Latest Trends in Indoor Navigation

Finding your way in a strange city is nowadays relatively easy even when you do not have anyone to guide you, thanks to the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The technology provides pretty accurate results, but it requires direct line of sight between satellites and receiving devices. This means that it does not work indoors. According to Prof. Kaveh Pahlavan, indoor navigation is very tricky.

Uses of Indoor Navigation

Emerging technologies make it possible to build increasingly complex buildings. People navigating such complexes can benefit greatly when they have ways of determining where they are and how to access what they want from their current locations. There are also other instances where indoor navigation proves useful:

• Floor conveyor drivers and facility management teams navigating in industrial areas
• Location-based advertisements in the retail industry
• Tracking changes and informing visitors in train stations
• Airports can display different types of information, including transmission of personalized coupons, display current wait times and support intermodal transport
• Invitation management and booking meeting rooms in offices
• Navigation in hospitals
• Pedestrian navigation to guide people with special needs

Indoor Navigation Technologies


One of the benefits of using Wi-Fi is the ability to leverage existing resources. Many buildings already have Wi-Fi access points. For navigation purposes, the technology uses “fingerprinting” method with an appropriate app installed on a mobile device. Depending on various preconditions, the accuracy may range between five and 15 meters. Smartphone sensors improve accuracy, making it possible to determine the current floor level.


Although Bluetooth technology is not new, it has found new applications, especially following the development of the energy saving version, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Bluetooth beacons can run for up to two years using button cells and can cover up to 30 meters with an accuracy of one meter. The beacons are ideal for stationary purposes because they only transmit but do not receive signals.

Visible Light Communication

VLC involves the use of special fluorescent and LED lamps that emit flickering light that only photo detectors or smartphone cameras can detect. The lamps have unique IDs that are used to identify their positions on a map.


Tests have been conducted to demonstrate the use of radio frequency identification to assist visually impaired people using robots. The technology uses passive RFID tags to trigger local navigations behaviors that are used for global navigation purposes.


Apple announced that it would start using drones to improve indoor navigation for its maps. Their technology is aimed at helping users to navigate high-traffic buildings using their iPhones.

How Indoor Navigation Technology Really Work

Global positioning systems (GPS) and geo-location have just taken the next step, allowing for indoor navigation, indoor positioning, indoor analytics and indoor mapping. This could be quite useful for package delivery workers or airline passengers. People might never get lost again!

Why doesn’t GPS work inside?

Once you have a GPS device, you would probably like to use it everywhere. The problem is that GPS uses short waves that can’t penetrate buildings or handle electric interference very well. It needs open skies to work.

How does indoor navigation work?

Some buildings are quite enormous; for example, large military bases, government buildings, hospitals or shopping malls. It is easy to get turned-around and lost, especially when you are visiting for the first-time.

The inventor of the indoor navigation technology offers a software and hardware system that uses locator nodes, locator tags, Ultra-Wide Band (UWB), beacons and WiFi. There are also software development kits (SDK) to create a location based building.

Locator Nodes and Tags

There are a variety of ways that indoor navigation technology can be set up, including WiFi, UWB and locator nodes. Some facilities will combine these systems to create a comprehensive indoor positioning system. These WiFi systems work with Android, Apple, Blackberry and Windows mobile devices.

The locator nodes can be placed around your facility for capturing, tracking and positioning all mobile devices without requiring you to use a phone application. This is best for a warehouse needing to track its assets. These locator nodes serve as both a receiver and transmitter.

Locator tags are used for large areas. During a natural disaster, employees can evacuate the facility by following these locator units.


The Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) is a more expensive indoor positioning solution. It uses transit time technology (Time of Flight), which is how fast light travels between objects and anchors. This system requires at least 3 receivers (trilateration).


Beacon transmitters use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which can last up to eight years. These radio transmitters operate in a small space between 10 and 30 meters.

Why don’t more people know about this technology?

This technology has actually been available since 2006, but it is quite cost-prohibitive. It will require building owners to build either a complete WiFi network or place numerous locator nodes all around the building. The precision of the indoor positioning system coordinates is also somewhat questionable.

Still, airports and auto manufacturers are incorporating this indoor positioning technology into their facilities. Travelers can find their way around the large airport, so they don’t miss their flights. Package and automobile companies can make sure that they know the exact location of their supplies, inventory, merchandise, goods and packages.