What Is an Indoor Mapping System?

Indoor mapping is the term for technology that digitally positions people and objects inside offices, venues, and other buildings. An indoor mapping system uses a building’s floor plans, indoor positioning systems (IPS), and other private data to build a comprehensive map of any indoor space.

Indoor mapping and indoor positioning are closely related concepts, but there are important differences to keep in mind as you look for an indoor mapping system:

  • In the context of outdoor maps, positioning technology is usually enabled by satellites that are maintained by government agencies. The U.S.-based Global Positioning System (GPS) is operated by NASA, the European-based Galileo system is operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Russian-based GLONASS system is operated by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
  • In the context of indoor maps, positioning technology comes from specific technology providers. Indoor positioning systems (IPS) are driven by Bluetooth sensors and beacons, as well as signals from smartphones and other IoT devices.

Indoor mapping pulls in data from indoor positioning devices, plus other data sources, to give a more complete view of your indoor space. With a 3D indoor map, you can turn a basic understanding of your indoor space into a real-time reference for space utilization, energy usage, indoor navigation, and much more.

Infographic: Key Features of an Indoor Mapping Solution

indoor mapping solution

We spend over 90% of our time indoors, according to research from the EPA, so it’s important that a mapping solutions meets these needs. An indoor mapping solution needs certain things to be successful: it needs to be mobile, scalable, visual, customizable, and connected with other building systems. Read on to learn more about the key features of a strong indoor mapping solution.

Indoor 3D Visualization

When we encounter 2D representations of a space—whether it’s a map of a large shopping mall, driving directions, or a trail map—we automatically translate it to 3D so it matches how we see the world. But when you can present the information in 3D, removing the “translation” element, people can navigate the space quicker and more intuitively. The map becomes a digital twin of the environment.

3D visualizations have several advantages over their 2D counterparts, such as:

  • More intuitive visualizations of length, width, and height of objects on the map
  • More realistic depiction of distance and landmarks
  • Combination of vector graphics and photographs for a realistic representation of the space
  • A 360-degree view of a space
  • The ability for users to identify their own position in the map quickly and easily
  • Use of landmarks so users recognize their space easily

Simply put, 3D maps help us better understand our world as it actually appears to us, rather than flattened out from above. 3D maps provide a structure for semantic data to create digital twins of any environment for smart buildings and AR experiences.

As you evaluate indoor mapping tools, make sure the solution offers 3D indoor mapping so you can capitalize on everything these powerful visuals can offer.

Customize Maps for Different Users

People come to indoor spaces for all sorts of different reasons: visiting, working, managing the facility and events, performing maintenance and repairs, and so on. Your indoor map should serve all of these unique needs in one simple system.

As you consider indoor mapping tools, ask about the ability to customize views and access levels for different groups. Depending on the nature of your office or building, you may want unique map views for:

  • Employees: Give employees a detailed view of their smart office and grant access to real-time data like where the available meeting rooms are, where certain pieces of equipment are, and how to find coworkers’ desks. Easily direct employees to restrooms, kiosks, vending machines, equipment lockers, safety areas, and other points of interest.
  • Facility managers: Give facility managers an even more detailed view of the workplace with real-time information about energy usage, space utilization, foot traffic through given areas, and equipment and systems currently in use. With this information, facility managers can monitor important systems (electricity, WiFi, HVAC, etc.) and even get alerts when something needs attention, reducing the time it takes to locate and resolve maintenance issues.
  • Visitors: Give visitors a limited view that helps them orient themselves in the building but doesn’t give away proprietary data. Highlight key points of interest for visitors, including visitor centers, bathrooms, kiosks, cafeterias, and more for easy navigation.

Your indoor map should serve facility managers, first-time visitors, and everyone in between. As you look for an indoor mapping solution, make sure it has the ability to create custom views within the map. The mapping solution should be able to assign permission levels to users and serve the appropriate map based on the user’s role and access level.

Create and Control Places of Interest Within Your Map

Identifying points of interest (POIs) is a key part of creating a truly comprehensive map. Depending on the indoor space you’re mapping, a place of interest could be a(n):

  • Entrance/exit
  • Stairs
  • Elevator
  • Employee desk
  • Meeting room
  • Security desk
  • Printer/copier
  • Restroom
  • ATM
  • Vending machine
  • Coffee counter
  • Microwave
  • Information kiosk
  • Visitor center
  • Public phone
  • Safety area
  • First aid kit
  • Specially equipped room (projectors, video conference equipment, etc.)

Make sure your indoor mapping system supports the identification, addition, and modification of points of interest. This helps everyone navigate the building easily—even if it’s their first time—and find what they need right away, ensuring a great experience.

Integrate With Location Data, Online Assets, and Other Systems

Indoor mapping is usually included as part of a larger system or application, rather than a standalone product. As such, it’s crucial for your indoor mapping system to integrate well with other systems and be scalable to any platform.

Your indoor mapping solution should be able to:

  • Connect location-specific data from IoT devices: Pull in real-time data from beacons, sensors, and other IoT devices.
  • Use SDKs to embed maps in applications: Use the map providers’ Software Development Kits (SDKs) to embed the indoor map in existing applications. The SDK should be powerful enough to allow customization of the user interface, yet intuitive enough for easy use.
  • Use APIs to connect with other systems: Use the map providers’ Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to allow the map to communicate with other systems and make real-time updates, including IoT sensor networks, building management systems, and more.
  • Connect HTML content from the web: Enhance your map with HTML data from the web like hours of operation, relevant videos and resources, or more information about specific items.

