Starting from the first world map created in the late 16th century, mapping and positioning has advanced by leaps and bound. Today, there is very little of the world that has not been charted to the minutest detail. GPS (Global Positioning System) has made streets, alleys and buildings available to us in real time. Google and Apple maps make navigating an entirely unfamiliar area a breeze. But innovation never stops and thus, the next logical step in this technology was created – Indoor Navigation.
What is Indoor Navigation?
While GPS is great for mapping out streets and alleys, constructions cause the satellite based signal to lose its power significantly. As a result, the interior of buildings cannot be mapped. To rectify this short coming, Indoor Navigation, or Indoor Positioning System (IPS) was developed.
IPS uses radio waves, WiFi signals, Bluetooth, magnetic positioning and other methods to map out the areas of any building and give the user a virtual sense of the walls, doors and walkways. It can locate objects, or people inside a building, however orientation or direction still remains a challenge. Even so, IPS has a variety of uses.
Aid for Visually Impaired
Visual impairment has been defined as sight loss that cannot be repaired by lenses or surgery. A key aspect of overcoming the disability is being independent enough to navigate by oneself. IPS can create a virtual set up of any home, mall, airport or hospital so that the person can travel unhindered, without requiring help.
Virtual Reality environment and games are the next big thing to hit the market. With products like Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus flooding the market, we have already begun the journey to a completely-functional walkable 3D gaming environment. By integrating these games with IPS we can make this concept a reality. The IPS can help model the game according to the user’s requirement, thus preventing accidents and injury. Furthermore, this would provide unique gaming experience for each user.
Have you ever visited a mall or an airport in a foreign city and gotten lost? Or maybe you have been in a foreign country where none of the signs made any sense. IPS can provide a virtually guided tour so that there is no confusion when you are travelling. Since the system has already mapped out the building, you would only need to follow directions to reach your destination.
While commercial tech can track a call’s location to an area or a building, first responders cannot accurately pinpoint where in the building a person might need help. IPS could rectify by this by helping law enforcement officials chart out a building’s interior and accurately navigate the situation to best help citizens in need. A study published by Federal Communications Commission (US) in 2013 recommended further testing and progress in the field of indoor positioning for E-9-1-1 responders.
Firefighters are frequently hindered by the inability to determine if and where survivors may still be present in a building. Furthermore, a partially collapsed building may have sealed passages due to displaced beams which barricade their path. IPS can easily determine these obstacles and navigate a safe route for fire marshals to do their jobs effectively.
While Indoor Navigation is still in its infancy, progress is being made continuously. A mere year after the FCC’s report tests show that the Emergency 911 indoor positioning needs may be met by available technology. Google, Microsoft and Apple have already stepped into the fray. Michello Inc is leading the market in indoor venue maps. It is safe to say, in a few years, indoor mapping will be as common to us as GPS is to any smartphone user.