We all benefit from outdoor navigation on daily basis - the technology itself relies on Global Positioning System (GPS) for both digital mapping as well as to calculate and guide through the route. Over past decade, outdoor navigation has seen massive technological advancement in terms of better GPS coverage, larger screens, live traffic updates, community based map updates etc.
The predication is next decade will be of indoor navigation revolution - following video shows us a glimpse of what technology giants and independent start ups are up to;
The opportunities and applications of indoor navigation are awesome. However, there are some serious technical challenges to make it reality, like:
Generating indoor maps of buildings (shopping malls, hospitals, universities etc.) is not as simple as maps of outdoor environment. Because we do not have GPS signals indoor and robots walking through such places can be risky. Additionally, such buildings often have many levels or floors, so basically an ideal solution would require 3D maps and/or models. Having said that, there are few indoor mapping initiatives working on the challenge in commercial and public domains;
- Google Indoor Maps - this allows you to locate your building on Google Map, upload and align your building's floor plan and submit it for processing. Once processed, indoor map will be available in Google Maps. This is a kind of public and commercial crowd mapping.
- Open Street Maps (OSM) - it is open licence mapping initiative by people from academia and general public. The objective is to create free editable map of the world, based on philosophy of Wikipedia i.e. common users will collect geographical data using manual survey and upload to world map.
- Micello - is a commercial product which has a good collection of indoor maps and also provides on-demand indoor maps. It has also got its own SDK, with which one can build indoor navigation based mobile applications.
Once you have an indoor map, your application needs to localize itself in the building. Since GPS signals are not available indoor, following are few options technologists are working on;
- Beacon Technology is one of the hot favorites for indoor navigation applications. A set of Beacon devices installed inside building can help your device to localize its position. Beacon signal of available hardware has range of up to 70 meters. Companies like Estimote, BlueCats and Apple are currently offering Beacon hardware. Read more about Beacon technology here.
- Wifi based Positioning System (WPS) - is another option for indoor localization of mobile devices. This approach is based on measured intensity of wifi signal and access points in the database. Shielding characteristics not only allow localization on a specific floor and within a multi-level building.
Among other methods include Bluetooth, check point concept, grid and long range sensors. However, each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses.