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IEEE JOURNAL OF SELECTED TOPICS IN SIGNAL PROCESSING, VOL. 3, NO.

5, OCTOBER 2009

821

Robust Indoor Positioning Provided by Real-Time


RSSI Values in Unmodified WLAN Networks
Santiago Mazuelas, Alfonso Bahillo, Ruben M. Lorenzo, Patricia Fernandez, Francisco A. Lago, Eduardo Garcia,
Juan Blas, and Evaristo J. Abril

AbstractThe positioning methods based on received signal


strength (RSS) measurements, link the RSS values to the position
of the mobile station (MS) to be located. Their accuracy depends
on the suitability of the propagation models used for the actual
propagation conditions. In indoor wireless networks, these propagation conditions are very difficult to predict due to the unwieldy
and dynamic nature of the RSS. In this paper, we present a novel
method which dynamically estimates the propagation models
that best fit the propagation environments, by using only RSS
measurements obtained in real time. This method is based on
maximizing compatibility of the MS to access points (AP) distance
estimates. Once the propagation models are estimated in real time,
it is possible to accurately determine the distance between the MS
and each AP. By means of these distance estimates, the location
of the MS can be obtained by trilateration. The method proposed
coupled with simulations and measurements in a real indoor
environment, demonstrates its feasibility and suitability, since it
outperforms conventional RSS-based indoor location methods
without using any radio map information nor a calibration stage.
Index TermsGeolocation, IEEE 80211, positioning, received
signal strength indicator (RSSI).

I. INTRODUCTION
UE to the lack of precision of conventional location systems such as Global Positioning System (GPS) in indoor
and urban environments, the research on location methods based
on other types of wireless networks is attracting more and more
attention in recent years [1]. Nowadays, the great deployment of
WLAN IEEE 802.11 wireless networks makes this technology
ideal for developing such location systems.
Different wireless location systems are based on the estimation of a mobile station (MS) position by using the values of
certain measurements taken from radio-frequency signals that
travel between the MS and the fixed stations. These measurements can be time-of-arrival (TOA), time-difference-of-arrival
(TDOA), received-signal-strength (RSS), and angle-of-arrival
(AOA) [2].

Manuscript received July 01, 2008; revised May 19, 2009. Current version
published October 21, 2009. This work was supported in part by the Regional
Ministry of Education (Consejeria de Educacion) of Castilla y Leon (Spain)
under Grant VA002A06. The associate editor coordinating the review of this
manuscript and approving it for publication was Dr. Dorota Brzezinska.
S. Mazuelas, A.Bahillo, E. Garcia, and J. Blas are with the Center
for the Development of Telecommunications (CEDETEL) Edificio Solar,
Parque Tecnologico de Boecillo, 47151 Boecillo (Valladolid), Spain (e-mail:
smazuelas@cedetel.es).
F. A. Lago, P. Fernandez, R. M. Lorenzo, and E. J. Abril are with the Department of Signal Theory and Communications and Telematic Engineering.
University of Valladolid, 47011 Valladolid, Spain (e-mail: flago@tel.uva.es).
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available online
at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/JSTSP.2009.2029191

