MIT Technology Review Microsoft Research is experimenting with offloading GPS data and calculations to the cloud in order to reduce the power consumption of smartphones and tablets. The researchers showed off CLEO (Cultivating the Long tail in Environmental Observations), a system powered by just two AA batteries that can perform continuous GPS sensing for a year and a half.
The article explains how cloud-based GPS can pave the way for continuous GPS logging without having a major impact on your phone's battery life. This would enable your phone to keep a record of your driving habits, so it can tailor directions or search results based on your usual walking or driving directions. Another potential application is to let you opt into services that contribute to the creation of databases, for instance of the noise pollution levels in your city.
The biggest power hog inside a smartphone is the GPS chip. This component can take 30 seconds just to acquire the satellite data necessary to get the information it needs for an initial location fix; it then has to churn through the downloaded codes to calculate its location precisely.
Microsoft researchers reduced that power consumption dramatically by offloading some of the work to the cloud. Jie Liu, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and his team developed a GPS system that collects only a few milliseconds of the most crucial information from satellites. This data is then combined with other important information from public, online databases, such as satellite trajectories and Earth elevation values, to calculate the device’s past locations. But the data fusion and location calculations happen on a remote server.