GPS navigation has become a part of our lives. Gone are the days when you need to buy a map to navigation a city you’ve never been before. These days, Google Maps is all you need on your phone to move around a city you’ve never been to, thanks to GPS technology. Well, this works great for outdoor navigation but the case is a lot different for indoor navigation.
Inside buildings, your navigation device has no direct access to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. This makes it impossible to navigate inside buildings using conventional GPS apps. For indoor navigation, there are technologies used.
Why would you need Indoor Navigation?
For people who have never lost their way inside an airport, an industrial complex or a huge building, indoor navigation may not seem as important as outdoor navigation. The truth is that indoor navigation matters as much as outdoor navigation.
With indoor navigation, you would even be able to tell exactly which floor you are on in a skyscraper. Several technologies have been developed for indoor navigation which are explained in this article.
You probably didn’t know that WiFi isn’t just for accessing the internet and transferring files between computers. With an accuracy of about 10-15 meters, WiFi signal strength can be used to evaluate and determine positioning in buildings. Through specific shielding characteristics, accurate positioning can be determined even across multiple floors.
One great thing about using WiFi for indoor navigation is the fact that existing infrastructures like routers and hotspots are being used. It saves a lot of money but there’s a downside: clients-based positioning does not work with the most recent versions of iOS. This means users using iPhones are excluded.
Compared to WiFi, indoor navigation with beacons seems to have more advantages as it works across all platforms. Apart from the fact that it uses Bluetooth beacons for indoor navigation which is supported by almost every device, accuracy is also a lot better. The accuracy is mostly between 1-3 meters.
Beacons are the most widely used and they normally use BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) for transmission. The most popular are Eddystone and iBeacon manufactured by Google and Apple respectively. With the flexibility and accuracy factors considered, using beacons is probably the best choice of hardware when it comes to indoor navigation.
In industrial environments where a very high degree of accuracy is required, using ultra-wideband may be the best hardware to use. It has an accuracy of about 10-30cm and the latency time is very small with position request up to 100 times per second.
Unlike WiFi and beacon, height difference can be measured accurately.
You still need apps
Just like you need Google Apps to use GPS navigation, you are still going to need an application to navigate indoor using WiFi, beacons or ultra-wideband. However, this could be a localized app built specifically by an organization for that particular building or a publicly available app like Google Indoor Maps.