UMD Professor's Startup Overcomes Challenges of Indoor Positioning Systems

We are well accustomed to the benefits of GPS technology in our lives, but we are also familiar with its limitations. Precision location is easily identified outdoors, but not within indoor spaces, such as malls, museums, hospitals, academic buildings, and office spaces. The potential and possibilities of indoor positioning systems have been studied by researchers and technicians all over the world. However, the technical difficulties of creating an indoor positioning technology with pinpoint accuracy have puzzled the industry for over 30 years.

At the University of Maryland, Christine Kim Eminent Professor of Information Technology and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher K. J. Ray Liu has launched a startup called Origin Wireless, Inc. to address these challenges. Using a revolutionary smart radio platform technology, Origin Wireless, Inc. is breaking down barriers to indoor positioning systems 

“We developed the world’s first ever centimeter-accuracy wireless indoor positioning system that can offer indoor GPS-like capability to track human or any indoor objects without any infrastructure, as long as WiFi or LTE are available,” says Liu. “This is an achievement that no known competitors in the world can reproduce by using any existing and other techniques.”

Origin Wireless addressed this decades-long indoor positioning problem by using fundamental time-reversal physics combined with signal and information science. Origin’s technology shows that with more bandwidth, one can see many multi-paths, which can serve as hundreds of virtual antennas that can be leveraged as new degrees of freedom for smart life. Combining the fundamental physical principle of time reversal with the use of machine learning, Origin built a smart radio platform to enable cutting-edge Internet of Things applications.

The results are compelling. Origin can achieve 1-2 centimeter locationing accuracy under non-line-of-sight conditions with only a single smart radio device, and can track in real-time using Wi-Fi or LTE devices. In essence, Origin technology can track someone with a smartphone indoors without any infrastructure.

While the creation of Origin Wireless began in an office at the Maryland International Incubator for two and half years, Liu and his student team also received Series-A funding, enabling them to relocate to Greenbelt, Md., and continue gaining support through investors and venture capitalists.

 Liu expects his startup’s technology will have noticeable societal and global impact.  

“Such a technology forms the core of a smart radio platform that can be applied to home/office monitoring/security, radio human biometrics, vital signs detection, wireless charging, and 5G communications,” says Liu. “In essence, in the future of the wireless world, communication, as we see it, will be just a small component of what’s possible. There are many more ‘magic-like’ smart applications that can be made possible, allowing us to decipher our surrounding world with a new ‘sixth sense’.”

In terms of future plans, Liu has high hopes for the future of the technology, and his startup has already received interest from multiple corporations. 

“We are now working with many major companies in the world to revolutionize many markets by offering smart home/building, smart car, smart elevator, smart tracking, smart appliance solutions, just to name a few. We hope to grow to a point to be able to have an IPO.”

To read more about the startup and technology, please visit 


Published September 14, 2017