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>> What would you do with 20mm accuracy GPS?

Thu, Aug 6th 12:53pm 2009: Tech Toys

On Tuesday night I did a talk at LUV on Geek My Ride (see the post on Practical Arduino for more information if that takes your fancy) but probably the most interesting thing about the night was catching up with Hamish Taylor again and hearing about his crazy-accurate GPS project over at the Dept of Sustainability and Environment. I hadn't even heard of this project but it's already well underway with coverage to 1m accuracy across the entire state, and coverage to +/-20mm accuracy across a significant part of that including the entire Melbourne metro area and well beyond. What they've done is install a bunch of base stations at extremely accurately known positions, each of which reads the location being fed to it via the regular GPS network and figures out how much that varies from its actual known position. It then "publishes" that correction data to make it available to compatible GPS receivers in the area, which then apply the same offset to the position they get from the regular GPS network to correct for local inaccuracies. The result is being able to track your position down to +/-20mm! Very, very cool stuff. Of course this is the same technology that's been available on things like self-driving tractors for years, where a local fixed reference point feeds correctional data to the tractor's autopilot to let it drive around a field all by itself with amazing accuracy. But it's previously been deployed as a point-solution, not just blanketed across the entire state in a frenzy of inspired brilliance. This is the sort of technology that can change so many different things that it's hard to know what to begin with. Self-driving trucks etc is the obvious one, but think about what happens when this tech shrinks from its current $1,500 price tag to being something that's just a part of every phone. Then think beyond that: if GPS with 20mm accuracy could be produced at a low enough cost (I'm talking a few dollars here, a long way from the current reality!) it could be put into pretty much anything that you don't want to lose. Having something located to within 5 or 10 meters like with regular GPS is all fine and well, but it's really only to the point of telling you what room something is in, not whether it's on the left hand side of the third shelf in the kitchen, pushed to the back. So I want ideas, people! What would you do with cheap, ubiquitous positioning technology with +/-20mm accuracy? Let me know! There's more information on the DSE's "GPSnet" project at

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