Methods using delays or angle measurements are complex


because of the difficulty of obtaining these types of measurements in a normal wireless network [3], [4]. However, RSS
values are easy to obtain in any wireless network, even more in
a 802.11 network where the RSS indicator (RSSI) can be easily
extracted.
The greatest technical difficulty of developing a location
system based on RSS is the fact that the relationship between
the RSS values and the MS position depends to a great extent
on the propagation environment present between the MS and
each access point (AP), being very difficult to know which
propagation models are the most suitable to describe such a
relationship in real environments. As a consequence, the usual
approach is to determine the relationship between the RSS
values and the position of the MS by carrying out a previous set
of measurements (calibration) in the environment of interest.
These methods are based on two stages [5][7]: an offline or calibration stage where RSS values are stored and an online stage
where the MS position is determined based on the comparison
between the RSS values stored and the RSS values obtained
in real time. The accuracy achieved by these methods depends
on the amount of measurements taken in the offline phase,
getting precisions similar to the separation between samples in
the offline phase [6]. Methods belonging to this category differ
among them because of the way in which the measurements
in the online and offline phases are compared. They can use
statistic techniques [6], [8] or deterministic techniques [5]. Due
to the huge amount of measurements needed in the offline stage
to achieve a high level of accuracy, interpolation techniques
are used in order to reduce the amount of measurements. These
techniques interpolate values in certain points making use of
spatial information and/or classical propagation models [3],
[5], [7].
The main drawback of all these methods is the need of the
offline stage due to the significant increase in the complexity
caused by the calibration effort needed. Furthermore, changes
in the environment invalidate the calibration built in the offline
stage [9][11]. Moreover, although the environment in online
and offline stages remains the same, other types of less severe
changes, such as presence/absence of people, the orientation of
the MS, etc., cause ample differences in the RSS values [7],
[10][13], which cause these methods to fail to obtain good results in dynamic environments.
To solve these limitations there are several alternative
methods that do not need the calibration stage. They determine
the MS location based on information obtained in real time.
These methods obtain information about the propagation environment based on mutual measurements between the APs

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IEEE JOURNAL OF SELECTED TOPICS IN SIGNAL PROCESSING, VOL. 3, NO. 5, OCTOBER 2009

and map information [14] or they use devices called sniffers


in order to dynamically estimate the propagation environment
[10], [11], being mandatory in both techniques to make changes
in the wireless network.
In this paper, we present a method that uses neither a calibration stage nor any map information and it does not need to make
changes in the wireless network. It is a pure software solution
since it only uses the real-time RSSI values obtained by the MS
from all the APs in range. This method dynamically estimates
the models that best fit the propagation environment present between the MS and each AP by using only the RSS values obtained at that precise instant.
Sections II and III describe the notations and models used,
Section IV derives the maximum likelihood estimators of
distance and the corresponding CramerRao lower bounds.
Section V describes a method which estimates the path loss
exponents that model the relation between distance and RSS
values. Finally, in Section VI we present the results obtained
by the methods introduced with several simulations and real
measurements carried out in the Higher Technical School of
Telecommunications of the University of Valladolid, Spain.

the receiver, is known as path loss, and it is modeled to be inversely proportional to the distance between the emitter and the
receiver raised to a certain exponent. This exponent is known as
path loss exponent [15], [16], path loss factor [17], or path loss
gradient [18].
Other factors that affect RSS values are the multipath or fast
fading and the shadowing or slow fading. These two factors can
be modeled with Rayleigh or Rician and log-normal distribu, can be modeled
tions [11], [16]. Therefore, RSS values,
by means of the following expression: [17]
(1)
is the transmitted power,
and
are the transwhere
mitter and receiver gains, respectively, is the distance between
emitter and receiver, is the path loss exponent, and and
are the parameters that conform the Rayleigh/Rician and lognormal distributions, respectively.
Averaging over certain time interval we can eliminate the fast
fading term [19], [20]. Thus, taking logarithmic units in (1) and
following the derivation steps shown in [17], RSSI values can
be modeled by the following expression:

II. NOTATIONS. RSSI IN IEEE 802.11 NETWORKS


Let us assume that there is a WLAN IEEE 802.11 wireless
network in the environment in which we want to deploy a positioning system. Our aim is to estimate the location of a MS
within this network. This MS can measure RSS values from all
, the time instants that
APs in range. If we call
the MS measures RSS values from each of the
APs in range,
the RSS value measured by the MS at time
we denote
.
from the
In IEEE 802.11 networks, the RSSI value is a byte containing
the RSS average value over a sampling period [12]. The RSSI
range depends on both the sensitivity of the adapter and the manufacturer. Each manufacturer also provides a conversion table
from which we can obtain the RSSI value in logarithmic units.
Once we know the conversion table from each manufacturer, we
can easily obtain the RSS values in dBm units.
III. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RECEIVED SIGNAL
STRENGTH AND DISTANCE
In a precisely given instant and place, the RSS values obtained
by a device in a wireless network depend on a large number of
unpredictable factors. Specifically, in a WLAN 802.11 network,
small changes in position or direction may result in dramatic
differences in RSS. Moreover, similar effects can happen even if
the wireless devices remain static, due to the presence of moving
objects that may interfere in the station-to-station propagation
[12].
It is clear that one of the factors influencing RSS values obtained by a wireless device is the distance between emitter and
receiver, as this distance causes an attenuation in RSS values.
As we mentioned before, in this paper we present a method that
achieves precise distance estimates only from RSS values obtained at each instant. Therefore, it is mandatory to determine
beforehand the sort of dependence present among those RSS
values and the distance between the emitter and the receiver.
This attenuation, caused by the distance between the emitter and

