Californian startup PathSense has come up with an alternative solution to GPS that provides accurate geolocation data while consuming much less smartphone battery power.

[DEMO] PathSense competes with GPS by saving up the smartphone's battery

Winner of a ‘DEMO God’ award in the mobile category at the DEMO Fall 2014 conference which took place in San Jose, California on 18-20 November, PathSense has developed a geolocation system that is similar to GPS functionality but is much less of a drain on your smartphone battery. The Carlsbad, California-based startup has now made the solution available to the many thousands of app developers who use geolocation functionality, announced serial tech innovator and PathSense founder Pete Tenereillo. With the recent surge in context-based advertising and marketing, consumers are increasingly making use of their smartphone geolocation functionality. However, a seemingly perennial problem is the rapid drain on the battery, which limits how a given app can be used and for how long.

In 2007, Tenereillo founded Trapster, a navigation social networking mobile application and website, which enabled drivers to share information on the roads and traffic, especially the location of speed traps, surveillance cameras and police speed checkpoints etc, similar to route guide Waze. Trapster was subsequently acquired by NAVTEQ, a Chicago-based provider of GIS data and base electronic navigable maps, which is today owned by Nokia. Pete Tenereillo, who is widely regarded as a pioneer in navigation technologies, has spent the last two years working with his team to develop the PathSense solution and patent the technology.

Superseding GPS technology?

The PathSense solution combines a range of location techniques. It is based on inertial navigation, sensor fusion linked to algorithms for predictive routing, plus a proprietary ‘machine learning’ engine. Modern smartphones incorporate a range of sensors which transmit location data. This data is placed in context by means of inertial navigation, which tracks the movement of the vehicle in which you are riding from its speed and acceleration. PathSense technology claims to be even more accurate than GPS in more remote areas where satellites are less efficient or in dense urban areas where tunnels and large buildings frequently block signals.

Researchers at the Carlos III University in Madrid had already been working with sensor fusion so as to develop their GPS-alternative, dubbed the Unscented Kalman Filter. Meanwhile Australian firm LocataCorp has moved away from the use of orbiting GPS satellites and turned to terrestrial radio signals in order to optimise data transmission and achieve greater accuracy in geolocation both outside and indoors.

Easy-to-use solution for developers

However battery consumption has hitherto been the main drawback when using smartphone apps. And when the app is not open, geolocation cannot function on a continual basis. In fact a common syndrome is that users frequently delete apps because they consume too much power. The PathSense team reckon they have gone a long way towards solving this problem. Using the patented new technology-plus-algorithm, an app will rapidly detect the user’s precise location, and the phone battery will drain 90% less than when you use GPS, claims Tenereillo.

PathSense therefore reckons it has come up with the ideal solution for app developers working with geolocation functionality, increasing their options for monetising their apps. The team has now created a Software Development Kit (SDK) for developers working on apps for iOS and Android to beta-test. “A few lines of code and you’re on your way!”, boasts the website.

In revolutionising navigation and geolocation in this way, PathSense is opening up a potentially limitless number of possibilities for brand-based apps. After successful beta testing, Tenereillo is looking to make the new approach available based on a freemium model, i.e. a free-of-charge basic product coupled with more advanced location functionality, such as predictive routing, as a paid-for service.

By Eliane HONG