Joint clock synchronization and position estimation in time of arrival–based passive positioning systems

Shenghong Li, Lingyun Lu*, Mark Hedley, David Humphrey, Iain B. Collings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


A widely used scheme for target localization is to measure the time of arrival of a wireless signal emitted by a tag, which requires the clocks of the anchors (receivers at known locations) to be accurately synchronized. Conventional systems rely on transmissions from a timing reference node at a known location for clock synchronization and therefore are susceptible to reference node failure. In this article, we propose a novel localization scheme which jointly estimates anchor clock offsets and target positions. The system does not require timing reference nodes and is completely passive (non-intrusive). The positioning algorithm is formulated as a maximum likelihood estimation problem, which is solved efficiently using an iterative linear least square method. The Cramér–Rao lower bound of positioning error is also analyzed. It is shown that the performance of the proposed scheme improves with the number of targets in the system and approaches that of a system with perfectly synchronized anchors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • clock synchronization
  • passive localization
  • time of arrival


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