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.