We've all been there when using GPS on our smartphones. You try and use something like Google Maps to navigate to a place you have never been, and all of a sudden, it's hard to tell if you should be on the feeder road or the highway. You eventually find out after driving too far that you are traveling along the wrong route end up cursing Google Maps. This will be a thing of the past next year when smartphones receive much more accurate GPS chips.
How accurate you ask: Down to the inch. The chips that will save us from GPS hell are from Broadcom and the BCM47755 will have accuracy to 30-centimeters compared to the accuracy to 5-meters GPS chips offer today.
What's even better is that the BCM47755 chip will consume half the power that the current chips slurp. If you have ever used your smartphone for navigation without plugging it in, you know how fast power ebbs. Broadcom is playing coy with some details on the chip for now. We know that the chip will land in some new smartphones due in 2018, but we have no idea which manufacturers will adopt the chips.
In the GPS world, there is more than one signal type, with older GPS satellites sending out an L1 signal that gives its location, time, and an identifying signal pattern (QZSS, Glonass, and Galileo satellites send the same signals). Newer GPS satellites send out L5 signals that are more complicated and send out more information along with the L1 signal.
Broadcom's new receiver will lock onto the L1 signal first and then refine its position using L5. The L5 signal is particularly well suited to navigating in cities thanks to being less prone to distortions from flightpath reflections than the L1 signal. That is important because in cities the signals tend to bounce off buildings.
Currently, only advanced location systems use L5 signal; typically these are used for things like oil and gas exploration. The BCM47755 will be the first commercial chip to use the L1 and L5 signal. If it's so much better, why is this chip only now going mainstream? There just weren't enough satellites broadcasting the L5 signal in orbit until now.
Broadcom's Manuel del Castillo says that as of now there are 30 L5 broadcasting satellites in orbit. While a pair of them are only over Japan and Australia, you can see at least six or seven even in a narrow slice of sky in a city. Del Castillo says that makes this the perfect time to bring the tech to market.