Imagine you’re in an enormous shopping center with hundreds of stores, thousands of square feet, and plenty of fellow shoppers - and you want to find one particular store. How do you find it?
Your phone’s GPS can only tell you that the store is in the mall, so it can’t help you once you’re inside. Without a kiosk or a conveniently located map, you’re out of luck—unless you have indoor navigation.
Indoor navigation is a network of devices used to give turn-by-turn directions to locations or objects where GPS and other technologies cannot work.
How Indoor Navigation Works
Indoor positioning systems (IPS), sometimes referred to as indoor GPS, can tell you where you are within a building and where to find your destination location. By itself, though, it cannot show you how to get there. Using the locations provided by IPS, indoor navigation can provide turn-by-turn directions that will get you to the right spot.
Indoor navigation relies on different technologies compared with GPS, which relies on satellite signals that are easily blocked by walls and ceilings. To overcome this limitation of GPS, there are a variety of IPS and indoor navigation systems using different technologies. Bluetooth beacons, receiver antenna arrays, WiFi, and short-range radio Ultra Wideband are options for deploying indoor navigation.
So how does IPS help you find that store in the mall? Since it only provides the location of specific places or objects, other components are required to provide a complete indoor navigation system:
- A complete map of the indoor space: Indoor mapping is a process that builds a complete representation of an indoor space by mapping floor plans, indoor positioning, and other data.
- A user-facing tool: This allows the user to navigate through the map. It’s typically an app that runs on a smartphone, or maybe even a kiosk inside the facility.
This complete system—collectively referred to as indoor positioning and indoor navigation (IPIN)—has many other uses beyond locating a store within a mall.
Use Cases for Indoor Navigation
Indoor navigation can be used in many different environments. In addition to helping people get to where they want to go, indoor navigation can also provide useful information to building managers, facilities coordinators, and marketing personnel.
Indoor navigation is very helpful to visitors, patients, and employees in a hospital. Visitors and patients trying to find their destinations is problematic for hospitals. Turn-by-turn navigation can relieve the stress of navigating the typical labyrinth of hospital hallways, especially in an already stressful or time-sensitive situation.
Even hospital staff are often challenged to find the equipment they need, such as IV pumps and medication carts. Indoor navigation with asset tracking solves that problem. Equipment is tagged so the IPS system knows where it is, and indoor navigation can lead staff to it.
Finding a conference room, restroom, or desk can be easy with indoor navigation in smart offices. More than just finding a conference room, employees can find which conference rooms are empty and available. In addition to people and places, assets such as printers, tools, or test equipment can be located. Maintenance personnel can find the printer, wiring closet, or HVAC system that needs service.
Data that IPIN systems gather in an office can be very useful. Facilities administrators can get usage data for conference rooms and desks to optimize space utilization.
Shopping malls and large stores
The obvious use of indoor navigation in malls is to get turn-by-turn directions to a particular store. In large stores, it can lead you to specific products.
You can also collect useful marketing data from indoor navigation systems. For example, how much time do people spend in each store? What areas of the store do people most often need directions to? With this information, you can make popular items or stores easier to find (or even reconfigure the store layout, based on what people need the most).
Proximity marketing is also made possible with indoor positioning. People can receive ads directly on their phone that pertain to a store they are near. For example, as you pass by Auntie Anne’s, you get a coupon for a pretzel and drink on your phone.
Universities are starting to deploy smart campus technologies. A smart campus uses networked technologies to facilitate collaboration, use resources more efficiently, enhance security, save money, and make the campus a more connected and enjoyable place. Indoor navigation helps to create a more personalized campus experience for both students and visitors.
Smart airport technologies can greatly improve the customer experience at airports. For example, Hong Kong International Airport has the technology to provide real-time flight information, boarding alerts, indoor navigation, and translation of airport signage into nine languages. It can even tell you when your bags will arrive at baggage claim!
Multi-story car parks
The same problems with GPS indoors also occur in parking lots. Parking lots at airports, stadiums, and other large venues can cover huge areas with multiple levels, making it a confusing place to navigate—much less remember where the car is parked.
Indoor navigation can help customers find their way. With the help of some IoT technology, it can even inform a driver of an open parking space and lead them to it.
Getting Started With Indoor Navigation
As the adoption of indoor navigation increases, so will the innovative ways it can be used. Turn-by-turn navigation built into IPS apps is the most common use, but there is more to be gained from mining data in indoor navigation. From asset tracking to proximity marketing, there are already enough benefits to justify implementation in many use cases. Expect to see more indoor navigation in your day-to-day life.
WRLD is contributing to the expansion of indoor mapping. With the new navigation widget, developers can add indoor navigation features to their indoor positioning apps. To inquire about implementing indoor navigation in your space, contact WRLD today!