Zeroing In on Rosum

Rosum Corp. is claiming that it has the answer to wirelessly locating people and assets in metropolitan areas where traditional GPS systems don't work very well. (See GPS: Not a City Kitty.)

The startup -- co-founded in 2002 by one of the creators of the GPS satellite tracking system, James Spilker -- uses TV signals instead of radio waves from space.

The "TV-GPS" system fixes where a person or asset is by triangulating the distance via three or four different signals. "We use unmodulated TV signals," explains Jon Metzler, director of business development at Rosum. "It doesn't matter to us if it's Fox or CBS."

Using TV signals means that a receiver doesn't require a clear view of the sky to get a fix, which is what usually trips up GPS in urban settings. It does, however, bring its own limitations, as Metzler explains.

"We need three or more TV signals to triangulate, so this is really more effective in urban areas," he tells Unstrung.

With that in mind, Rosum is integrating its TV tech with GPS proper to try and provide full coverage in the town or country. According to Metzler, the Rosum receiver is currently "about the size of a credit card."

Metzler says that Rosum is definitely looking at the enterprise as a market for its technology, as well as public safety and other applications: "It's really designed for folks who really need to know where their stuff is at any given moment." (See Telematics on Track.)

The enterprise is a growth market for location services. In the U.S. today, there are already nearly 1.9 million GPS devices used to monitor business applications, according to market researchers C.J. Driscoll and Associates. By 2009, this market will expand to over 5.8 million units and annual hardware and service revenues will grow to over $2 billion, the researchers predict. Meanwhile In-Stat is predicting that the business market for location-capable handsets will grow from 582,000 devices today to 1.1 million devices by the end of 2010. (See Verizon Triangulates on Location Apps.)

Rosum's TV-GPS includes various forms of what is known as assisted-GPS that are also being tested and implemented by urban enterprises.

For instance, the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) had been testing GPS systems for a while, initially with some problems, before awarding Siemens VDO a $7.2 million contract to install a GPS system called the Service Management and Customer Information System (SMCIS) on some buses and other MTA vehicles in the city.

"We hope to have this in place by the end of the year," says a spokesman for the MTA. "We had tried it in Manhattan before but it didn't really do so well because of the high buildings."

Spokespeople for Siemens where unable to confirm for Unstrung exactly what kind of assisted GPS has allowed it to improve the location performance. In the past, however, the unit has implemented systems that utilize fixed base stations at known positions to help find the location of a roving receiver.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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