By Evan Ackerman
Cameras with built-in or external geotagging are nothing new, but beyond added expense and bulk, GPS units drain power from already power hungry devices. NXP’s SnapSpot GPS Chip manages to be tiny (the production version should be 5mm square), cheap ($2-$4 when built into existing devices in bulk), and ultra efficient (think 1 year of operation on a single lithium watch battery). This sounds so good it almost seems like vaporware, but the idea behind the SnapSpot chip is deceptively simple: get something else to do all the hard work later.
All the SnapSpot chip does is wake up for a tenth of a second when you take a picture, download raw GPS satellite data, store it, and go back to sleep. Then when you get home, your computer sends the raw GPS data to an NXP server which does all of the GPS number crunching (via a database of GPS satellite positions) and spits back an actual position. The computation bit is why current GPS devices are relatively large and take minutes to get an initial position fix.
This is great stuff, unless you actually want to know where you are. By itself, the little NXP chip can’t tell you that… It’ll just store the raw location information for the rescue party to decode, showing how you walked in circles before being trampled by a flink of rabid cows.