(2)
where is the distance between the transmitter and the receiver
and the term denotes a Gaussian random variable with zero
mean caused by shadowing [21], [22]. The term is a constant
which depends on several factors: averaged fast and slow fading,
, and transmitted power , therefore, in practice,
gains ,
the value of can be often known beforehand [17].
Expression (2) has been widely used in order to describe RSS
values as a function of the distance between the transmitter and
the receiver in wireless communications [15], [16]. Usual examples of the use of this expression with specific values for
and are the known propagation models of free space, OkumuraHatam, Egli, etc. [15].
To sum up, our basic assumptions are given as follows.
In any propagation environment present between the MS
and each one of the APs, the relationship between RSSI
values and the distance between AP and MS can be modeled by (2).
parameter remains constant in scenarios where
The
and
, and the transmitted power
the antenna gains,
are also constant, situation typically found in most IEEE
802.11 WLANs. Therefore, it is possible to obtain the
value of by measurements taken in a generic environment similar to the one in which we are going to carry
out the location [15], [17], [18], and this value will be
valid whereas the antenna gains and the transmitted power
remains the same as the ones present when we obtain this
value.
Even though the value of the path loss exponent depends
highly on the specific channel environment presented between each specific AP and the MS at a given instant, we
can assume that this parameter remains constant during a
short period of time [18].
These basic hypotheses can be condensed in the following stateare RSSI values obtained from
ment: if

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the signal transmitted by the


and the lapse of time
is so short that the environment channel between the MS and the
does not change, then, there is a value for so that

(3)
Due to the importance of this result in the development and
techniques presented in this paper, we are going to dedicate the
first part of Section VI to prove the suitability of expression (3)
with a large amount of measurements taken in several indoor
propagation environments.

Then, the Fisher information is

(10)
and since

, the CRLB is
(11)

IV. MAXIMUM-LIKELIHOOD DISTANCE ESTIMATOR


AND CRAMERRAO BOUNDS
In this section, we derive the expressions for the maximumlikelihood estimators (MLEs) and CramerRao lower bounds
(CRLB) for the estimation of the distance between the MS and
the APs. We derive the expressions in case we only have one
RSSI value in order to estimate the distance and also in case
we can have several RSSI values to estimate distance. This last
case is very frequent in WLAN networks since each AP sends
its beacon probes with a frequency in the order of milliseconds.
A. Case of One RSSI
As we have seen before, the RSSI
obtained by the
MS at a given instant with respect to the signal sent by the
can be modeled as a Gaussian random variable, that is

B. Case of Several RSSI Values


In the event that the MS could obtain RSSI values in time in, where
is a time interval in the order of a
stants
very few seconds, we can assume that the distance and environdid not change. We can estimate
ment between the MS and
this distance making use of all the RSSI values obtained in this
short period of time.
are independent random variables,
therefore the joint pdf of
conditioned
is
on the distance between the MS and the

(12)

(4)
and therefore the probability density function (pdf) of
ditioned on the distance between the MS and the
pressed as

conis ex-

Following the same steps as in the previous case, we obtain

(13)

(5)
thus the maximum-likelihood estimator of

823

is
(6)

To determine such maximum, we differentiate the log-likelihood function. Thereby we obtain the following score function:

is short
since we are assuming that the lapse of time
enough in order to assume the distance between the AP and
the MS does not change, it is also logical to assume that
,
and, therefore

(7)
therefore
(14)
(8)

thus, the MLE of the distance is

and thus
(9)
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(15)

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IEEE JOURNAL OF SELECTED TOPICS IN SIGNAL PROCESSING, VOL. 3, NO. 5, OCTOBER 2009

