Technology to help locate wireless callers inside buildings got past objections from General Electric Co. (GE), Google Inc. (GOOG) and the E-ZPass Group, who told U.S. regulators that it may interfere with millions of devices.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on May 14 asked fellow commissioners to approve closely held Progeny LMS LLC’s indoor-location system, Neil Grace, an agency spokesman, said yesterday. To proceed, the measure needs to win an FCC vote, and companies can lobby members on the issues in the interim.
Under Progeny’s proposal, smartphones would calculate their position using radio signals put out by the company, and would report that location during emergency calls. In tests, Progeny’s technology was able to pinpoint within 2 meters (7 feet) the vertical position of the handset making the call, “potentially revolutionizing the speed of emergency response in large, multi-story” buildings, the company said in a filing with the agency.
Progeny’s technology represents “a clear improvement” over current techniques, which don’t offer reliable location information for indoor calls from wireless phones, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization, said in an FCC filing.
Progeny “is trying to cure the problem of E911 from wireless phones,” Gary Parsons, the chief executive officer, said in an interview. “When you go indoors, they don’t know where you are.”
Progeny, based in McLean, Virginia, and Sunnyvale, California, paid for its airwaves license at an auction in 1999. The system it has designed won’t interfere with other devices using nearby airwaves, the company told the agency last year.
Wireless systems that Progeny’s system may interfere with include networks used to monitor medical patients, read utility meters, and operate valves and pumps in water systems, companies such as Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE and Houston-based pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Inc. said in a January filing.
Progeny would place at risk the operation of “millions of unlicensed devices,” the companies said, without supplying a specific figure.
The agency should reject Progeny’s proposal for “high-power transmitters that may interfere with millions of lower-powered unlicensed devices,” Internet search provider Google Inc., based in Mountain View, California, said in a Jan. 29 filing with the agency. The affected airwaves should be kept clear to meet increasing demand from tablet computers and machine-to-machine wireless networks, the company said.
Interference from the system could hamper the free flow of traffic if it disrupts electronic toll gates, the E-ZPass Group told the agency in a filing. The organization has issued more than 23 million mobile devices through member agencies in 14 states, including New York and New Jersey.
E-ZPass asked for more testing, as did Kapsch TrafficCom AG (KTCG), which makes E-ZPass gear.
Progeny won’t use airwaves likely to interfere with E-ZPass operations, Parsons said in a May 9 letter to the organization.
The Progeny CEO is a former head of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., now part of Sirius XM Radio Inc. (SIRI)
Progeny is owned by NextNav, which lists backers including Alexandria, Virginia-based technology-investing firm Columbia Capital LLC, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, part of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and Miami-based Telcom Ventures LLC.
Genachowski, the FCC chairman since 2009, has said he will leave the agency May 17. His departure will mean the five-member commission will have two Democrats, one Republican and two vacancies.
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