Wednesday, June 5, 2024

GPS-Enabled Automatic Access Point Placement

The Challenge of Indoor Navigation
Unlike outdoor environments, where GPS technology excels in providing precise location data, indoor spaces pose significant challenges. Traditional GPS signals struggle to penetrate buildings, leading to inaccuracies and poor performance. This has long been a hurdle for implementing efficient wireless networks in large, multi-level indoor spaces. The need for strategic placement of wireless access points (APs) to ensure optimal coverage and connectivity adds another layer of complexity. Achieving even 3 meters of location accuracy indoors has been accomplished with various methods of calibrating the wireless infrastructure or adding in Bluetooth beacons or Ultra Wide Band technology.

Once upon a time, you had to do pirouettes with your laptop in hopes of creating a calibration fingerprint for the wireless environment if you were attempting to get a semblance of location accuracy. See examples: LINK

Demand for indoor navigation has existed but has not always been feasible. Attempts at achieving indoor location awareness have been in place since the early 2000’s. From sprawling malls, hotels, to complex hospital layouts, the ability to accurately pinpoint locations and ensure robust wireless coverage indoors has been achieved in the past with a multitude of overlay networks. Things are finally changing. The latest innovation in this arena is GPS-enabled automatic access point placement, a cutting-edge development spearheaded by leading wireless hardware vendors. I heard about this in great detail at Mobility Field Day 11!
Recent advancements have enabled the integration of GPS technology with indoor positioning systems (IPS). Now GPS-enabled access points can auto place themselves on building floor plans. The management system still needs the scale set on the building floor plan and a few known locations to be defined for the GPS-enabled access points to auto-place their neighboring access points on the building floor plan. 

Currently, the Cisco automatic access point placement gives the end user the ability to rotate the access point layout to align with the boundaries of the building layouts within Cisco Catalyst Center. This video from Mobility Field Day 11 features Dave Benham from Cisco Systems explaining how this feature works
How It Works
1. GPS Integration: The access points have a GPS chip in it which helps each AP (access points) that can “hear” other access points figure out where they are in relation to each other.
2. Barometric Pressure Sensors: Some access point vendors can even place access points on the correct floor level of the building floor plan by utilizing the data detected by the barometric pressure sensor in the access point. Less barometric pressure is equated to being on a higher floor.
3. Accelerometer Sensor: This sensor can detect the angle at which the access point is physically installed. Ceilings inside buildings may not always be horizontal to the floor elevation, and this angle of installation (when known to the wireless infrastructure) will aide in accurate calculations in the wireless infrastructure system's location tracking algorithms.
4. Automatic Placement Algorithms: Leveraging AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning, the system analyzes the digital map and the gathered location data to determine the most likely accurate placement of access points.
5. Deployment and Adjustment: Once the likely locations are identified, the access points are auto-placed on the digital floor plan within the wireless management system.
Leading wireless hardware vendors are integrating GPS-enabled automatic AP placement into their product offerings, providing businesses with advanced tools to enhance their wireless infrastructures’ location awareness.
The integration of GPS-enabled automatic access point placement on digital maps is a big deal for indoor navigation and context awareness. No more pirouettes!

As more wireless hardware vendors incorporate support for 802.11mc, further advancements in the accuracy of indoor location will become possible. 

802.11mc (Wi-Fi Round Trip Time) is an IEEE standard that enables devices to measure the distance to nearby Wi-Fi access points. This high-precision synchronization between peers and round-trip time calculation (Wi-Fi RTT (Round Trip Time)) for location estimation typically results in a reported location accuracy within one to two meters. Wi-Fi RTT has the potential to become a mainstream sub-meter-level indoor positioning technology as more vendors and client devices enable support for this functionality.

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