locationd is a central hub for multiplexing access to positioning subsystems available via hard- and software. It provides a client API offering positioning capabilities to applications and other system components, abstracting away the details of individual positioning solutions.


To make the remainder of this documentation as easily understandable as possible, we start over with introducing some vocabulary:

  • Engine: Responsible for handling input from multiple positioning subsystems and maintaining the state of the overall system. Think about it like the heart of the system.
  • Provider: A positioning subsystem that feeds into the positioning engine. Common examples are a GPS provider or a network-based positioning provider.
  • Service: The point of entry for applications and services that would like to receive position data.
  • Session: In order to receive position information, every application or service has to create a session with the location Service. Session creation is subject to security mediation and contextual prompting.
  • Update: An update is a timestamped entity to a certain type of data.
  • WGS84: The coordinate system that is used throughout the entire location subsystem.

Architectural Overview

The high-level architecture of the service is shown in the following diagram:

High-level architectural overview

In this diagram, the configuration of the engine refers to:

  • The current state of any satellite-based positioning subsystems. Can either be off or on.
  • The current state of reporting facilities responsible for harvesting wifi and cell id measurements together with location information and sending them off to remote services. Can either be off or on.
  • The overall state of the engine. Can either be off, on or active.

The Service takes this configuration and exposes it to client applications. In addition, mainly for debugging purposes, the set of currently visible satellites (if any) is maintained and exposed to privileged client applications. The service supports multiple different satellite-based positioning operating in parallel. The following GNSSs are known:

  • Beidou: People’s Republic of China’s regional system, currently limited to Asia and the West Pacific.
  • Galileo: A global system being developed by the European Union and other partner countries, planned to be operational by 2014 (and fully deployed by 2019).
  • Glonass: Russia’s global navigation system. Fully operational worldwide.
  • GPS: Fully operational worldwide.
  • Compass: People’s Republic of China’s global system, planned to be operational by 2020.
  • IRNSS: India’s regional navigation system, planned to be operational by 2014, covering India and Northern Indian Ocean.
  • QZSS: Japanese regional system covering Asia and Oceania.

Privacy & Access Control

Location information is highly privacy relevant. For this reason, the locationd is deeply integrated with AppArmor and Ubuntu’s overall trust infrastructure. Every incoming session request is validated and if in doubt, the user is asked to explicitly grant trust to the application requesting access to positioning information. Please see [@ref com::ubuntu::location::service::PermissionManager] for further details.

In addition, the locationd allows for selectively adjusting the accuracy and reporting setup of the location Engine to provide further fine-grained control over the exposed data to user. Within this setup, a user is able to entirely disable all positioning.