Advanced Localization Techniques on Smart Devices for a Connected, Accessible and Inclusive Society

Advanced Localization Techniques on Smart Devices for a Connected, Accessible and Inclusive Society
Engineering for the Information Society and Sustainable Development
Luis Enrique Díez Blanco (DeustoTech) and Estefanía Muñoz Díaz (DLR, Germany)
DeustoTech is a research institute at Faculty of Engineering of the University of Deusto for applied and basic research for the development of novel ICTs applications. Deustotech focuses its activity around TRLs 2-7 and articulates it into different applied fields: Health, Industry, Mobility, Energy and Society. It channels advanced ICT activity into business and society through research, development, innovation and knowledge transfer.

The thesis project is intended to be carried out in co-direction with the Institute of Communications and Navigation of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), in Munich (Germany), where the candidate will spend several stays. This Institute works on the conception and analysis of communication and navigation systems involving satellites or designed for applications in aeronautics, transport and security (
– Candidates who want to apply for this vacancy should have a first class or good degree at master’s level in Electronics and Communications Engineering, Computer Science, Industrial Technology, Mathematics, Physics or equivalent.
– Interest for statistical signal processing and/or Artificial Intelligence techniques (i.e. Machine Learning)
– Advanced command of English (C1 or equivalent) is desired. Knowledge of Spanish or German is not a requirement.
– To be eligible students must be full-time and physically present at the DeustoTech’s premises, except during the stays at the DLR.
  • Information Sciences and Engineering (ENG)
  • Mathematics (MAT)
  • Physics (PHY)
User location information has transversal demand on numerous applications and can be a problem solver of different societal challenges, among which mobility is one of the priorities. On the one hand, next generation transport solutions such as multi-modal systems or «Mobility as a Service» require accurate and seamless location information for being truly safe, efficient and environmentally-friendly. On the other hand, mobility solutions must benefit all citizens, in particular vulnerable groups such as elderly and people with disabilities. Having reliable location information is key when designing fail-safe support tools.
Mass market smart devices (e.g. smartphones and wearable devices) have increasingly greater technical capabilities that can be used for localization purposes: improved satellite navigation, several RF interfaces and inertial sensors, among others useful sensors. In addition, they have enough computing power to implement data fusion and Artificial Intelligence methods. This presents exciting challenges for signal processing and data analysis researchers and opens promising opportunities to empower people to interact with and through the world.
The proposed research will focus on the design, implementation and evaluation of enhanced localization systems on smart devices, by combining statistical signal processing and Artificial Intelligence, with the aim of developing location-based services that foster a more connected, accessible and inclusive society.


– D. Bousdar Ahmed, L. E. Díez, E. M. Diaz, and J. J. García Domínguez, “A Survey on Test and Evaluation Methodologies of Pedestrian Localization Systems,” IEEE Sensors Journal, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 479–491, Sep. 2019. IF=3.076 (Q2). DOI: 10.1109/JSEN.2019.2939592.
– T. Otim, A. Bahillo, L. E. Diez, P. Lopez, and F. Falcone, “FDTD and Empirical Exploration of Human Body and UWB Radiation Interaction on TOF Ranging,” IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 1119–1123, Apr. 2019. IF=3.448 (Q1). DOI: 10.1109/LAWP.2019.2910378
– Rebernik, N. Goličnik Marušić, B. Bahillo, A. Osaba, E. (2019). “A 4-dimensional Model and Combined Methodological Approach to Inclusive Urban Planning and Design for ALL”, Sustainable Cities and Society Vol. 44, Jan. 2019, Pages 195-214. IF=1.777 (Q2). DOI: 10.1016/j.scs.2018.10.001.
– L. E. Díez, A. Bahillo, J. Otegui, and T. Otim, “Suitability Analysis of Wrist-Worn Sensors for Implementing Pedestrian Dead Reckoning Systems,” IEEE Sensors Journal, vol. 18, no. 12, pp. 5098–5114, May 2018. IF=2.617 (Q1). DOI: 10.1109/JSEN.2018.2830809
– Bahillo, L. E. Díez, and A. Arambarri, “BLUE Care: A Cooperative Location Network for Handicapped Persons,” Procedia Engineering, vol. 178, pp. 67–75, Jan. 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.proeng.2017.01.064
– “PeaceOfMind: Improving and fostering active living and wellness of people with dementia and mild cognitive impairment in rural areas”, Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PID2019-105470RB-C31), 36 months (Jun. 2020 – Jun. 2023)
– “Care4eldely: Design and development of a tele-assistance system for the analysis and capture of heterogeneous information using artificial intelligence techniques”, Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (RTC2019-007378-1), 28 months (Sep. 2020 – Dec. 2022)
– “STING: Trains Positioning by Fusing Data coming from Heterogeneous Technologies”, Funded by CAF I+D, 36 months (Jan. 2017 – Dec. 2019)
– “BLUE: Enabling Ubiquitous Location-Based services”, Basque Department of Education Grant (ref. PI_2016_0010), 24 months (Jan. 2017 – Dec. 2018)
– “ESPHIA: Enabling Seamless Positioning for Helping Inhabitants Anywhere”, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (TIN2014-56042-JIN), 36 months (Oct. 2015 – Oct. 2018)
– “CYBERPARKS: Fostering knowledge about the relationship between Information and Communication Technologies and Public Spaces supported by strategies to improve their use and attractiveness”, European COST Action TU1306, 48 months (Apr. 2014 – Apr. 2018)
– “LORIS: Localization Cooperative Systems for People and Objects in Diverse Environments”. Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (TIN2012-38080-C04-03), 36 months (Jan. 2013 – Dec. 2015)


