Q&A: Thomas Stockx on designing an underground GPS

Summary

University of Hasselt graduate Thomas Stockx was recently awarded the Alcatel-Lucent Bell MSc Thesis Award for his work on a subway positioning system

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MetroNavigator is an app written for mobile devices that helps users navigate their way around underground public transportation systems.

What’s special about your system?
You can think of it as a GPS device but for use on the subway, with notifications on when to get off, how many stops or minutes left to your destination, information about nearby points of interest and so on. To be able to do this, I created a new technique called SubwayPS [Subway Positioning System] to interpret the accelerometer data measured by the mobile device. By combining all this information, we can update the user in real time.

You’ve received a lot of attention for this app. How is it being received by the business world?
The main purpose of my thesis was to research a good positioning method that would work on underground transport networks, and the app was mostly just a proof of the technique I developed, which allows positioning without infrastructure works such as installing routers. There has been some good feedback from companies in the networking and people-tracking business and the academic world. The work on the research that I started will probably continue under the guidance of my advisor, professor Johannes Schöning. 

You’re now working for a game developer. Any other brilliant ideas in the pipeline?
After graduating in July, I relocated to the UK for a job at Boss Alien in Brighton. They are a well-known mobile games company, with titles such as CSR Racing played by over 100 million people. It’s a lot of fun working on a project that gets played by so many people. As for brilliant ideas, my role at Boss Alien is as a programmer, which means working together with artists and game designers to come up with and implement new features for games that are currently already available. Obviously, I can’t talk about the stuff that’s coming out soon, except for saying that it’s exciting.

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Hasselt University

Established in the 1970s, Hasselt University (UHasselt) is one of Flanders’ youngest universities. With six faculties, seven research institutes and two campuses, it’s become an established education and research centre.
PhD - UHasselt awarded Flanders’ first-ever doctorate in architecture in 2011.
Partners - The university works with Maastricht University in the Netherlands on many research projects and degree programmes.
Jail time - The centrepiece of the university’s city campus is the renovated 19th-century prison that houses the law programme.
1 973

university was founded

5 000

students

30

million euro budget for new city campus