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Wi-Fi Technology and Efficient Geolocation

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As technology evolves and continues to play an increasingly important role in our lives, Wi-Fi capabilities have become an essential part of the modern supply chain. In order to effectively manage your supply chain operations, you need to be able to rely on accurate and up-to-date information. Geolocation services using Wi-Fi signals can provide this information, making it easier than ever before to optimize your supply chain processes.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how Wi-Fi technology and geolocation can help improve your supply chain operations.

Wi-Fi positioning taps into wireless local area networks (WLANs), which are networks of devices that connect to a specific radio frequency, usually 2.4GHz or 5.0GHz. The device then transfers data over radio waves for a range of up to a hundred meters, which means Wi-Fi can cover indoor and outdoor sites.

To locate a device, it doesn’t need to be connected to the Wi-Fi hotspots. No credential is needed, as it just collects unique IDs of the hotspots. For instance, as a commercial trailer passes through an urban center, it will drive through many Wi-Fi networks. Your Wi-Fi device can track public information about those networks – like IP addresses, MACaddress and BSSIDs – to determine location.

Interesting to know:

  • The first wireless network called ALOHAnet was created in 1971 and connected the Great Hawaiian islands.
  • In 1991, NCR Corporation and AT&T created the precursor to Wi-Fi as a way of linking cash registers called WaveLAN.
  • It became so popular that eventually, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the 802.11 standard that we now know as Wi-Fi.
  • In 1999, the Wi-Fi Alliance formed as a trade association to hold the reins of the Wi-Fi trademark.
  • During World War II, Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr, invented frequency-hopping radio communications technology, which was instrumental in the development of Wi-Fi.
  • Wi-Fi generally runs on either a 2.4 GHz or 5GHz frequency band (and soon potentially also 6GHz), and your microwave similarly runs on a 2.45 GHz band.
  • According to the Guinness World Records, the longest Wi-Fi signal was shot at 382 km between a couple of mountains in the Andes.

How does Wi-Fi localization work?

Your device scans nearby access points and creates a list of them as well as their relative signal strength in your current location. It then contacts online servers that, essentially, contain a list of access points around the world and their geographical locations. The basic approach is to extract the Wi-Fi hotspots nearby, and send their unique IDs to a remote application that will compare them to a database of known hotspots’ locations.

The database doesn’t just include a list of Wi-FI access point names (SSIDs). The database includes the unique MAC addresses (BSSIDs) of those access points, which normally do not change—even if the Wi-Fi network’s visible name changes.

Devices might also download and cache some of this data. For example, if they know that you’re in a particular town, they might download and store Wi-Fi information in and around that town so that they can more easily find your location, even if you don’t have a network connection to check the database.

Pros and cons of Wi-Fi technology 

Wi-Fi continues to revolutionize how we interact, conduct business and undertake activities in our lives. This new technology has brought more convenience and efficiency and is continuing to shape the future.

The advantages include:

  • Energy: Good to know is that using Wi-Fi technology for localization requires low amounts of energy and is accurate up to ten meters, depending on the availability of Wi-Fi networks.
  • Convenience: The wireless network allows users to access network resources from nearly any convenient location within their primary networking environment (home or office).
  • Mobility: With the emergence of public wireless networks, users can access the Internet even outside their typical work environment.
  • Productivity: Users connected to a wireless network can maintain a nearly constant affiliation with their desired network as they move from place to place.
  • Deployment: The initial setup of an infrastructure-based wireless network requires little more than a single access point.
  • Scalability: Wireless networks can serve a suddenly increased number of clients with the existing equipment.
  • Cost: the cost of the wireless networking hardware is almost always outweighed by the savings in cost and labor associated with running physical cables.

Wi-Fi technology in short:

Pros (+)

  • Low energy use (1/10th of GPS)

Cons (–)

  • Relies on 3rd party databases accuracy
  • May not work in remote areas with no hotspots available

Wi-Fi localization: how do we use it at Sensolus?

The tracker scans for Wi-Fi access points (APs) since the locations of those APs are known in the Sensolus cloud. Users can use a private list of their own APs or use a public AP service. This location technology works both indoors and outdoors and works especially well within urban areas. On the platform, users can upload the MAC addresses of the private Wi-Fi Access Points (APs) of their organization. Mappings are defined on the organizational level. All trackers linked to that organization will use that mapping. Note that there is no mapping on the partner level applying to all organizations they manage.

Wi-fi geolocation technology
wi-fi geolocation technology