Cell Phones Will Bridge GPS Gaps

Cell Phones Will Bridge GPS Gaps

Pictured is Anastasios Mourikis, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Riverside.

Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers fail to function in many areas, whether they happen to be indoors, underwater, or in space. At the University of California, Riverside, Anastasios Mourikisan assistant professor of electrical engineering has received a three-year, $447,000 grant to develop techniques to navigate such areas (see photo). Mourikis plans to focus on cellular phones because of their large number of users. Most phones also have a camera, which can be used for finding one's location when GPS is not available.

Navigation without GPS on large-scale systems, such as autonomous ground vehicles, has been extensively studied in the robotics research community over the last few years. strong solutions have been developed as a result. Yet those solutions typically require large and costly computers and sensors. They also use a lot of battery power. In addition, their algorithms can't be used on small-scale devices. If they were put on a cell phone, those algorithms would drain the battery very quickly.

Mourikis will develop algorithms that optimally use the phone's inexpensive cameras, computing power, and limited battery life. He plans to implement the algorithms using open-source software, which will be made available online for users to install. This will allow the power of "crowd-sourcing" to test the methods in a large number of situations. It also should accelerate the technology's adoption.

At the end of the three-year grant, Mourikis hopes to have a cellular-phone application that can provide accurate position information in areas where GPS is not available. His work will be used for indoor navigation by visually impaired people. It also will be utilized by emergency responders in a burning building or collapsed mine and by law enforcement and military personnel doing small-scale drone surveillance.

In addition, the software will be instrumental for connecting with K through 12th grade students at local outreach events. Mourikis will collaborate with the Bourns College of Engineering's Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program. This science and engineering outreach program serves 19 area schools, helping hundreds of educationally disadvantaged students to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes.

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