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An ace up Google's sleeve in Bluetooth-based Indoor Positioning?

Everyone's talking these days about Google's new indoor mapping, which they say will track a cellphone's location as a person walks around a mall or airport.  This would obviously be a huge breakthrough, now that everyone's gotten used to using cellphones for navigation and location services, and would naturally like to keep doing so while walking around a mall.

Nokia just counter-attacked with an update on their own indoor navigation research, which uses Bluetooth-based "beacons" to improve indoor positioning.  Of course, this research isn't new, it's a continuation of work at Nokia that dates back several years.  But the new announcement places this new capability in the context of new Windows-based smartphones.

Of course, there are dozens of companies working on indoor positioning.  Grizzly Analytics reported many of these in our report on next-generation location services, and we'll soon have an updated report out on indoor location positioning which analyzes research by Google, Nokia, RIM, Qualcomm, Samsung and many more.

In the meantime, here's a fun fact that nobody has reported in the recent flurry of articles on the race between Nokia and Google to indoor location services:  Who do you think holds a granted U.S. patent on using Bluetooth for indoor positioning?

Google.

A U.S. patent titled Location determination for mobile units was granted back in 2004 to Motorola.  It discussed, in terminology that feels outdated this many years later, using fixed Bluetooth devices with known locations to track mobile devices that are also Bluetooth-equipped.

Yep, that's the same as using beacons to position smartphones.

This patent is presumably soon to be owned by Google, with their acquisition of Motorola Mobility and their huge patent portfolio

Of course, there are many differences between the methods discussed in this patent and Nokia's research.  Motorola's method did the computation in the cloud, while Nokia's looking at location determination on the handset.  And Nokia's looking at more sophisticated algorithms for triangulation and positioning. 

But it's fascinating nonetheless that Nokia's big announcement of Bluetooth-based positioning, that they and everyone thought (with justification) would differentiate them strongly from Google's approach, would step right into the area of a Google-owned patent.

Want to learn more about research underway at a wide variety of companies in the area of indoor positioning?  Check back soon for an up-to-date and insightful report on the subject from Grizzly Analytics.

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