GPS Cloud based GPS cuts smartphone power usage by 99%

A new Microsoft Research project shows that smartphone battery life can be saved by as much as 99% by using the cloud instead of only using a smartphone’s GPS Chip.

The location GPS chip found in smartphones and tablets grab most of our battery life due to the amount of work they must do for our devices to operate.  Not only does it take a considerable amount of time to accumulate the GPS data, the location chips must then calculate our location based on the codes received from the data received.

Now Microsoft’s Jei Liu says that we could be saving as much as 99% of our power in our mobile devices.  His idea is simple, we just simply offload the majority of the work onto the cloud and save that coveted power we need to operate those devices we love so much.

This new system that Liu developed will grab only the first few milliseconds of the most important data needed for the GPS chip.  Then on a remote server the data is crossed referenced with other information gathered from public databases, such as Earth elevation values and satellite trajectories.  Since the majority of the work determining location is done by another entity it saves the mobile device’s energy consumption. 

What is really impressive is that Liu says that the system can perform continuous GPS sensing for well over a year using only the power contained in two AA size batteries.  The original design concept was developed to conserve battery life for animal-tracking systems, which is often the main culprit of lost research done in the wild. 

Liu calls the new concept ‘cloud-offloaded GPS’, and the system itself being called the ‘Cultivating the Long tail in Environmental Observations’ or CLEO.  The research on the subject was presented at this past 10th annual ACM Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems (SenSys 2012) held at Toronto, Quebec; Liu was awarded 'Best Paper' over all other entries.

Lower power consumption GPS on mobile devices means continuous location logging, which translates into a smarter mobile device, according to Liu.  In theory, you could monitor your driving speed or habits on a real time basis or any manner of real time GPS data research.

You can read the paper in its entirety here in PDF format.