution.