Large office campuses, supermarkets and the healthcare sector are showing an ever-increasing interest for indoor maps
Today, we are all using maps to find our way. In the car, walking in a city, biking… With the modern smartphones in our hands, it is getting so easy to use maps that we are getting more and more dependent on them. Still, while we have an efficient way to find the entrance of any building, we still end up often loosing time searching our way inside. How many of us never felt lost in a hospital or left the supermarket without buying a product because we didn’t know where to find it? Who has never wondered where that new meeting room is or where a colleague’s desk is located?
Even if indoor and outdoor maps are ‘maps’, they still have significant differences. First of all, most buildings are private and venue managers want to keep a tight control on their data. In the case of office buildings and warehouses, where clearance is required to enter, companies never accept the detailed maps to be visible to the general public. Also, for security reasons, in airports or hospitals for example, some sensitive areas are only to be disclosed to authorized personnel. Therefore, the level of detail visible on the map is adapted per category of users: visitors, employees, maintenance engineers, security agents, etc.
Secondly, buildings evolve all the time, requiring constant updates. The only thing more frustrating than having no map is to have an outdated map. Ideally, maps are linked to the facility’s central database so that changes are automatically propagated. In most buildings, multiple changes occur every week. Communication managers want the map of their buildings to match with the physical signage and brand identity. The map is an important component of the overall visitor experience, and another way to differentiate from competition.
Finally, routing rules inside a building are not always straightforward. The ‘best’ way from point A to point B is not always the shortest, or the fastest. Some doors might only be accessible to authorized personnel. And, of course, would it not be more interesting to guide visitors through the commercial gallery or the gift shop instead of through the little shortcut?
A sector making more and more use of indoor mapping is healthcare. Many hospitals have been through successive transformations of their historical building, with units moving as they needed to expand.
As a result, buildings became every time a bit more complex and difficult to figure out for patients who do not go there often. Also, patients are usually already stressed enough with the exam they need to take, they do not want to worry about how to get there.
Aiding medical staff
Surveys show that medical staff is very often asked for directions. The availability of indoor maps reduces the number of solicitations and enables the staff to answer more efficiently. Moreover, staff often uses the map to quickly position material. Asset tracking devices can be attached to important pieces of equipment so their position can be seen on the map.
Large office campuses are also showing a large interest for indoor maps. Besides the traditional search for the meeting room, being able to efficiently locate the desk of anyone is considered very valuable by employees. With a French real estate services company, Mapwize built an app for employees around workspace management. By merging the agenda of the meeting rooms with the presence sensors piloting the lights, the map shows in real-time if a room is free, booked but not used, used but not booked, or busy.
Setting a time, and room options like size or desired equipment, one can immediately visualize what room close by is available. Clicking on a room allows immediate booking. Printers, free desks in flex office areas, quiet rooms, noise level, everything can be seen on the map to help employees take advantage of the workspace.
Computing optimal path
In supermarkets, the introduction of electronic price tags makes it possible to position the thousands of references. It is great for clients who can search for any reference and find the one or many locations of the product. Moreover, it also significantly improves the efficiency of the staff. When a list of products need to be picked, the optimal path can be computed.
It is curious that when we speak to most people about indoor maps, their main concern is how to compute the user position to show the blue dot. Are they forgetting that the history of mapping is probably 7,000 years old while the GPS was open to the public only 20 years ago? Many companies are going great research on indoor positioning. On our side, we focus on the map.
Co-Founder & CTO, Mapwize