No more maps mishaps? Broadcom's incredibly accurate GPS chip coming in 2018

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Nolan Browning/Digital Trends
Today’s GPS technology is ubiquitous, but it’s not always completely accurate — we’ve all experienced annoying moments where the maps app on our smartphones hasn’t quite been able to determine where we are. Now, chip manufacturer Broadcom has announced that big improvements are inbound.

Broadcom took to the Institute of Navigation GNSS+ conference in Portland, Oregon, this week to announce that it is manufacturing the first mass-market chip that’s capable of working with a new form of highly precise global navigation signals, according to a report from IEEE Spectrum. While current devices can generally be located with a margin for error of around 5 meters, these new chips will be accurate to within 30 centimeters.

The chip, dubbed the BCM47755, brings about other improvements. It’s not as badly impacted by interference from skyscrapers and other concrete structures in urban areas, and it reportedly consumes just half as much power as today’s crop of chips.

All global navigation satellite systems that are currently in use utilize a signal known as L1 to communicate the satellite’s location, the time, and a signature pattern used as an identifier. The BCM47755 uses this signal to lock onto the satellite, but then takes advantage of a newer, more sophisticated signal called the L5 to home in on the device’s exact location.

L5 signals are already in use, but typically in industrial applications such as vehicles and equipment used to find gas and oil reserves. Broadcom’s BCM47755 marks the first time that this technology is being applied in a mass-market chip.

Up until now, there haven’t been a huge number of L5 satellites in orbit, so there hasn’t been any rush for Broadcom to dive into offering this kind of hardware. Smartphones haven’t been powerful enough to be compatible — something that the manufacturer managed to work around by implementing a power-efficient manufacturing process, a new radio architecture, and a power-saving dual-core sensor hub.

Broadcom’s chips are reportedly set to be utilized in several smartphones that are scheduled to hit the market in 2018, but the company hasn’t yet mentioned any particular manufacturers or models that will feature the BCM47755.

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