In this case, the Fisher information is

(16)
and therefore the CRLB is
(17)

V. PATH LOSS EXPONENT DETERMINATION


To obtain distance estimations from RSSI values by using (9)
and (15), we have to use values for and ,
for
which (3) fits. On one hand, as we mentioned before and we will
show in Section VI, parameter only depends on the radiation
characteristics of the devices to be used. Therefore, it is easy to
obtain from few measurements taken in a reference place and
it can be used as a constant value in all the environments. On
the other hand, it is very difficult to have accurate estimates of
) which describe the
the path loss exponents ( ,
different propagations between the MS and each of the APs.
This is because, in principle, the above mentioned propagation
conditions are unpredictable and they could change abruptly in
time. A widely used simplification is to assume that all the path
loss exponents that model propagations between a MS and all
the APs are equal [17], [18], [20], [23] . This simplification in
a typical indoor environment is an oversimplification, since the
channel propagation is usually very different depending on the
relative position of the MS with regard to each AP, as we show in
the first part of Section VI. In this paper, we do not assume that
,(
).
such path loss exponents are equal, being
A. Compatibility of Distances Estimates
Making use of the MLE shown in (9) and (15) with cerwhich
tain values for the parameters and ,
describe the channel propagation models, we can obtain estidifferent
.
mates of distances between the MS and the
In this section, we are going to develop a technique to quantify
the compatibility of those distance estimates. By means of this
compatibility we can measure the goodness of the distance estimates.
, be
estimates of distances between
Let ,
APs which are on known positions
,
a MS and
. As we can see in Fig. 1, in the event that all estimated
circles with centers
and radistances were precise,
dius would intersect each other on a single point.
By this way, we can measure the compatibility of a group
distance estimates, measuring the extent to which the
of
circles, with each distance estimate as radius, cut each other on a
single point. The compatibility is quantified by a method based
on the radical axes of all the pairs of circles.
The radical axis (or geometric power line) of two circles is
the locus of points with equal geometric power from both circles

Fig. 1. Totally compatible distance estimates.

Fig. 2. Radical axes for three pairs of circles.

[24]. In other words, the length of the tangent segments drawn


from each point on the radical axis to the circles is equal. In the
event that the two circles are not concentric, the radical axis is a
straight line perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of
the circles closer to the center of the circle with smaller radius.
Thus, the radical axis is a generalization of the perpendicular
bisector of the line connecting the centers and both, the radical
axis and the perpendicular bisectors, coincide when the circles
have the same radius. In Fig. 2, we can see several examples of
radical axis of circle pairs.
The geometric power of a point with respect to a circle is a real
number that reflects the relative distance of the point from the
circle. Thereby, the geometric power of a point with regard to a
circle is zero if the point belongs to the circle, it is negative if the
point lies inside the circle or it is positive if the point is outside
circles would cut each other in a single
the circle. Hence,
point if, and only if, a point exists with zero geometric power
circles cut each other in
with regard to all the circles. Thus,
radical axes obtained with
a single point, if the
the different pairs of circles cut each other in a single point and
circles. That is, if there is a point
this point belongs to all the
with the same geometric power with regard to all the circles and
the geometric power of this point with regard to all the circles
is zero.
Let
(18)
be the linear equation system formed by the
ical axes, where is a matrix with

radrows and two

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825

used to estimate distances from


path loss exponents
RSSI values. Therefore, we can quantify the compatibility obtained, using a set of path loss exponents by the following expression:

(22)

Fig. 3. Least squares solution of the six radical axes corresponding to four
circles.

columns, and is a vector with


components. In
Fig. 3, we can see a specific example with
circles and
the six corresponding radical axes.
In the event that all the radical axes cut each other on a single
point, this linear equation system has a unique solution. In the
general case, this system of linear (18) is an overdetermined
is the point that minsystem whose least squares solution
imizes the sum of the squared distances to the different radical
axes.
In Fig. 3, we can see the least squares solution of (18) in a
specific case. In general, the least squares solution of (18) becomes
(19)
Also, in Section VI-D, we are going to use this least squares
solution of the radical axes as an easy way to trilaterate.
Therefore, the
circles would cut each other on a single
point if and only if
(20)
it is clear that the more these values are different from zero the
circles would cut each other on a single point.
further the
estimates
Therefore, we can define the compatibility of the
of distances
as

