Indoor positioning tech in movies

Silvia Pichler, 

Indoor Positioning tech is the future

According to eMarketer Inc., by 2018 there will be 2.5 billion smartphone users worldwide and the Pew Research Center reported that 90% use their phone to retrieve location-based information. Indoor Positioning tech are not only convenient for end-users but also completely reshape the way businesses manage their personnel and workflows.

Besides industry players and experts stressing the importance of Indoor LBS, there is also another party which has continuously shown heavy interest in innovative high-tech solutions, and that is Hollywood.

Hollywood, it seems, is not just a dream factory, but also source of inspiration for innovators. It has introduced us to futuristic technology in multiple Sci-Fi and spy movies long before it had actually been invented in real life. Some of these originally seemingly unthinkable objects, however, have come to be adapted in real life.

One example is the air touch display, allowing the user to work without keyboard or screen touch.

Real-life Air Touch Display by ITRI
Real-life Air Touch Display by ITRI

Similar technology could be seen first in “Minority report” with Tom Cruise predicting crimes via his heads-up display.

Heads-up Display in “Minority Report”
Heads-up Display in “Minority Report”

“2001: A Space Odessy” (1986) introduced HAL 9000, an intelligent, voice-assisted and sentient board computer. Although not sentient, the main principle and functionality it follows is the same as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home.

These are all programmed to follow voice commands to perform tasks such as placing orders online, or managing the household’s other technological infrastructure, etc.

In 2016, photos of people with their mini-mes, formed by 3D printers, have showered the internet. While these miniature selves are fun, this technology has proven to be more than a fun pastime, and has already been leveraged in medicine, e.g. to facilitate and improve complicated face transplant surgeries

These 3D printers, which are capable of creating masterpieces of all sorts of material do bear a resemblance to Star Trek’s “Replicator”, which would bring all sorts of things into existence, e.g. food supply but also spare parts for the spaceship.

Star Trek Replicator
Star Trek Replicator

Currently,  NASA are working on a project to create spare parts by additional manufacturing (3D printing) during space missions.

3D printed shoes
3D printed shoes

While one of America’s favorite families, The Jetsons, were basically living the future with their flatscreen TVs, food vending machines, and household robots, “Back to the future” , among some other predictions, were pretty spot on with wearable technology, which can be interpreted as today’s Google Glasses.

“Total recall” as well as “Demolition man” both predicted self-driving cars, and today they do exist and will probably hit the mass market within the next few years. More complementing technology for cars has evolved, including indoor parking assistance, which helps you instantly locate your car in a parking garage.

There are a lot more examples of movies getting future technology right, some of them also predicting Indoor Positioning solutions.

Indoor Mapping

The movie Prometheus, which was released in 2012, features a scene, where the crew sends out drones to create a 3D map of a cave. It helps them visualize the whole cave on a backend tool and turns out as a critical instrument to plan further actions on their mission.

Albeit drones have also become more or less commonplace nowadays and are used to take photos both outdoors and indoors, mapping is still beyond their functional scope. However, there are now other sophisticated technologies enabling accurate real-time indoor radio mapping.

indoor positioning tech in Prometheus
SLAM in Prometheus SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) is best comparable to this movie’s technology, in terms of mapping and speed. With tools and the smart algorithms of SLAM, an accurate radio map can be crafted by recording ground truths inside the building, i.e. walking around the building with your smartphone and confirming measurement points.

The speed of this process is 10 times the speed of other currently existing methods, underlining its efficiency and convenience. The end result is an accurate, intelligent map on your phone, guiding you through indoor venues.

Asset Tracking

What would a spy movie be without the good old tracking device? The first time a so called homing beacon occurred on the big screen was in James Bond’s Goldfinger from 1964, a time, where tracking devices were not officially in use yet. The GPS project was officially kicked off in the 1970s and introduced to public use in the 1980s.

In “Aliens” (1986), the crew on a space mission to the moon is being attacked by aliens. In one scene, where the crew members are trapped in a room, a tracking device helps them calculate the aliens’ position and stand a better chance against them.

Imagining life without GPS nowadays is hard, especially since we’ve developed a strong dependence for navigational assistance whenever going somewhere unknown. With Asset Tracking, a number of use cases have evolved, e.g. tracking your mobile phone, third party delivery trucks, but also safety driven use cases such as tracking backpackers or even your pet, and many more.

In indoor environments, Asset Tracking is first and foremost used to improve inventory and workflow management. Resulting from overburdened working schedules, high stress levels and over crowded working spaces, inventory, e.g. mobile medical equipment at hospitals, wheelchairs at airports etc., often tends to get lost or stolen.

Indoor Asset Tracking with helps keep track of all static or moving assets and facilitates working routines. Assets can easily be identified as vacant or in use and be located and picked up by the personnel who need them. This helps them fulfill their workload without causing disruptions in their schedule because they’d have to look for them first.