Indoor mapping and navigation: What’s in there for you?

Indoor mapping and navigation: What’s in there for you?

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Indoor localisation is extensively described as being a booming market. Analysts estimate that it will be worth between 2 and 10 billion dollars worldwide in 2015. What does this figure actually mean for businesses and who will most benefit from the hype? Is indoor location actually the gateway to future smart location-based services?

The i-locate European project is investigating indoor localisation technologies from a ground perspective. i-Locate is aimed at enabling a number of indoor/outdoor new localisation-based businesses by performing pilots of new technologies at private and public locations across Europe. Small and large pilot partners are being involved in more than 10 live market scenarios. In total, more than 5,000 citizens and professionals are being targeted and surveyed. The very high potential of indoor location-based services has been fully confirmed by the feedback received from those stakeholders so far.

Whatever your industry is, indoor localisation is definitely something to consider for enhancing your services and business activities. Benefits are many and varied, from smart customer services to increased productivity, social inclusion and safety. The i-locate project brings together market players from a very wide range of different sectors, including industrial-oriented and consumer applications. Each of them is currently managing a customised pilot scenario based on actual experienced needs and for long-term business use.

Map of i-Locate pilots

Market applications implemented

Healthcare organisations are currently facing a tough time in providing quality medical services to an increasing number of patients under tight budgetary constraints. Interest in this specific market segment is especially strong for indoor localisation. i-locate is currently developing applications for public hospitals in Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Greece and Romania. The scope is to provide door-to-door navigation of patients across a clinical path — from the doorstep at their homes to the nurse or doctor inside the hospital — taking into account dynamic conditions such as the availability of public transport (outside) or queues at the clinic (inside). Patients can check-in more quickly and be informed in case of delays. Doctors and other staff are able to locate patients during hospital treatments, be aware of the number of patients waiting for a treatment, and more quickly locate portable medical assets within hospitals. More patient-centric processes are being implemented as a result, which have led to improved follow-up of the patient across the entire clinical path, which are key quality indicators as well as daily challenges for healthcare institutions.

Similar challenges are currently being experienced in the smaller but very fast-growing market of assisted-living services. The relevance of indoor-location based technologies in such a context is the scope of a dedicated pilot at elder nursing homes in Romania. Housing with personalised assistance is requiring a smart but flexible ground organisation, being aimed on the one hand at providing maximum autonomy and independence to the people, and on the other hand, at not leaving them helpless or isolated at any time, when some support is needed. Indoor location-based services allow both staff members and residents at nursing homes to be more empowered on a daily basis. Care and service providers can optimise their room visits by getting real-time alerts and better adapting to specific needs. Residents can be informed when a specific person is around or either away or busy at another location in the building. Control of their environment and their daily agenda is considered a key enhancer for both care service providers and assisted people in terms of quality of life and well-being. User-oriented location-based applications open doors to more variable, flexible and practical assistance services and social activities.

Public and private safety is another market segment which is worth being investigated. One safety-related application implemented in the context of i-locate include leveraging on low‐cost camera‐based indoor location of vehicles within road tunnels which are currently not fitted with any safety technology. Another need expressed was aimed at locating operators within technical rooms where installed high-pressure gas gauges make access control and monitoring highly critical for workers’ safety. Within these contexts indoor localisation technologies are used to detect any abnormal presence of a person in a critical area, indicating a need for assistance or rescue. For this specific reason, the oil, gas and mining sectors are considered among the most promising verticals for indoor localisation technologies. The i-locate project moreover received expressions of interests in the field of nuclear plants, chemicals industry, biotech laboratories and a number of other ‘sensitive’ industrial fields.

Maintenance- and asset management-related scenarios further expand the range of indoor mapping and navigation applications relevant for industrial stakeholders. The localisation and sharing of key assets supports the allocation of material resources on demand, quickly, smoothly and in a very dynamic way. Maintenance of equipment is greatly facilitated by being able to locate machinery and devices in real time inside large buildings and industrial complexes. As a result, engineers and facility managers are among the key stakeholders currently being involved in the i-locate project, in addition to public and private officers interested in visitor routing and social inclusion.