The proposed research plan seeks to cover three areas of knowledge in a bottom-up strategy, one of them closer to basic research and the other two to applied research:
– Advanced localization techniques on smart devices: The main motivation behind this knowledge area is based on the current need for a better accuracy and availability of localization information using mass-market devices such as smartphones or wearable devices. This basic research objective seeks dynamic positioning systems which autonomously adapts to the availability of external signals depending on the environment. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques are key for developing effective context-aware systems.
– Smart transport systems: State-of-the-art transport solutions such as autonomous cars or multimodal systems require context information to function effectively and safely. Therefore, one of the applied objectives of this research project is to study the use of the new localization techniques in advanced transport solutions, analysing the performance requirements they impose.
– Applications oriented to the support of vulnerable people: An inclusive society offers equal opportunities to all its members. Therefore, another important objective of the proposed research plan is the use of localization techniques to design services that favour the mobility of vulnerable groups such as elderly and/or people with disabilities.
Yes, the thesis will be co-directed between DeustoTech and DLR, who have shown willingness to co-finance the research project, as sought in the 6i-DIRS project. The contact person at DLR is Dr. Estefanía Muñoz Díaz (
The basic research objective related to the design of advanced localization techniques using smart devices will be led jointly by the two institutions, although part of their fields of expertise are also complementary: beacon-based localization techniques and Artificial Intelligence by DeustoTech, and smartphone-based passenger localization techniques by DLR.

In the case of the applied research objectives, DLR will lead the area of smart transport systems and DeustoTech will lead the area of Inclusion-oriented applications.

We plan the next mechanisms to successfully implement the interdisciplinarity and international collaboration:
– Refine the plan proposal (objectives, scope and roadmap) agreed among the co-directors and the PhD candidate for the three years period.
– Skype meetings every two weeks to check the progress of the PhD researcher and to establish the next steps to follow.
– Face to face meetings every 24 weeks.
– At least two short-term research stays every year, and one long-term research stay at the Institute of Communications and Navigation of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Munich, Germany.

Aligned with the 2030 Agenda, the Horizon Europe missions and goals and the Basque Country Smart Specialisation Strategy, DEUSTO research blends competitiveness, innovation and technology to tackle challenges for communities, companies and public bodies in the region. Ageing and Wellbeing; Cultural and Creative Industries and Cities; Gender; Social Justice and Inclusion and Strengthening Participation are the focus of the 5 Interdisciplinary Research Platforms. Besides, advanced research units contribute to generate knowledge and innovative solutions in the fields of efficient and clean Energy, Industry 4.0 (advanced manufacturing, data analytics…), Health and Territory.


In the absence of the final details of the new Horizon Europe Framework Programme, this research project is clearly aligned with the priority of the President-elect of a European Green Deal. And in a more specific way:
– From a technical point of view, the development of new localization systems on smart devices fits into the «4-DIGITAL, INDUSTRY AND SPACE» priority cluster, especially with regard to Europe’s technological and industrial leadership in both ICT and space, since it includes the use of the European Global Navigation Satellite System (Galileo, EGNOS).
– From an application point of view, the research project’s objective of using location information to develop new mobility services is aligned with the priority cluster «5 CLIMATE, ENERGY AND MOBILITY» and the Green Transport concept. Furthermore, the fact of doing so by focusing on the inclusion of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable groups, also fits with the priorities set in the clusters «1-HEALTH» and «2-CULTURE, CREATIVITY AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETY».

In addition, the Horizon Europe Framework Programme itself is aligned with several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Deusto Research works closely with more than 1250 organisations (public administration, business, non-profit organisations, education and training institutions, technology centres, etc.) in areas such as health, urban development, gender, social justice and inclusion, democratic participation, regional competitiveness and energy. Since 2014 DEUSTO has been involved in 89 international research projects and worked with more than 770 partner organisations. From data collection to the implementation and piloting phases, stakeholders have an active role throughout the research project life cycle.
As mentioned before, the thesis will be co-directed between DeustoTech (Spain) and DLR (Germany). The research groups of both institutions involved in this proposal have been working together on different research activities for several years. This ensures a smooth and effective international collaboration.


