After the success of global positioning system in mapping the world, tech companies are now turning their attention to indoor navigation. The race to create the perfect indoor positioning system is on with tech giants like Google and Apple spearheading the movement. A variety of methods like Bluetooh, WiFi, Infrared, magnetic positioning are being used to map homes, work places, malls, hospitals etc. The idea is to give users a virtual sense of the building in question to better help navigate it.
What is Apple doing?
Way back in 2013, Apple took control of WiFiSLAM and with this acquisition, the world first became aware of Apple’s new area of interest. In 2014 the company invented a seamless outdoor to indoor mapping transition system that could smoothly take over when you entered a building. By 2015, Apple had three functioning indoor navigation apps. The latest in this series of long line creations is a technology that can determine floor level from a user’s position.
To create and understanding of elevation, apple will be using 3-dimenstional positioning instead of the traditional 2D system we have used so far. This is a bold step forward and can have far reaching changes, experts suggest. Using this data, a device can map different floors even if the user hasn’t specifically mentioned that the building is multistoried. It provides a practical advantage to indoor mapping.
Apps in the Market
Apple’s crowning feature, however, is the Indoor Survey app. Apple released this app without much fanfare and it became widely known to the public only when developer Steve Troughton-Smith spotted it. A product of the acquisition of WifiSLAM, the app uses RF-based technology to accurately map indoor positions. Within the survey app, users can “drop points” to indicate footfalls. The radio frequency then combines this data with iPhone’s sensor data to accurately obtain the information regarding the user’s surroundings. The itunes description boasts of no additional hardware requirement.
The app, however is far from fully functioning. It is hidden in app store search results and can only be obtained via direct link. It is evident that Apple is working up to a full scale indoor mapping system, but isn’t quite there yet. For example, on its Maps for Developers webpage, sample code called Footprint is available that demonstrates how geographic coordinates may be converted to a floorplan and MapKit.
For the general populace, iBeacons is still the best navigation tool available. Launched in 2013, the app lets tiny Bluetooth transmitters send data to users via their iPhones. While hailed mainly for its advertising aspects, the technology also has immense navigational potential. In 2014, San Francisco airport tested out an early version of the app to help visually impaired travelers navigate the airport terminal effectively.
After the fiasco that was Apple Maps back in 2012, it is understandable that Apple wishes to keep this technology under wraps till they can perfect it. Indoor Positioning systems are future of the mapping world and, judging by its various investments and patents, the tech giant is clearly not intending to be left behind. While news may be slow in this sector, we can expect something phenomenal to be revealed soon.