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2018 could be a good year for GPS: less margin of error and half the consumption


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Just when it seemed that the market for GPS chips was already very mature and the next logical step on the evolutionary scale was not going to come until the Galileo system went into operation, Broadcom has announced a new chip that promises to revive the market for GPS receivers. At least, that of those devices that integrate the new chip Broadcom BCM47755.

Although Broadcom has created this new component device especially for smartphones - for millions of units sold it should be their number 1 target - the new chip is perfectly valid for wearables as well, which includes both smart GPS watches and training devices.

The American manufacturer has made two promises: to reduce the location error to only 30 centimeters and also with a 50% reduction in energy use. And it better be true, because the announcement is quite pretentious.

What is the important new feature of the new chip to be able to reduce the error of location to only 30 centimeters? Until now the GPS chips allowed the communication between device and satellite is done through the L1 band. This band is exposed to interference and mainly to the bounce of signals in buildings, making it difficult to locate especially in urban environments. Have you never discovered a point in your frequent routes where the location is always irregular? Something like a Bermuda triangle for the GPS. I have several in which regardless of the day or how long the clock has been receiving signal, always it has major jumps.

GPS location error

No matter what watches you wear, after that crossing all are lost due to interference and signal bounce.

Broadcom's new chip not only incorporates the L1 band but also the L5 band, which until now was used in much more complex (and expensive) industrial solutions. Therefore its solution goes one step further than what we knew until now, since it will triangulate the position in the L1 band as before, but thanks to the L5 band reception it will be able to filter the results obtained thus improving the location accuracy, especially in complicated environments.

Signal L1-L5

In addition, the new BCM47755 chip is manufactured with a 28 gauge process and incorporates different technologies that allow for a reduction in consumption of up to 50% compared to what is known up to now.

Make no mistake, it doesn't mean that the battery life of the watches will now be doubled, simply that the consumption of the GPS chip will be lower. It is true that the GPS is the one that demands the most energy from the battery, but this is not the only thing. Be that as it may, it is foreseeable that the autonomies can improve notably.


Which manufacturers will mount this chip? It's still too early to say as Broadcom has simply announced its new product, but it's not known how much it will cost manufacturers to be able to offer it in their devices. We must also take into account that it opens the door for other manufacturers to be able to make a similar development (or to devote more resources than they were using until now to do so), so other producers such as SiRF or Mediatek, which is what equips the 99% of the current GPS watches, will offer a similar solution.

Finally, I must remember that although the chip is a very important part of the chain, it is not the only one. Details that may seem minor such as the antenna or the software that manages everything can mean a remarkable difference between two devices using the same chip. It is one more part, but it is clear that being more capable the possibilities increase exponentially.

And with that... thanks for reading!

Eduardo Mateos

I've been surrounded by electronic devices of all kinds for more than 25 years. Using them, testing them, taking them apart and dissecting them. Long distance triathlete: I swim, run and cycle for a long time. Maybe too much.

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  1. Hello again!
    Very interesting article, state-of-the-art technology, let's see when it will be applied and how it affects price etc...
    In the meantime I ask you, because I am still in search of a replacement for my old FR405, if I find the GPS watch with the 3 "B "s.
    Do you recommend the Xiaomi Amazfit Pace. I'm still paranoid to know if it records the position every second. In another article you were telling me that new watches do it this way but I would like to know from the gpx file.

    Thank you very much for your advice
    Sergio Sanchez

    1. Although I haven't tried it, I don't recommend it for the simple reason that it doesn't have its own platform. If I remember correctly, right now it's up to Strava.
      If tomorrow Strava decides to change its policy because, imagine, they launch a device of their own; you will have a device that you cannot use.

  2. Hello tomorrow, Thursday May 31st, the first smarphone with this double band chip from Braodconm will be announced, I think it's very good news. We'll have to test the pressure of this Xiomi Mi8. What do you think will be the first relog to incorporate it? Maybe the Apple wacht 4 or the garmin fenix 6? I think we are before the first real advance of precision gps in the last 5 years

    1. I think we'll see it on some smart watch first, before I make the jump to sports watches. But I hope I'm wrong!

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