(21)
where we have weighted the squares sum with the radii of each
circle in order to apply more relevance to the smaller circles
and the minus sign indicates that the sum of squares and the
compatibility are inversely related.
B. Least Squares Optimization
During a time interval
, using known APs positions
and RSSI values in (15), the expression (21) which quantifies
the compatibility of the distance estimates depends only on the

Therefore, we can obtain the path loss exponents


which best fit the different channel environments that take place
between the MS and each one of the APs, as the path loss exponents which maximize the compatibility expressed in (22), that
is

(23)
Thereby, we have transformed the problem of estimating
different path loss exponents into a nonlinear least squares
problem. This can be solved by using robust techniques like the
LevenbergMarquardt algorithm [25], [26].
C. Path Loss Exponents Constraints
The fact that all the distance estimates are compatible does
not imply that all the estimates are precise: compatibility is a
necessary but not sufficient condition to achieve precision in the
distance estimates. Therefore, in order to obtain optimum path
loss exponents in our specific problem we do not have to calculate the path loss exponents which maximize the compatibility
in a global fashion but the path loss exponents which, belonging
to a feasible set of solutions, maximize the compatibility function

(24)
In order to determine an appropriate feasible set, we can use
some heuristic reasonings. For example, it is clear that the path
loss exponents are always going to lie between a maximum and a
minimum which can be roughly known a priori. That is
.
Also, we can determine other constraints to the path loss exponents which make the set of feasible solutions more restricis the set of RSSI values obtained
tive. Thereby, if
with respect to the
APs. Let
in an instant of time
be the
APs sorted according to the average RSSI values obtained in this lapse of time, that is

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(25)

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IEEE JOURNAL OF SELECTED TOPICS IN SIGNAL PROCESSING, VOL. 3, NO. 5, OCTOBER 2009

and therefore we can assume


(30)
where the value of
will be a number slightly higher than 1
and describes the relevance that we want to impose to a difference of average signal strengths in terms of distance difference.
In the same way as we did before, we are going to convert the
distance constraints into path loss exponents constraints

(31)

Fig. 4. Relation between distance and RSSI in a corridor.

Therefore, a feasible set of solutions

is

Thus, we can impose certain constraints to the distance estimates


between the MS and the APs sorted according
to their average RSSI values.
In a usual homogeneous deployment of APs in a WLAN network, it is reasonable to assume that the distance from the first
will be less than a constant,
. For example, we
AP,
and
can choose a fraction of the known distance between
. Also, if
is the distance between
and
, it
follows that
(26)
Thereby, we can enclose both the maximum distance to the
AP from which we receive the most average signal strength and
the minimum distance to the AP from which we receive the least
average signal strength.
By using (9) and (15) we can translate distance constraints
into path loss exponents constraints, therefore

if

(32)

is a convex set, indeed it is a polyhedral set and therefore variants of the LevenbergMarquardt algorithm [27] can be applied
in order to resolve (32), where we can choose, as an initial guess
in the algorithm, a rough approximation of the path loss expoor the center of the polyhedron .
nents like
VI. RESULTS WITH MEASUREMENTS AND SIMULATIONS
A. Relationship Between RSS and Distance

(27)
Moreover, we can obtain other type of constraints imposing
relations between different distances. It is clear that although
,
, this fact does not imply that
.
However, it is logical that this distance difference exists if the
difference in the average signal strength is great enough. Therefore,
(28)
moreover, this difference in the distances depends on how great
the difference in the average signal strength is. Therefore, if
thus
, where is a value which decreases when the difference between the average RSS increases.
it occurs that
In the case that
(29)

In this section, we are going to show the suitability of expressions (2) and (3). In order to do that we carried out a large campaign of measurements on the second floor of the Higher Technical School of Telecommunications, University of Valladolid
(Spain), shown in Fig. 9.
As for APs, we used eight identical wireless broadband
routers with two antennas each, in diversity mode, which is
typically found on most IEEE 802.11 WLAN routers. APs were
configured to send a beacon frame every 10 ms to constant
power. Diversity circuitry determines which antenna has better
reception and switches it on in a fraction of a second while
it turns off the other antenna. Therefore, both antennas are
never active at the same time. APs have omnidirectional rubber
duck antennas mounted. These are vertically polarized with a
symmetrical 360 radiation pattern in the horizontal plane and
with a vertical beamwidth of approximately 75 . As for MS,
we used a WLAN cardbus adapter with a vertically polarized
omnidirectional external antenna, also found on most IEEE
802.11 WLAN adapters.

