The Evolution of Indoor Positioning Technologies

From traditional compasses to smartphone indoor positioning systems, we have seen a huge transformation in navigational technology. Location tracking has become such a ubiquitous term that it’s almost impossible to imagine our lives without it. Outdoor navigation using GPS technology is an essential part of our daily lives. According to Market Watch, the GPS Tracking Device market will be worth 2.89 billion USD by 2023 ! As useful as GPS’s are for outdoor tracking they have traditionally failed to work inside. That necessitates the need for indoor navigation or indoor GPS which guides you when searching for indoor spaces. But, before we jump into indoor positioning systems, it’s important to see how technology has evolved of the ages. The first “compass” dates back between 300-200 B.C China, during the Han Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. While using ladles made of lodestones in their fortune telling rituals, the Chinese noticed its unique ability to always point North-South. What seemed to be some sort of mysterious property turned out to be the lodestones natural magnetic field. Because of the lodestone’s directional predictability, the Chinese have been credited as the developer of the first compass. This first compass was a square shaped slab with cardinal points and constellations marked all over it, and honestly was not intended to be used as a navigation system. Rather, it was intended to be used in fortune-telling by means of geomancy and feng shui. By the 11th century, the use of the compass as a navigational technique had gained popularity among sailors, voyagers, etc. The compass is known as China’s gift to the West. What is an Indoor Positioning System? While the compass is known as China’s gift to the West, Mapsted has gifted the most accurate indoor positioning system to the world. Indoor positioning systems are very different from global positioning systems. Indoor navigation is a term used to describe wayfinding within a building through the use of an IPS (indoor positioning system). An IPS is a network of devices used to locate or help people navigate precisely inside buildings such as airports, parking garages, underground locations, schools, hospitals, resorts, and shopping malls. There are many different methods, techniques, and devices that are used to provide indoor navigation; all which revolve around mobile devices. Technology such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, digital cameras, and clocks are all found within smartphones today and can help relay information to beacons that are strategically placed throughout a defined geographic area. The term “indoor positioning” is broad and can be implemented in almost every industry whether it be commercial, military, retail, or inventory tracking industries. While there are many commercial systems on the market, there are no standard indoor navigation platforms (yet). Instead, the installation of an indoor navigation platform is designed specifically to the customers spatial dimensions, accuracy needs, and budget limitations. IPS’s rely on the use of different technologies, including distance measurement to nearby anchors with fixed positions (e.g, Wi-Fi routers or Bluetooth beacons), magnetic positioning, and dead reckoning. They either actively locate a mobile device or provide ambient location or environmental context for an iOS or Android device to get sensed. What are the approaches to detecting indoor locations? Prior to Mapsted, there were four main approaches to detecting indoor location information: GPS/ cellular technology, beacons, geomagnetic technology, and inertial navigation technology. GPS/ cellular technology simply doesn't work. Walls and similar obstacles interfere with the signal between satellites and mobile devices. While a 30 meter mistake is relatively okay for Google maps outdoors, 30 meters indoors could be the difference between walking into the store you actually want to go into or not. Beacons need to be placed at numerous positions inside to cover the entire facility. Yes, beacons are precise, but customers must have their bluetooth enabled or be connected to Wi-Fi within 100-150 meters.  Scaling beacons is hard because their batteries must frequently be replaced, and their accuracy gradually diminishes. Geomagnetic technology is affected by indoor magnetic disturbances. Environmental changes such as renovations, hospital machinery, kiosk placement, or furniture rearranging can interfere with accuracy. Inertial navigation technology can cause problems just from normal cell phone use. Phone swinging, change in orientation, or simply not walking in a straight line can affect the accuracy. What are some applications for indoor positioning systems? Traditional location based services are one-dimensional. Meaning that when mobile users use indoor GPS, they only receive GPS services- nothing more, nothing less. Mapsted’s indoor navigation SDK provides business and consumers with a high accuracy, high diversity platform that solves all their needs. The patented positioning SDK package allows for navigation of the indoors without the technical limitations experienced by other solutions, giving you a highly accurate and cost-effective indoor positioning system The marketing SDK package allows businesses to give their customers what they want. Our marketing technology is designed to help businesses engage with customers and deliver the offers and notifications they’ll want straight to their smartphones, exactly when they need them. Lastly, our analytics SDK package is designed to give businesses the information they need to optimize their spaces, elevate customer experience, and increase profits. That is why we don’t just call ourselves an indoor GPS company. We are more. We provide location based services to cater to everyone’s unique needs. How do indoor navigation systems work without beacons? We know you’re probably wondering how we managed to create an accurate indoor positioning system that doesn’t rely on beacons or Wi-Fi. Truth is, our technology is patented, so we can’t tell you. What we can say is that our advanced algorithm uses a unique combination of sources to accurately pinpoint a user location in any indoor venue, allowing us to precisely guide their journeys. How do you build an indoor positioning system? To build your own indoor positioning system, first you must think about what exactly you're positioning needs are- do you need our positioning services, marketing services, analytics services, or everything? Next, click here to get in contact with a member of our sales team. Our sales team will walk you through every step of the process. From lodestones for outdoor navigation to indoor positioning platforms on smartphones for indoor navigation, positioning technologies have vastly evolved. It’s our mission here at Mapsted to continue to provide the most advanced indoor navigation platform possible, surpassing all your mapping needs.

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