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Google WiFiRttScan App Launched to Let Developers Test 802.11mc Indoor Positioning


Your smartphone uses a combination of wireless signals to determine your location. While this worked well for geographic locations, it didn’t do much for locating the user indoors. Google had earlier added support for IEEE 802.11mc in Android P, to let apps find out your exact indoor location. The standard, also known as Wi-Fi Round-Trip-Time (RTT), lets apps measure the distance to nearby Wi-Fi access points in order to find out your indoor location.

Last week, Google launched a new app called ‘WifiRttScan’ on the Play Store. The app is meant for developers, vendors, universities, and other possible users to research and test the indoor location mapping features within Android P. As of now, the app is only compatible with Pixel smartphones.

On the Play Store listing, Google claims the app can determine indoor location with an accuracy ranging from 1-2 metres using compatible WiFi-RTT compatible access points. This is meant to be used for indoor locations where GPS is more or less useless.

App developers can make use of the RTT APIs available in Android 9 to integrate indoor positioning into their apps. This isn’t the first time Google has attempted a shot at indoor positioning. Earlier, the company had tried using beacons as an alternative to GPS.

IEEE 802.11mc, or WiFi-RTT, can be useful for solving some problems. These include offering near-accurate indoor maps at hospitals, malls, stadiums, or other large public areas. It can also be used for several location-based smart home apps to determine a specific object for interactions (for example: turning on a specific light bulb).

You don’t need to connect your smartphone to a Wi-Fi access point to use WiFi Round-Trip-Time on Android P. The feature is also integrated with the existing location services within Android. Apps that use the feature will need to ask for permission to access a user’s location.

Although Google had initially rolled out the WifiRttScan app earlier last year via GitHub, it’s now being pushed out more widely directly through the Play Store. With more devices now receiving the Android 9 Pie update, it makes more sense for Google to have more developers try out WiFi-RTT.