What if we had a navigation system that worked indoors, though? What if we had an Indoor Positioning System (IPS)? Believe it or not, we’re very nearly already there.
Last year, Google Maps for Android began introducing floor plans of shopping malls, airports, and other large commercial areas. Nokia, too, is working on an indoor positioning system, but using actual 3D models, rather than 2D floor plans. Just last week, Broadcom released a new chip (BCM4752) that supports indoor positioning systems, and which will soon find its way into smartphones.
Unlike GPS and GLONASS, there isn’t a standard way of building an indoor positioning system. Google’s approach tracks you via WiFi — it knows where the WiFi hotspots are in a given building, and through signal strength triangulation it can roughly work out where you are. Nokia’s solution is similar, but it uses Bluetooth instead of WiFi, making it higher resolution (but it would require the installation of lots of Bluetooth “beacons”). Other methods being mooted involve infrared, and even acoustic analysis. None of these approaches are accurate or reliable enough on their own, though — in spaces that are packed with different materials, and roving groups of attenuating meatbags, these signals are simply too noisy.
The Broadcom chip supports IPS through WiFi, Bluetooth, and even NFC. More importantly, though, the chip also ties in with other sensors, such as a phone’s gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, and altimeter. Acting like a glorified pedometer, this Broadcom chip could almost track your movements without wireless network triangulation. It simply has to take note of your entry point (via GPS), and then count your steps (accelerometer), direction (gyroscope), and altitude (altimeter).
And Engadget recently, 8th of Nov 2012, published an article on Meridian’s indoor GPS technology stating that Meridian’s IPS which has opened up their platform, introducing a pair of SDKs that let anyone use its coveted Nav Kit and Blue Dot know-how to help people get around cavernous public spaces. Tested in locations like Miami Children’s Hospital, Sydney Airport and Macy’s, users will be able to get turn-by-turn directions to help them find their gate, offspring or this season’s must-have look — with the latter the first to launch a mobile app built with the technology.
In short, indoor positioning systems are coming — first to built-up and heavily-touristed areas (in the next year or two), and then, as smartphone saturation reaches 100%, everywhere else.
[Source: Extremetech: Sebastian Anthony and Engadget]