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Fig. 5. Histogram of values of (3) taking


surements in four different environments.

= 052 dBm with 180 000 mea-

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Fig. 7. Histogram of errors in the path loss exponent estimation.

Fig. 8. Cumulative distribution functions of CRLB and errors in the distance


estimation depending on the path loss exponents used.

the transmitter antenna, that is, if the distance between the AP


and the MS fulfills the expression

(33)
Fig. 6. Simulation Scenario.

The amount of power transferred from the transmitter (AP)


antenna to the receiver (MS) antenna, when free space propagation exists between them, can be expressed as the product of
two independent factors; one of them depending on the directional properties of the transmitting antenna, and the other one
depending on the directional properties of the receiving antenna.
In order to ensure that in expression (2), we can use a value of
obtained beforehand, we need these directional properties between both the receiver and transmitter antennas to remain unchanged as those present where this value was obtained. Since
both antennas have omnidirectional radiation patterns, we can
assume that the amount of power caused by the antenna gains
remains constant if the receiver lies in the vertical beamwidth of

and
are the height of the AP and the MS, rewhere
spectively, which are located on the same floor. Therefore, we
can assume that the antenna gains of the devices remain constant in all indoor environments.
In order to obtain a value for that we can use in the subsequent location process, we carried out several measurements in
a specific indoor environment taking place in a corridor of the
School. In Fig. 4, we can see the relation between distance and
dBm and
.
these RSSI values, getting
In order to show the reliability of (2) and the suitability of
the assumptions made in Section III and expressed in (3), we
performed eight groups of measurements in four types of environments, varying the distance between the transmitter and the
receiver. In Table I, we can see the values obtained for the path
loss exponents, , in environments with a different number of

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Fig. 9. Trilaterations obtained on the second floor of the Higher Technical School of Telecommunications Engineering.

TABLE I
VALUES FOR (2) TAKING
dBm WITH REAL MEASUREMENTS
IN SEVERAL ENVIRONMENTS

= 052

walls between the emitter and the receiver. In Table I, we can


also see the mean and the standard deviation of expression (2)
dBm, in order to show
in which we have always used
the validity of using an approximate and constant value for in
different environments.
Moreover, in Fig. 5, we can see the suitability of expression
(3) by observing the histogram obtained with the eight groups
of measurements.
B. Estimation of Path Loss Exponents
In this section, we present the results obtained in a simulation
performed in order to show the accuracy of the method introduced in Section V to estimate path loss exponents.
In order to do that, we carried out a simulation in which we
put six APs in the vertices and center of a regular pentagon
with radius 40 m, as we can see in Fig. 6. We simulated groups
of 100 RSSI values from the six APs by using expression (2)
with uniform random path loss exponents. Specifically,

,
,
,
and
, where
are the six
different path loss exponents that characterize the propagation
channel from the six APs sorted by their proximity to the MS.
Also the standard deviation of shadow fading was simulated as
a random value between 2.85 dBm and 3.45 dBm. We repeated
this simulation 5000 times randomly varying the position of the
MS between the circles shown in Fig. 6.
In Fig. 7, we can see the histogram of the 30 000 errors occurred in the path loss exponents estimation by using the method
dB,
,
introduced in Section V, where we use
, and
as the parameters used to obtain the
path loss exponents constraints. As we can see, the method introduced is very accurate, achieving a mean error of 0.2003 and
a standard deviation of 0.2052.
C. Estimation of Distances From RSSI Values
In this section, we show the accuracy in distance estimation
obtained by using the estimated path loss exponents. In order
to do that, in the simulation scenario explained before, we estimated distances between the MS and different APs by means
of (15). To show the suitability of the estimated path loss exponents, we compare in Fig. 8 the errors that occurred in the
estimated path loss exponents with:
the CRLB of errors shown in Section IV;
the errors in the ideal case of knowing the real path loss
exponents (RPLE);
,
,
the errors using the values
, and
which are the middle
values of the random values used to simulate the path loss
exponents, (MPLE);

