Outdoor positioning and navigation is “solved”. The technology (signals, maps, software) is there, reliable, and omnipresent. The number of applications using localization and navigation has exploded. Mapping and navigation are critical components of any mobile device and online service and hugely important for the end customer’s experience (as the recent Mapplegate illustrates). It is no longer a solution looking for a problem – it is fundamental for virtually every mobile/online user experience.
While not a completely new technology, indoor positioning and navigation is becoming more broadly available to more users, applications and devices – as was recently outlined in a Forrester Research report “Next in Tech – Indoor Positioning”. This is a big leap forward from previous “vertical” indoor navigation applications that are custom built for specific B2B use cases and application areas, represent closed environments, and have associated high costs. These solutions were typically built using bespoke technology solutions and rely on “beacons” to achieve a sufficiently accurate positioning.
Today we’re on the cusp of universal accurate indoor positioning and navigation, using the sensors available on the majority of mobile devices (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, pressure) and the existing ambient electromagnetic environment (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, geo-magnetic fields); and using indoor maps – now being collected at an accelerated pace by the likes of Google, Nokia, Microsoft, Micello, the OpenStreetMap initiative, and others. The availability of application software, such as developed by indoo.rs, connects the two and we can expect this application software to sink down the stack onto mobile device’s hardware, embedded by chipset manufacturers, thus delivering indoor positioning and navigation capabilities to any user on any device.
What, then, are the use cases that drive adoption, as the technology and ecosystem continue to advance. The initial use cases will be B2B – businesses investing in indoor navigation applications to optimize their (internal) business processes and/or deliver better services to end-customers and partners. The application areas are numerous:
Public Safety and Healthcare
Public safety systems are available that show the location of officers on control-room screens using GPS signals sent by their mobile devices. If a suspect carries a mobile phone that a law enforcement agency has a fix on, or they are being closely followed by a covert officer, they too may be tracked. Using indoor positioning capabilities, the useful range of such systems can be extended to indoor locations where GPS coverage is absent, such as malls, underground transport, and airports.
Using Wi-Fi network monitoring solutions, for example, public venues can determine the location of user who’s mobile phone are Wi-Fi enabled. This also allows accurately estimating movement patterns of individuals and crowds. Users of an indoor navigation application can be notified of any emergency situations. Moreover, effective crowd control strategies can be supported by directing those users to emergency exits, using the best accessible routes.
In a hospital environment indoor navigation can be used for such emergency situations too of course. But there’s real value in helping navigate visitors as well as patients to their intended destination through these increasingly large institutions. This would increase the overall care level and service quality in general, and would help drive efficiency metrics such as the percentage if missed/late appointments in particular.
In large plants (for example refineries or production facilities) making sure that resources and personnel are at the right place at the right time is a crucial factor driving production costs. Having an accurate way to locate resources and navigate those to the appropriate location at the correct time can be a significant productivity driver, for example to reduce downtime. This becomes especially clear when there is a significant amount of outsourced services and personnel that is being relied upon for maintenance and break-fix operations.
A similar use case exists for warehousing, where indoor trucks and loads can be localized centrally. In the ideal case, where the indoors location of resources is integrated into a routing application, those can then be automatically routed to the appropriate locations, quickly and easily.
The beauty of the new generation of indoor navigation technology such as provided by indoo.rs is that this can now be typically achieved without any investments in additional infrastructure – a reasonable Wi-Fi network coverage suffices!
In a follow-on blog post, we will examine use cases with direct consumer interaction: travel, hospitality, retail.
If you are interested in exploring what indoor navigation can mean for you please contact us.