In those specific fields, customised indoor trips and social networking are of very high relevance for cultural and leisure institutions. i-locate includes scenarios at different cultural organisations in Romania, among which an art gallery, museum of natural history and scientific museum. Personalised tours are being developed to guide visitors to specific relevant artworks or interactive installations, create thematic indoor trips on specific subjects or encourage visitors to follow a specific path to avoid crowds or heavy visitor flows in some specific parts of the building at some times. Further relevant applications in this market segment include geolocalised quests and games. Applications leveraging on the location of friends and family members are an additional attractive feature, especially in large cultural complexes where groups may be willing to split.

A similar kind of user-oriented scenario is being implemented at public offices as a way to foster engagement and offer smarter services to citizens. Those can use an i-locate-based mobile application to find up-to-date information and interact with public administrations in the context of a city. Through the application, users can get guidance from home to the specific person or office providing relevant public services. Based on indoor location technologies, alerts can be sent and feedback be gathered, as way to foster crowd-sensing and civic engagement. Five municipalities are currently engaged in the i-locate project with e-government and urban planning-related scenarios. When being offered to large communities of users in an urban environment, indoor-outdoor localisation technologies offer tremendous opportunities for social dialogue and interaction.

Local searches, social networking and personalised navigation are among the key drivers pushing the adoption of location-based services. This is especially true and relevant in a wide range of B-to-C and G-to-C market segments.

Further i-locate scenarios are aimed at providing guidance to clients and visitors in specific public and private spaces. At campuses, students, professors, workers and visitors can use indoor mobile applications to be guided to the specific rooms inside a university where they have to meet a professor, attend a class, join a meeting, or find a specific asset. Such a pilot is currently being implemented at the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden, Germany. This guidance-related scenario is highly relevant in business parks and exhibition halls. Technoport, a science park located in Luxembourg, will thus use indoor location for routing visitors and attendants to specific entrepreneurs, facilities, spaces, presentations and events inside its business incubation facilities.

Indoor location technologies are of great support to foster interactions between the people and organise matchmaking activities. They provide facility managers with valuable information for space allocation and customer analytics purposes. Such data intelligence features offer tremendous opportunities in the field of retailing, an area currently being investigated by a number of indoor localisation large and small innovative businesses. Retailers, malls and airports are reported by market analysts to be strong early adopters of indoor location technologies. This is due to the benefits that can be driven from real-world and positioned-based analytics.

Enabling technologies being explored

Technical developments are making indoor localisation increasingly powerful, thanks to sub-meter accuracy and near real-time location. Appropriation by the end users is fast and growing, facilitated by the routine use of smartphone applications and outdoor GPS technologies.

Interest in new technologies goes beyond current and future indoor localisation hardware and software. Analysts thus predict that the advent of new generation devices such as Google Glass will heavily leverage on localisation as one of the most relevant killer feature. As frontiers between technologies are becoming increasingly thin, future products tend to be a mix of different innovation breakthroughs. Indoor location offers tremendous opportunities for such combinations. Synergies are especially high between geo-location, augmented reality, natural user interfaces, gaming and man-machine interaction. 3D mapping in particular is poised to offer strong growth.

The availability of a technological ecosystem (made of data plus technologies), as proposed by i-locate, supports external companies in deploying an innovation strategy, becoming more adaptable, entering new markets ahead of competition, as well as adapting more swiftly to disrupting technologies. The i-locate project is surfing on a wave of promising technology developments in indoor localisation by facilitating the emergence of new customer applications and the sharing of experience between stakeholders.

Mass-market applications for indoor location technologies are expected to start hitting the market by the end of this year. In the meantime, i-locate is interested in investigating new product innovations and market-related scenarios that may be of interest for ground implementation. If you are willing to further discuss indoor localisation, present innovative solutions or investigate new business applications, please contact the project partners and/or join our community of stakeholders.