Researchers Develop Highly Sensitive and Fast Indoor GNSS Signal Acquisition Technology

Researchers from KAIST have developed high-speed, high-sensitivity Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal acquisition (search and detection) technology that can produce GNSS positioning fixes indoors. The research team was led by Professor Seung-Hyun Kong at the Cho Chun Shik Graduate School of Green Transportation, KAIST.

With this new technology, GNSS signals will be sufficient to identify locations anywhere in the world, both indoors and outdoors. This new research finding was published in the international journal IEEE Signal Processing Magazine (IEEE SPM) this September.

Global Positioning System (GPS) developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1990s is the most widely-used satellite-based navigation system, and GNSS is a terminology to indicate conventional satellite based navigation systems, such as GPS and Russian GLONASS, as well as new satellite-based navigation systems under development, such as European GALILEO, Chinese COMPASS, and other regional satellite-based navigation systems.

In general, GNSS signals are transmitted all over the globe from 20,000 km above the Earth and thus a GNSS signal received by a small antenna in an outdoor environment has weak signal power. In addition, GNSS signals penetrating building walls become extremely weak so the signal can be less than  1/1000th of the signal power received outside.

Using conventional acquisition techniques including the frequency-domain correlation technique to acquire an extremely weak GNSS signal causes the computational cost to increase by over a million times and the processing time for acquisition also increases tremendously. Because of this, indoor measurement techniques using GNSS signals were considered practically impossible for the last 20 years.

To resolve such limitations, the research team developed a Synthesized Doppler-frequency Hypothesis Testing (SDHT) technique to dramatically reduce the acquisition time and computational load for extremely weak GNSS signals indoors.

In general, GNSS signal acquisition is a search process in which the instantaneous accurate code phase and Doppler frequency of the incoming GNSS signal are identified. However, the number of Doppler frequency hypotheses grows proportionally to the coherent correlation time that should be necessarily increased to detect weak signals.  In practice, the coherent correlation time should be more than 1000 times longer for extremely weak GNSS signals so the number of Doppler frequency hypotheses is greater than 20,000. On the other hand, the SDHT algorithm indirectly tests the Doppler frequency hypothesis utilizing the coherent correlation results of neighboring hypotheses.

Therefore, using SDHT, only around 20 hypotheses are tested using conventional correlation techniques and the remaining 19,980 hypotheses are calculated with simple mathematical operations. As a result, SDHT achieves a huge computational cost reduction (by about 1000 times) and is 800 times faster for signal acquisition compared to conventional techniques. This means only about 15 seconds is required to detect extremely weak GNSS signals in buildings using a personal computer.

The team predicts further studies for strengthening SDHT technology and developing positioning systems robust enough to multipath in indoor environments will allow indoor GNSS measurements within several seconds inside most buildings using GNSS alone.

The research team hopes to commercialize indoor GNSS systems to create a new market and is currently registering a patent in Korea and applying for patents overseas, as well as planning to commercialize the technology with the help of the Institute for Startup KAIST.