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HP Location Aware - featuring HP Labs’ indoor location technology


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


HP this week launched HP Location Aware, an indoor location application powered by technology developed by HP Labs. Location Aware can pinpoint your location to within approximately two meters – a major improvement on existing solutions.


Souvik-Sen_Web-2.jpg“The technology grew out of an HP Labs research program that sought to make finding locations inside a building via Wi-Fi as easy and affordable as using GPS outdoors,” said lead HP researcher Souvik Sen. “GPS won’t work inside, but nearly every office, airport, stadium, or mall these days has Wi-Fi, and 85% of cell phone users leave their Wi-Fi capability switched on, so it was an ideal technology to work with.”


Fast set-up, maintenance-free


It’s an idea that others have tried. “But all other Wi-Fi-based indoor location solutions require extensive set up and constantly need to be manually recalibrated to account for things like furniture being moved,” explains Sen. “That’s made them very expensive to install and maintain, and has been a real barrier to widespread adoption of the technology.”


The HP solution, in contrast, takes less than ten minutes to set up and recalibrates itself every second – without losing any accuracy in pinpointing where people are. It’s also five times more accurate than other solutions – pinpointing where you are within approximately 2 meters.


It does this by automatically ‘learning’ the environment in which it is deployed and then using a set of filters to remove signals that aren’t relevant to calculating the location of a specific Wi-Fi user.


The major research challenge, says Sen, lay in devising algorithms that could filter out those environment-related effects. “Wi-Fi signals go in all directions and then get reflected by every surface in that environment,” he observes. “The trick is to be able to both predict what those reflections will be and then distinguish them from the one signal you are interested in locating.” 


A host of uses


The technology can do much more than just help people figure out where they are inside a building.


For one thing, it enables rich location-based analytics. A proof of concept developed by the HP Labs team, demonstrates how retailers could use the technology to see how customers move through their stores – a capability of interest to any facility owner or designer that needs to think about route planning.


The technology also enables a variety of new or improved enterprise tools in areas such as asset tracking and security management. “Anything that has a Wi-Fi chip on it, like a printer, you can track,” notes Sen. “This would also let you get rid of security badges – people could just be validated through their smartphones. And you could even tie location to security, creating an application where people can only access certain secure content once they are inside a specific building.”


Additionally, HP Location Aware opens up new opportunities in network management. Presently, when a Wi-Fi network starts malfunctioning, it’s very hard to figure out where the problem is located. “You basically have to go out each time and do a physical site survey,” says Sen. “Here, the network administrator can instantly see exactly where in the network their problem is located. That’s a huge deal.”


Finally, Sen suggests, the technology supports and enriches existing location-related technologies – such as beacons – that rely on Wi-Fi detection to work. “You can augment this technology with all the other ones that are already out there,” he says. “It promises to make everything else that is sensor or beacon based much, much better.”


Announced at Interop Las Vegas 2014, HP Location Aware will be integrated into the HP Virtual Application Networks (VAN) SDN controller and promises to help businesses generate both efficiencies and new revenue streams from their wireless LAN infrastructure.


Watch HP Labs researcher Souvik Sen explain CUPID, the HP Labs technology built into HP Location Aware, in this video:





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This is really amazing!

Great innovation Souvik.Congrats.

Absolutely great piece of work and very much spot on. This is innovation at it's best; demand meets solution. I plan on discussing this with my client in two weeks from now and hope to convince them to work with HP in operationalizing this in their next generation ticketing solutions. Keep it up!

Interesting use of existing technology to get results. Very Impressive. Great work.

 Looks very cool. Smiley Happy