The Location Information Highway

Starts with a Location Engine
By LBx Staff | Published August 20, 2013


Polaris Wireless is a Silicon Valley-based location solutions company that has been driving location technology innovation for the last ten years. Polaris Wireless focuses on network- and software-based location solutions that enable people to be located by their mobile devices. Historically Polaris Wireless has worked with governments and mobile carriers to deploy a network-wide location engine (location platform), called OmniLocate.

The primary customer for these types of systems has been government agencies that are interested in location and tracking for a variety of public safety, emergency response, and national security reasons. Globe Telecom, an innovative wireless operator in the Asia Pacific region, a newly minted Polaris Wireless customer, reflects an expansion in the traditional entry point for Polaris Wireless services. Globe Telecom has deployed the OmniLocate location platform independently of government agencies in order to develop new location- based mobile services to drive average revenue per user (ARPU) and boost market share. We spoke with Bhavin Shah, VP Marketing and Business Development at Polaris Wireless about the role of location infrastructure in building out a location- based economy (in this case, advanced mobile services).

LBx Tell us about OmniLocate.

Shah OmniLocate is the only universal location platform that is able to reliably locate any wireless device within 50 meters, particularly in high-density urban areas and indoors. We started deploying OmniLocate with regional carriers in the U.S. for public safety and emergency response (E911); we have over 25 deployments with these carriers. We expanded outside the U.S. to meet the growing demand for high-accuracy location in emergency services and law enforcement tracking of terrorists and criminals.

figure 1. OmniLocate is the only universal location platform that is able to reliably locate any wireless device within 50 meters, particularly in high-density urban areas and indoors. Graphic courtesy of Polaris Wireless.


Many countries rely on the full capabilities of our OmniLocate platform combined with Altus, our intelligent surveillance application, specifically the unique accurate mass location, which enables them to locate all devices in a particular area in real-time or in a defined time period in the past. OmniLocate and Altus allow the government agency to create geo- fences and track “persons of interest.” For example, every time a person or profile of interest enters or exits a geo-fence (a geographical boundary, for example a one square mile area surrounding a consumer electronics store, or the area within a 200-foot radius around an airline gate) an alert is sent to the Altus user, and (in a consumer LBS scenario) an action such as sending revenues for wireless operators and into superior benefits to consumers and enterprises. There are two main methods of location tracking. Most people are aware of GPS, and Assisted GPS (AGPS) which augments a GPS signal for shorter time to fix, so that a device can be located more quickly (which is vitally important in emergency calling situations and more convenient in LBS applications). But this requires an active chipset on the device, and accuracy is still variable, especially indoors.

The patented method used by Polaris Wireless is called RF Pattern Matching (RFPM), using radio frequency (RF) network measurements. With our technology, any device that is capable of accessing the network is capable of being located. We collect the unique location signatures of every device as they connect to the network. (This is necessary to obtain location, unlike GPS solutions, which obtain location from the GPS chip in the device itself and do not rely on network measurements of any type). Governments that are interested in locating people by their mobile devices look for reliable and accurate measures of tracking.

Relying on GPS is variable because it is often ineffective and inaccurate in dense urban areas, indoors, and can be easily disabled, jammed or spoofed using simple techniques. Wireless carriers are interested in RFPM because it enables them to locate any device (pre-paid or post-paid, smartphone or feature phone) on any air inter- face (e.g. 3G, 4G LTE) and any network, in any environment.

This accuracy complies with the FCC mandate for public safety (E911) and also enables carriers to deploy a wide variety of revenue-enhancing location-based services. 

LBx What are the business or policy drivers for a location engine?

Shah Mission critical applications. Governments and public safety organizations devote significant parts of their budgets towards enhancing public safety and security and saving lives. Once our OmniLocate location platform is deployed in the network for the public safety objectives of governments, the carriers could then use it for consumer location-based services.

Carriers are now interested in better understanding the behaviors of mobile users, primarily because there is a business case for such information from advertisers and retailers. A location engine allows you to understand for example why certain people converge upon a certain location (a geo-fence).

LBx Tell us more about Globe Telecom and why it decided to invest in the OmniLocate solution?

Shah Globe is one of the top two wireless operators in the Philippines in subscriber numbers. There is a growing sophisticated market for wireless services in the country, which is dominated by a heavily prepaid, and basic functionality customer base. Globe is looking to grow...



The complete article is available in the Spring 2013 Digital Edition of LBx Journal.