Revitalizing Ultrasonic Positioning Systems for Ultrasound-Incapable Smart Devices

Zhenlin An, Qiongzheng Lin, Lei Yang, Yi Guo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


An ultrasonic positioning system (UPS) has demonstrated its high accuracy for years. However, few of the developed solutions have been deployed in practice to satisfy the localization demand of today's smart devices, which lack ultrasonic sensors and were considered as being 'deaf' to ultrasound. A recent finding demonstrates that ultrasound may be audible to the smart devices under certain conditions due to their microphone's nonlinearity. Inspired by this insight, this work revisits the ultrasonic positioning technique and builds a practical UPS, called UPS+, for ultrasound-incapable smart devices. The core concept is to deploy two types of indoor beacon devices, which will advertise ultrasonic beacons at two different ultrasonic frequencies respectively. Their superimposed beacons are downconverted to a low-frequency by exploiting the nonlinearity effect at the receiver's microphone. This underlying property functions as an implicit ultrasonic downconverter without inflicting harm to the hearing system of humans. We demonstrate UPS+, a fully functional UPS prototype, with centimeter-level localization accuracy using custom-made beacon hardware and well-designed algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8994094
Pages (from-to)2007-2024
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • nonlinearity effect
  • Ultrasonic positioning system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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