Statistical Analysis of Geolocation Fundamentals Using Stochastic Geometry

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The past two decades have seen a surge in the number of applications requiring precise positioning data. Modern cellular networks offer many services based on the user's location, such as emergency services (e.g., E911), and emerging wireless sensor networks are being used in applications spanning environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, warehouse and manufacturing logistics, and traffic monitoring, just to name a few. In these sensor networks in particular, obtaining precise positioning data of the sensors gives vital context to the measurements being reported. While the Global Positioning System (GPS) has traditionally been used to obtain this positioning data, the deployment locations of these cellular and sensor networks in GPS-constrained environments (e.g., cities, indoors, etc.), along with the need for reliable positioning, requires a localization scheme that does not rely solely on GPS. This has lead to localization being performed entirely by the network infrastructure itself, or by the network infrastructure aided, in part, by GPS.

In the literature, benchmarking localization performance in these networks has traditionally been done in a deterministic manner. That is, for a fixed setup of anchors (nodes with known location) and a target (a node with unknown location) a commonly used benchmark for localization error, such as the Cramer-Rao lower bound (CRLB), can be calculated for a given localization strategy, e.g., time-of-arrival (TOA), angle-of-arrival (AOA), etc. While this CRLB calculation provides excellent insight into expected localization performance, its traditional treatment as a deterministic value for a specific setup is limited.

Rather than trying to gain insight into a specific setup, network designers are more often interested in aggregate localization error statistics within the network as a whole. Questions such as: "What percentage of the time is localization error less than x meters in the network?" are commonplace. In order to answer these types of questions, network designers often turn to simulations; however, these come with many drawbacks, such as lengthy execution times and the inability to provide fundamental insights due to their inherent ``block box'' nature. Thus, this dissertation presents the first analytical solution with which to answer these questions. By leveraging tools from stochastic geometry, anchor positions and potential target positions can be modeled by Poisson point processes (PPPs). This allows for the CRLB of position error to be characterized over all setups of anchor positions and potential target positions realizable within the network. This leads to a distribution of the CRLB, which can completely characterize localization error experienced by a target within the network, and can consequently be used to answer questions regarding network-wide localization performance. The particular CRLB distribution derived in this dissertation is for fourth-generation (4G) and fifth-generation (5G) sub-6GHz networks employing a TOA localization strategy.

Recognizing the tremendous potential that stochastic geometry has in gaining new insight into localization, this dissertation continues by further exploring the union of these two fields. First, the concept of localizability, which is the probability that a mobile is able to obtain an unambiguous position estimate, is explored in a 5G, millimeter wave (mm-wave) framework. In this framework, unambiguous single-anchor localization is possible with either a line-of-sight (LOS) path between the anchor and mobile or, if blocked, then via at least two NLOS paths. Thus, for a single anchor-mobile pair in a 5G, mm-wave network, this dissertation derives the mobile's localizability over all environmental realizations this anchor-mobile pair is likely to experience in the network. This is done by: (1) utilizing the Boolean model from stochastic geometry, which statistically characterizes the random positions, sizes, and orientations of reflectors (e.g., buildings) in the environment, (2) considering the availability of first-order (i.e., single-bounce) reflections as well as the LOS path, and (3) considering the possibility that reflectors can either facilitate or block reflections. In addition to the derivation of the mobile's localizability, this analysis also reveals that unambiguous localization, via reflected NLOS signals exclusively, is a relatively small contributor to the mobile's overall localizability.

Lastly, using this first-order reflection framework developed under the Boolean model, this dissertation then statistically characterizes the NLOS bias present on range measurements. This NLOS bias is a common phenomenon that arises when trying to measure the distance between two nodes via the time delay of a transmitted signal. If the LOS path is blocked, then the extra distance that the signal must travel to the receiver, in excess of the LOS path, is termed the NLOS bias. Due to the random nature of the propagation environment, the NLOS bias is a random variable, and as such, its distribution is sought. As before, assuming NLOS propagation is due to first-order reflections, and that reflectors can either facilitate or block reflections, the distribution of the path length (i.e., absolute time delay) of the first-arriving multipath component (MPC) is derived. This result is then used to obtain the first NLOS bias distribution in the localization literature that is based on the absolute delay of the first-arriving MPC for outdoor time-of-flight (TOF) range measurements. This distribution is shown to match exceptionally well with commonly assumed gamma and exponential NLOS bias models in the literature, which were only attained previously through heuristic or indirect methods. Finally, the flexibility of this analytical framework is utilized by further deriving the angle-of-arrival (AOA) distribution of the first-arriving MPC at the mobile. This distribution gives novel insight into how environmental obstacles affect the AOA and also represents the first AOA distribution, of any kind, derived under the Boolean model.

In summary, this dissertation uses the analytical tools offered by stochastic geometry to gain new insights into localization metrics by performing analyses over the entire ensemble of infrastructure or environmental realizations that a target is likely to experience in a network.



Cramer-Rao lower bound (CRLB), localizability, non-line-of-sight (NLOS) bias, Poisson point process (PPP), Boolean model, millimeter wave (mm-wave)