Google Partners With Particle To Enable IoT Device Location Awareness

The Google-Particle approach eliminates need for organizations to integrate energy-consuming GPS modules into IoT devices, company says.

IoT Wireless Growth

Organizations that want their IoT devices to be location aware typically need to install a GPS module on each device or sensor in order to enable the capability.

Google, in partnership with IoT platform vendor Particle this week announced a new approach for achieving the same functionality using the Google Maps Geolocation API instead.

Rather than having to invest in potentially expensive and power-consuming GPS modules, enterprises can make their IoT devices location aware by simply connecting them to Google's geospatial database of cellular and WiFi networks.

Organizations can also use the Google Maps API to improve location accuracy on existing GPS devices and to ensure that location data is available even if the GPS fails, said Ken Nevarez, solutions architect for Google Maps APIs said in a blog this week.

With a single line of code a Particle IoT device on the network edge can now access the Google geospatial database and identify its location, Nevarez said.

Asset tracking, of the sort enabled by IoT sensors, is traditionally built on a foundation that includes satellite based GPS, he noted. But such systems often tend to fail in indoor settings and dense urban area. Tall buildings and roofs can often block satellite signals and disrupt the ability of an IoT device to identify its location.

"The Geolocation API is based on cell tower and WiFi signals that continue to operate where GPS fails," Nevarez said. "This capability allows you to track your assets anywhere, both indoors, and out."

WiFi enabled products on the Particle platform can use the Google Maps Geolocation API to automatically configure time zones and perform other location aware configuration settings. "For example, location aware window blinds can reference the number of available hours of sunlight and then make informed decision on how to passively heat a room."

Enabling geolocation capabilities on a Particle IoT device is a relatively straightforward process, Nevarez said. The process involves obtaining a Maps API key that has been enabled for geolocation and flashing Google Maps firmware on Particle devices. Google Maps then needs to be integrated into the Particle management console, he said.

This is the second IoT related announcement that Google has made this week.

The other announcement involved the beta availability of Cloud IoT Core, a fully managed service that is designed to let organizations connect their IoT devices to the Google cloud and manage them centrally from there.

The service gives organizations a way to collect data from IoT devices on the network edge and aggregate it in a central Google system that is integrated with the company's analytics services such as Cloud DataFlow and Big Query.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.