NIST Awards $1.9 Million to UCI Engineer for Chip-size Personal Navigation System

Andrei ShkelJune 15, 2017 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $1.9 million to a UC Irvine engineering team that is developing a chip-scale personal navigation system for use by emergency responders and others who are trapped in locations where GPS signals are unusable.

Principal investigator Andrei Shkel, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Samueli School of Engineering, said the objective of the uNavChip is to achieve localization accuracy of 1 meter in GPS-denied environments for hours of operation. His innovative framework integrates deterministic, probabilistic and cooperative localization algorithms in a microelectromechanical system chip that can be placed in the sole of shoes.

“Localization, together with communication, are the key capabilities to achieve effective situation awareness, coordination and support in the case of emergency and recovery operations,” said Shkel. “These functions are like oxygen – taken for granted when available and vital when suddenly lost.”           

The three-year grant is one of 33 NIST-funded research and development projects aimed at advancing broadband communications technologies for first responders. In total, the agency granted $38.5 million to projects intended to help modernize public safety communications and operations by supporting the migration of data, video and voice communications from mobile radio to a nationwide public safety broadband network, as well as accelerating critical technologies related to indoor location tracking and public safety analytics. NIST reviewed 162 proposals from a diverse pool of national and international applicants across industry, academia and public safety organizations.

Shkel’s co-investigators are Solmaz Kia, UCI assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Zak Kassas, UC Riverside assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer engineering.

The grants are part of the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program funded by NIST’s $300 million allocation from the 2015 auction of advanced wireless service licenses . As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.

– Lori Brandt