Indoor navigation allows people the ability to locate objects or other people inside a building. It can work on a number of platforms including radio waves, magnetic fields, acoustic signals, and other information that is collected by mobile devices. There are a number of different technologies being used in indoor navigation systems including Wi-Fi access points, magnetic positioning, or what is called dead reckoning. The systems find people and objects by identifying and locating mobile devices or tags. They can also provide ambient location or environmental context so that mobile devices can be sensed and identified.
Question #1: What are the uses for indoor navigation?
Indoor navigation is proving to be an invaluable technological advance for a number of industries and institutions. Hospitals are using it to track patients and shopping malls are finding find lost children and attracting customers to certain stores through indoor navigation systems. Museums and art galleries are utilizing this indoor type of GPS to help guide their tours and to give museum visitors additional options and services.
Question #2: Who uses indoor navigation?
All of the large technology companies are heavily invested in indoor navigation systems. Google, Microsoft and Apple are all exploring the use of indoor positioning and working to create the back-up features like basemaps that will make these systems even more valuable in the future.
Government organizations are also considering using the new technology of indoor navigation One agency, the United States Federal Communications Commission is looking at the possibility of the advanced use of Indoor GPS to improve its emergency response programs. They have been studying the issue since 2012 and have developed a baseline for indoor positioning for use in emergency response situations.
Question #3: What technology is involved in indoor navigation systems?
Indoor navigation systems tend to rely on three distinct elements: the underlying platform, the beacons that broadcast signals that are picked up by the smartphone, and then the applications that make the systems work to provide the necessary information to users. While there is no standard operating system for indoor navigation systems, there are a number of different technologies, including distance measurement, WiFi access points, magnetic positioning and dead reckoning.
Some systems also use various radio, optical and acoustic technologies to improve the information gathering and transmission. All systems work to reduce the possibility of errors and as a result they often work in combination with one of more different technologies and systems at the same time.
Question #4: What are the challenges for indoor navigation?
There are numerous challenges facing indoor navigation systems. Above all, they are working at a disadvantage because they are indoors and any satellite tracking is muffled or blurred by the materials used in constructing buildings. This results in a significant power loss for any indoor GPS. The multiple reflections at surfaces cause multi-path propagation and this means even more possibility of errors.
That’s why developers are hard at work trying to come up with better tracking alternatives like inertial measurement units, monocular cameras and something called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping or SLAM that combines different systems of collecting data and not just WiFi. This has been shown to increase the accuracy of the information which is being collected.
Question #5: Can indoor navigation locate a person?
Another major challenge for indoor navigation systems is that while the system can find the location of something or somebody, it has a hard time distinguishing which direction they are moving, or even facing. That limits the ability of a museum for example to guide or find people. It also means that the indoor navigation system is limited in providing accurate directions or to give shoppers an incentive to visit a particular store or location within a shopping mall.