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the errors with the two-slope path loss model recommended by the IEEE 802.11 standard [22] for this
for distances shorter
environment, that is, using
than 20 m and
for longer distances, (SPLE).
Also, in Fig. 8 we can appreciate the great accuracy obtained
by the method presented (diamond marks), since it achieved
a mean error of 9.0861 m, that is a mean error of approximately 20% of the distance between APs. Notice that all the
other methods are impractical, since in real scenarios we do not
know the exact real values for path loss exponents nor even a
very good approximation of them (MPLE), unless we perform
a wide set of previous measurements. Even so, the method presented outperforms methods using approximate values for the
path loss exponents, a remarkable fact, taking into account that
the method presented does not use any calibration. Additionally,
in Fig. 8, we can see that the values of the expression for the
CRLB derived in Section IV are very close to the errors using
exact real values for path loss exponents, a fact that is a very
logical result.
D. Trilateration Results
In order to show the feasibility and suitability of the methods
proposed, we tested the techniques explained before in the indoor environment of the second floor of the Higher Technical
School of Telecommunications Engineering.
As MS we used a laptop with an IEEE 802.11 cardbus
adapter. We implemented an ANSI C program which obtains
the RSSI values corresponding to the beacon probes sent every
10 ms by eight APs located on the second floor of the School
(see Fig. 9). At each instant, this program uses the real-time
RSSI values from the four most powerful APs in order to
estimate the path loss exponents and hence the actual distances
to these four APs, by using the method presented with the
same parameters explained in Section VI-C. To quantify the
effectiveness of the method presented, we have also estimated
the different distances by using a constant path loss exponent
of 2, which is the value recommended by the standard for
distances lower than 20 m [12].
To illustrate the improvement brought by the proposed
method, we trilaterate in order to compare the MS position
when using the estimated distances by the proposed method
and when using the estimated distances from constant path loss
exponents. We walked with the laptop along the route shown
in blue in Fig. 9 taking measurements in 121 points. Thereby,
in red we can see the trilateration positions obtained by using
the method proposed and, in purple, some positions obtained
by using constant path loss exponents, where 50.4% of the
estimated positions obtained by this method are not shown,
since they lie outside this map. Therefore, as we can see in
Fig. 9, the method proposed achieves a high level of accuracy,
and we want to point out that this result was achieved only
through trilateration without any tracking technique.
Moreover, in Fig. 10, we can see the cumulative probability
of errors obtained with the method proposed and by using constant path loss exponents. The mean of errors committed with
the method proposed was 3.97 m with a standard deviation of
1.18 m. Obviously, the positioning accuracy can be improved
by using some tracking technique such as Kalman filters, but in
this section we want to show the feasibility of the methods proposed and the reliability of the path loss exponents and distance
estimates obtained from the methods presented.

829

Fig. 10. Empirical cumulative distribution function of errors in trilateration.

VII. CONCLUSION
A novel indoor location method is presented in this paper.
This novel method is based on trilateration through RSSI values
obtained in real time. The path loss exponents which characterize the propagation channel between the MS and each AP
are dynamically estimated from RSSI values by assessing and
maximizing the compatibility of the distances estimates. Once
the path loss exponent is estimated, the distance between the
MS and each AP can be obtained and, therefore, MS position is
achieved by trilateration.
With this indoor location method, neither a previous calibration stage nor any radio-map information are needed. Therefore, this method is robust in dynamic environments as well
as having a low complexity, since it uses only real-time RSSI
values, without needing any change to the WLAN IEEE 802.11
network.
Results using both simulations and measurements are shown
in order to prove the reliability and suitability of the method
proposed. A mean error slightly lower than 4 m is obtained in
an unmodified WLAN network deployment, without using any
other tracking technique.
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Santiago Mazuelas received the Mathematics


and Telecommunication Engineer degrees and the
Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the University
of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain, in 2002, 2007, and
2009, respectively. He is currently working toward
the Ph.D. degree in telecommunications in the
Center for the Development of Telecommunications
(CEDETEL), University of Valladolid.
Since 2006, he has worked as Researcher in
the CEDETEL. His research interests include
radiolocation technologies, signal processing and
mathematics.

