How Wifi Positioning Works

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What happens when your GPS device needs help getting a fix?

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, uses a network of satellites in orbit around the Earth to calculate a receiver’s position. Each satellite sends out signals with its own position, then receivers take that data to figure out where they are themselves. The system is made up of dozens of satellites and designed so that there will be enough to calculate a receiver’s position anywhere in the world at just about any given time. More satellites in view means a more accurate location.

But, what if your device can’t get a satellite signal? GPS doesn’t work well without a clear view of the sky, whether because it’s indoors or in an urban canyon surrounded by skyscrapers.

Many devices use a Wi-Fi positioning system as a fallback.

Wi-Fi positioning works a lot like GPS. This does NOT require access to the wireless network or provide any sort of access. It’s a lot like reading an address from the street.

Once the device has recognized a Wi-Fi signal it consults an index of known Wi-Fi access points, calculates its distance from the source based on signal strength, and figures out its rough physical location. More wireless sources means better accuracy. While not as precise as satellite positioning in most situations, this method can usually provide a usable estimate until the device returns to a clear view of the sky. Once it does, GPS will take back over to get you the best possible location information.

If you need to track something that might spend a lot time without satellite signal, call the experts at BrickHouse Security to make sure you get the right device


Updated March 21, 2024