The research proposal is aligned with the specialisation line «Urban habitat» within the Basque Country’s RIS3, which encompasses three lines of action:
– social line, which seeks to improve social cohesion, expressly including universal accessibility
– economic line, working towards digitalization and smart cities
– environmental line, which includes actions in the field of mobility

Several stakeholders who may be interested in the results of this research project have now been identified:
– Transport systems manufacturers or operators, who can be interested in innovative transport solutions. There exist active collaborations with companies such as CAF or Euskotren
– Associations of people with different types of disabilities, as they are the main end users of accessibility objective of this research project. In the past, there has been contacts with associations such as “Discapacitados sin fronteras “(Disabled without frontiers) or ONCE (Spanish Blind Association)
– Town councils and other public bodies interested in being able to offer better and more accessible services to citizens. In the past, there has been collaborations with cities such as Bilbao or Zaragoza in Spain, or Maribor in Slovenia
– Different agents in the health field, especially interested in the study of active aging or people with psychiatric problems. There exist active collaborations and contacts with several teams in the field of psychiatry of Sacyl (Public Health Service of Castilla y León, Spain)


The choice of mobility, accessibility and inclusiveness as the target applications of this research project will maximise the public benefit because it addresses major societal challenges identified as priorities by different international organizations.
In particular, the main stakeholders will benefit from the results of this project in different ways:
– Access to high technology developers specialized in seamless positioning and Location Based Services implementation.
– Gaining knowledge on inclusion aspects in urban areas that will serve to the preparation of studies related to transport, mobility, urban planning and accessibility, etc.
– New business models related to co-operation between public administration and its stakeholders (citizens, companies, associations).
– Opportunity for closely collaborating cities and associations of people with physical disabilities, having the opportunity to boost the accessibility of urban areas to all the citizens. Opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices.
In addition, user location-based information has transversal demand on numerous commercial applications. Revenues of context-aware smartphone apps will hit € 30.6 billion by 2019, up from € 11.7 billion in 2015, so there is also a great commercial opportunity, which can be reflected in the obtaining of patents or creation of spin-off companies.

Deusto Research pursues societal impact that goes beyond academia focusing on the transformation of today’s society, leading to fairer and more diverse societies, where inclusive social development and welfare are enhanced.


The main innovative aspect of the research project is the focus of the development of LBS in the field of accessibility and inclusiveness. This implies focusing on a market and type of problems generally forgotten and brings with it the need to work from multidisciplinary strategies, which always is challenging and stimulating. Another important aspect of the offer is the possibility of working on a project that covers a wide spectrum of the life cycle of a product, as the project will include from basic and applied research tasks (TRL 2 to 5) to developing and testing systems that can be used in an operational environment with real services (TRL 7).

DEUSTO research internationalisation strategy pursues innovation through the participation in international research and innovation initiatives (H2020 projects, Innovation Radar)


The inclusion dimension is at the heart of the proposed research project, as the main practical application sought of the localization techniques will be the improvement of accessibility and mobility for people with disabilities.
The EU has a strong commitment for improving the social and economic situation of people with disabilities. For this, the Commission defined an Action Plan in the scope of “European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe”, where the access and mobility of people with disabilities in urban areas, its facilities and transportation system are a key priority, understanding accessibility as a precondition for participation in society and the economy. This strategy will expire this year but the EU’s commitment only grows and a new strategy for the 2020-2030 period is underway, which will be aligned to the recent United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and will aim to incorporate accessibility as a pre-requisite, boosting and standardising the anti-discrimination legislation, but also creating active inclusion measures to enable a better access to culture, sports and leisure.

Inclusion is an underlying principle of the 6i Dirs project. The leadership vocation of the University of Deusto goes hand in hand with its aspiration to excellence and quality and a firm commitment to social justice and inclusion. The Interdisciplinary Platform on Social Justice and Inclusion articulates interdisciplinary collaborations and channel research efforts for contributing to social justice and more inclusive and fairer societies.
Deusto recognises gender equality as a key driver for sustainable development and inclusive growth across regions, and believes that equality of academic opportunity for women is key. The Interdisciplinary Research Platform on Gender is a dynamic vehicle that teams up experts from different areas of knowledge with the dual purpose of fostering collaboration and integrating existing expertise to address society’s emerging challenges on gender issues. (
Moreover, to seek real inclusion for people with specific support needs, the 6i Dirs project ensures equal rights and opportunities with respect to access to the programme and the acquisition of the skills expected to achieve the PhD and enhance their career development and future employability. All vacancies on the Euraxess EU portal bear the Science4refugee logo to encourage refugees to apply for them. Furthermore, DEUSTO is a partner of the Scholars At Risk Network (SAR), which offers safety to scholars facing grave threats.