Mr. Mazuelas received the young scientists prize for the best communication in the Union Radio-Scientifique Internationale (URSI) XXII Symposium
(Spain).

Alfonso Bahillo received the Telecommunication


Engineer degree from the University of Valladolid,
Valladolid, Spain in 2006. He is currently working
toward the Ph.D. degree in the Department of
Signal Theory and Communications and Telematics
Engineering, University of Valladolid.
His research interests include numerical methods
in electromagnetics, radio propagation modeling and
radiolocalization techniques for indoor and outdoor
communications.

Ruben M. Lorenzo received the Telecommunication Engineer and Ph.D. degrees from the University
of Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain, in 1996 and 1999,
respectively.
From 1996 to 2000, he was a Junior Lecturer
at the University of Valladolid with the Optical
Communications Group. Since 2000, he has been
a Lecturer. He is currently the Head of the Faculty
of Telecommunication Engineering at the University of Valladolid and Research Director of the
Center for the Development of Telecommunications
(CEDETEL). His main research topics include communication systems and
networks, electromagnetic characterization, and radiolocation.

Patricia Fernandez received the Telecommunication Engineer degree from Universidad Politecnica
de Cataluna, Barcelona, Spain, in 1997 and the Ph.D.
degree in 2004 from the University of Valladolid,
Valladolid, Spain.
Since 1999, she has been a Junior Lecturer at the
University of Valladolid. Her current research interests are communication systems and networks, electromagnetic characterization, and radiolocation.
Dr. Fernandez is the author of more than 40 papers
in international journals and conferences.

Francisco A. Lago received the Telecommunication


Engineer degree from the University of Valladolid,
Valladolid, Spain, in 2003.
From 2003 to 2004, he was a Research Assistant
at the University of Valladolid, becoming a Junior
Lecturer in 2004 until 2007. He is currently an active research collaborator in the Department of Signal
Theory and Communications and Telematics Engineering at the University of Valladolid. His research
interests include wireless positioning, wireless propagation analysis and modeling, and wireless systems
design. He is the author of 14 papers in international journals and conferences.

Eduardo Garcia received the Telecommunication


Engineer degree from the University of Valladolid,
Valladolid, Spain, in 2008.
In 2008, He joined the Center for the Development
of Telecommunications (CEDETEL), working in
the area of radiolocalization research. Currently, he
is working on R&D projects focused in mobility.
His research interests include indoor localization
technologies and the development of mobility
applications in different areas.

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MAZUELAS et al.: ROBUST INDOOR POSITIONING PROVIDED BY REAL-TIME RSSI VALUES IN UNMODIFIED WLAN NETWORKS

Juan Blas received the Ph.D. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the University of
Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain, in 2008.
He is an Associate Lecturer with the University
of Valladolid. In 2006, he joined the Center for the
Development of Telecommunications (CEDETEL),
University of Valladolid, as a Research Engineer.
His main research interests include propagation
models, interactions between electromagnetic fields
and living matter, and antennas.

831

Evaristo J. Abril received the Telecommunication


Engineering and Ph.D. degrees from the Universidad
Politecnica de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, in 1985 and
1987, respectively.
From 1984 to 1986, he was a Research Assistant
at the Universidad Politcnica de Madrid, becoming
a Lecturer in 1987. Since 1995, he has been a Full
Professor at University of Valladolid, Valladolid,
Spain, where he founded the Optical Communications Group. He is currently the Chancellor of the
University of Valladolid. His research interests include communication systems and networks, electromagnetic characterization,
and radiolocation. He is the author of more than 100 papers in international
journals and conferences.

All in-text references underlined in blue are linked to publications on ResearchGate, letting you access and read them immediately.
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