August 22, 2017

How to Build an IoT Device that can Locate Itself Using Surrounding WiFi and Google Maps API

“We’ve seen recent growth in Internet of Things (IoT) applications using the Google Maps Geolocation API instead of GPS for asset tracking, theft prevention, usage optimization, asset servicing, and more,” said Ken Nevarez, Industry Solutions Lead at Google. “As part of my 20 percent project at Industry Solutions, I created a prototype IoT device that can locate itself using surrounding WiFi networks and the Google Maps Geolocation API. In this post, I’ll discuss some interesting implementation features and outline how you can create the prototype yourself.”


Nevarez says he “built a device that scans for local WiFi and writes results (WiFi hotspots and their signal strength) to a Firebase Realtime Database. A back-end service then reads this data and uses the Google Maps Geolocation API to turn this into a real-world location, which can be plotted on a map.”

Here is Navarez’ description to creating an efficient geo-aware product:

Set up the Device & Write Locally

For this proof of concept, I used the Intel Edison as a Linux-based computing platform and augmented it withSparkfun’s Edison Blocks. To build the device, you will need an Intel Edison, a Base Block, a Battery Block and a Hardware pack.


Developing for the Edison is straightforward using the Intel XDK IDE. We will be creating a simple Node.js application in JavaScript. I relied on 3 libraries: Firebase for the database connection, wireless-tools/iwlist to capture WiFi networks, and macaddress to capture the device MAC. Installation instructions can be found on the linked pages.

Read Ken’s full blog post on Google’s Geo Developers blog with included code snippets so you can create a geo enabled IoT device.