Your solution should also work with multiple platforms, giving you the ability to export maps for iOS, Android, Javascript, or other environments. It should also integrate with multiple indoor positioning systems so you can add data from different sensors and IoT networks for real-time updates. As you evaluate indoor mapping tools, make sure the APIs and SDKs are well-documented, and be sure to ask about how they would work for your specific use case.

Check out our __WRLD Indoor Map tutorials_ to get started building an indoor map for your app. _

Connect With All Types of Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

Indoor maps are critical for managing smart offices. As offices become more equipped with location-based technology and IoT devices, 3D indoor maps are the best way for companies to visualize and share this treasure trove of data.

Companies that invest in smart workplaces and IoT technology can benefit greatly from indoor maps. With indoor maps populated by IoT data, companies can:

  • Create a digital twin of the office that enables data-based decision-making
  • Attract top talent with the latest and greatest workplace
  • Monitor space usage trends by seeing the number of people in a given floor or area over time
  • Monitor energy utilization by viewing real-time usage data
  • Find opportunities to improve productivity and collaboration
  • View traffic patterns to reduce or prevent bottlenecks
  • Easily find and resolve maintenance issues

The employees of a smart office also reap the benefits of a dynamic indoor map. Employees can easily choose available meeting rooms (or rooms scheduled to open up soon), find coworkers, navigate to points of interest, and more. The map can also be paired with predictive technology that helps workers take the next step; for example, if an employee searches for a coworker, the map can suggest meeting rooms available near that person’s location. When nearly three-quarters of employees say they waste up to 15 minutes finding a place to meet—not to mention finding other people or equipment—indoor maps are a great way to improve efficiency.

Investing in smart office technology and indoor mapping also benefits the global workforce. For companies with an international footprint, an app with a detailed indoor map is a great way to streamline business trips and help employees navigate a new office. When they arrive, employees can pull up the app, browse the map, and immediately find their way to the right spot.

The time to invest in IoT and related technologies is now. By 2020, the amount of IoT-connected devices will reach 50 billion, and companies are expected to realize $19 trillion in profits and cost savings as a result.

Scalable, Mobile, and Global

As you evaluate indoor mapping systems, think about your use case for today, but also your use case for the future. How is your space being used now, and how will that usage change in the future? What different roles would benefit from having access to indoor maps? What new roles do you need to account for in the future? How is your audience changing or growing? What devices does your audience use? How is that changing?

The answers to those questions should drive your indoor mapping solution—and they should also guide how scalable, mobile, and global your solution needs to be:

  • Scalable: Your mapping system should work not just for the rooms and places of interest you have today, but the ones you’ll have in the future. Any solution you use should support updates and enhancements as your space and utilization changes.
  • Mobile: Mobility and accessibility is key for seamless navigation. You should be able to build one map and securely access it anytime, on any device. Any role-based permissions you grant should carry over to mobile, desktop, and any other representation of your map.
  • Global: Your indoor maps shouldn’t be restricted to one city or country; it should tap into a globally connected network that lets you look inside places all over the world (as long as you have the right permissions). Especially for a company with international offices, your solution should support indoor mapping wherever you operate. With this technology in place, employees from the New York office can visit the Tokyo office and know where everything is right away—all in one seamless, intuitive interface.

Create Location-Based Alerts

The market for location-based services is exploding, and it’s expected to reach $40 billion by 2019. Over two-thirds of this revenue is driven by highly targeted, contextual apps—the same kind of apps that benefit from indoor mapping.

  • Different industries and indoor spaces are poised to take advantage of location-based technology:
  • Retail stores can send special offers to nearby shoppers to encourage them to come in.
  • Airport security can get real-time alerts when travelers enter non-public areas.
  • Travelers can get reminders and status updates on their flight when they reach the airport.
  • Employees in a smart office can get alerts when a meeting or special event is about to start nearby.

Companies can also make use of the location-based data to spot potential problems. If travelers in the airport are consistently stuck in the same bottleneck, staff can come up with a solution that moves people through the area more efficiently. If tons of people are gathering on one train platform, facility managers can see this trend in real-time and see that there was a mistake or an overbooked train.

Mapping your indoor space is the first step to creating location-based alerts. You can view Bluetooth beacons and sensors on the map, then integrate location-based technology that allows you to send updates, offers, or alerts to the right people at the right time. Make sure the solution you choose integrates with location-based technology so you can take advantage of these opportunities.

Support Seamless Navigation Between Indoors and Outdoors

Your indoor mapping solution should account for the need to move outdoors from indoors (and vice versa).

Seamless navigation between indoor and outdoor environments is helpful in a variety of situations:

  • In case of an emergency, show occupants the best route out of the building and where to go once they get outside.
  • As travelers arrive to the airport, show them which door is best to enter for their specific airline, then guide them to check-in, security, and their gate.
  • For companies with workers who are often on the go, they can use one simple app for navigating on the road and in the office, rather than juggling multiple systems.

Getting Started With Indoor Mapping

To find success with indoor mapping, your system should be mobile-optimized, scalable, flexible, intuitive, and integrated with other data sources. But at the end of the day, the best indoor mapping solution is the one that suits your unique needs and use cases—not only today, but in the future.

If you’re ready to get started with indoor mapping, try WRLD for free today!

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