Indoor navigation, a new frontier…

Here at MapData Services we like to push the boundaries of spatial technology. An exciting area at the moment is indoor navigation and mapping. We’ve got a long history of developing online locators and trip planners for all sorts of different companies, now we’re starting to look at taking that experience one step further – not just guiding people to the door – but also inside the building.

Indoor Navigation

There are several emerging technologies being used in indoor navigation and routing including but not limited to: Bluetooth BLE; Wi-Fi fingerprinting; magnetic field fingerprinting; and, smartphone sensors. The best solutions that I have seen take several of these technologies and mash them together to get a good result.

Indoor Navigation mashup

I’m just going to briefly speak about how these are used together in MapData Services’ indoor navigation solution.

Take the use case from the first image in this post. As you can see there are several parts to the illustrated trip including:

  • Street navigation to a building
  • Indoor navigation to an elevator
  • Up the elevator
  • And then to a specific shelf containing a particular item

Some of the technologies used to achieve navigation and positioning in this varied trip are outlined in the below diagram.

Indoor Navigation beacons

Some technologies used in an indoor / outdoor navigation solution

As an explanation of the diagram:

  • GPS is used for outdoor navigation, getting the user to the front door of the building
  • Magnetic field and Wi-Fi fingerprints are read by the smartphone sensors and used to obtain a current position indoors
  • BLE Beacons are placed at the top and bottom of the elevator to quickly snap the user to the correct level in the building
  • BLE Beacons are also used to navigate the user to a shelf with a specific item the user is looking for

This is a very high level overview of a potential series of technologies that can be used in combination to perform indoor / outdoor routing. This particular area of technology is moving very quickly, new standards and technologies are emerging and the accuracy of indoor positioning systems are improving rapidly – whilst the complications of set-up are reducing.

So that’s all for now – I will be writing more on this subject as we are actively working in this space currently. Stay tuned for a further dive into the technical considerations surrounding the configuration and set-up of an indoor navigation solution.

Matt B

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