I Am the Antenna: Accurate Outdoor AP Location using Smartphones

Zengbin Zhang
Xia Zhou
Weile Zhang
Yuanyang Zhang
Gang Wang
Ben Y. Zhao
Haitao Zheng

Proceedings of The 17th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom 2011)

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Paper Abstract

Today's WiFi access points (APs) are ubiquitous, and provide critical connectivity for a wide range of mobile networking devices. Many management tasks, e.g. optimizing AP placement and detecting rogue APs, require a user to efficiently determine the location of wireless APs. Unlike prior localization techniques that require either specialized equipment or extensive outdoor measurements, we propose a way to locate APs in real-time using commodity smartphones. Our insight is that by rotating a wireless receiver (smartphone) around a signal-blocking obstacle (the user's body), we can effectively emulate the sensitivity and functionality of a directional antenna. Our measurements show that we can detect these signal strength artifacts on multiple smartphone platforms for a variety of outdoor environments. We develop a model for detecting signal dips caused by blocking obstacles, and use it to produce a directional analysis technique that accurately predicts the direction of the AP, along with an associated confidence value. The result is Borealis, a system that provides accurate directional guidance and leads users to a desired AP after a few measurements. Detailed measurements show that Borealis is significantly more accurate than other real-time localization systems, and is nearly as accurate as offline approaches using extensive wireless measurements.