Indoor navigation, outdoor navigation or simply… navigation?

Traditional navigation tools

Traditional navigation tools

I already posted an article some time ago about WiFi and its potentials on providing the next indoor navigation system. The truth is that WiFi is just one of a number of different solutions presented for indoor navigation. There are also many more. For example, Sam’s Club mobile app is a mobile app that provides indoor navigation to specific items and shops in some selected American shopping malls since the beginning of 2011. Similarly, the FastMall app provides navigation for shopping malls in 31 countries using interactive maps that you download and use. In contrast to traditional mobile shopping and mapping apps, FastMall is based on MapOS platform that provides turn-by-turn walking directions for any venue without requiring a global positioning system (GPS), WIFI connection, or an Internet signal. Other applications in the same family are Meijer Find It and Micello Maps.

Another software based technology used mainly for positioning and not for navigation is the GloposMPS. It works both outdoors and indoors by requiring only mobile network information and in this way it can be used for all kinds of mobile phones. A very interesting development in indoor navigation was recently presented in World mobile Congress by CSR. The systems presented is demonstrating one of the industry’s most recent technological advancements that “fuses” satellite signals, multiple radio signals, sensor inputs and other location data to make extremely reliable and accurate indoor location and navigation a reality. Such systems employing a variety of solutions and technologies could be a way forward to break the fragmentation that seems to appear in the market.

The different technologies, sensors required, installations and mappings in building required for each system and application presented lead to inevitable observation that indoor navigation is a market and research area highly fragmented. Obviously, it is not possible to expect users run 20 different apps on their mobile devices in order to get indoor navigation depending on the place they are. People need to know how to get from point A to point B. They simply do not care what kind of technology is used or what kind of sensors and installation is required. Therefore future indoor navigation systems will have to take this under account and provide a higher degree of interoperability with different technologies. It is also important to point out that they should integrate gracefully with already existing outdoor navigation systems in order to provide a better, seamless navigation in all places.

A very interesting point raised by Nick Farina in his article on the problems of indoor navigation is the potentials of indoor navigation if integrated with dynamic data. People in a large store will not just need to navigate in it but accomplish specific tasks (i.e. find a specific product). Linking the navigation system with data such where each product is placed then navigation is taking a whole new direction. This means that future indoor navigation systems will integrate with dynamic data to provide an even better experience of indoor navigation. In that context it is easy to imagine an indoor navigation system guiding a student with visual impairments form auditorium to laboratories and various classes depending on his course lessons followed and timetables.

Given that scenario we can understand that the holy grail for future research should not be simply an indoor navigation system or technology with great accuracy and easy installation but a system able to combine various positioning technologies, data and information sources to provide simply navigation. A person with a disability should be able to ask his or her device to take him/her to an event, a friends place in another city, or even a hotel in the other end of the world and have a complete, coherent and seamless way to get guidance instructions whatever it takes to get there. Moreover this navigation should also be able to combine navigation and positioning information with users needs and capabilities in order to adjust the instructions and guidance to its user. So our aim should not be limited to just a better indoor navigation or a dominant indoor navigation technology… the aim should be… simply navigation!

2 Responses to Indoor navigation, outdoor navigation or simply… navigation?

  1. Paul says:

    Already since 2006 there are suppliers like infsoft ( providing indoor positioning and navigation solutions i.e. for airports or trade fairs. The technology is mostly based on WiFi and BLE/iBeacon combined with the sensors of the smartphone.

    • Chris.Kourou says:

      Yes, there are a number of solutions for indoor navigation. The thing there is how these solutions could get combined with GPS for outdoor navigation in order to provide a seamless navigation experience either indoor or outdoor. And to take it even further… would it be possible for such spatial information to get combined with other kinds of information like schedules for example in order to provide an even better and smarter navigation experience? I just want to know how to go to my next meeting… so my navigator should be able to tap into my calendar get the next meeting location, tap into bus and train schedules (based on my preferences) and just guide me there. So a command like get me to the next meeting should do the work!

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