Broadcom's newest chip will make your GPS apps more accurate than ever
From next year your new smartphone or wearable should be able to get a much better lock on where you are, thanks to a new location-tracking chip from Broadcom, which promises to fix your device's location down to 30 centimeters (11.8 in) – even with interference from surrounding buildings.
The increased accuracy is down to both the design of Broadcom's new BCM47755 chip and upgraded satellite systems broadcasting a more accurate signal termed L5. The chip detects both the standard L1 signals in use today and the newer L5 signals to get a better fix on where you are, with enough accuracy to tell which lane of a highway you're in.
As well as improved lane guidance to save you from heading miles in the wrong direction when using your phone's sat nav, the new bit of silicon could make it much easier for you to get picked up via a taxi-hailing app in a dense urban environment, Broadcom suggests.
It's the difference between being accurate to 5 m (16 ft) with current technology, and being accurate to 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) with the new component, IEEE reports.
L5 signals are brief enough to avoid interference from bouncing around buildings, which should help ease some of the confusion location-tracking apps usually exhibit when you're in a built-up area. With around 30 L5-equipped satellites now in orbit, there's enough coverage for the system to be reliable.
As is always crucial for anything being stuck inside a phone, tablet, or wearable, the BCM47755 is small in size and low on power usage, using half the power of previous GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) chips, according to Broadcom.
By the way, while the term "GPS" is often used to mean any kind of satellite-based navigation system, technically it only refers to the Global Positioning System developed by the US government. GNSS is the correct term for all global systems, including GPS, Russia's GLONASS and Europe's Galileo. The new chip will be compatible with them all.
Some phone makers have already signed deals for the Broadcom BCM47755 to be included in several 2018 flagship phones, but at the moment the chipmaker isn't revealing who those partners are, so we'll have to wait and see.
Whichever BCM447755-equipped phone you opt for in 2018 and beyond, though, you can expect location tracking that's better than ever, thanks to the data being fed through to your apps. You'll have one less excuse for being where you need to be on time.