The battle for indoor mapping technology is heating up and many players are on board. Gartner estimates more than 40 companies offering indoor mapping and location products. The mobile titans: Google, Apple, and Microsoft are trying to capture the market and dominate the indoor mapping space. Each company developed their own technologies, which work with their map products to guide users indoors where GPS isn’t available.
Indoor mapping is the next frontier of location and navigation space. It is estimated that we spend more than 80% of our time indoors and given the fact that our smartphones are usually with us, we need technology that will help us discover things faster and relative to our location. Hospitals, college and university campuses, malls, and myriad of other facilities can be a bit challenging to navigate and find your way around. Indoor mapping technology allows us to see detailed floor plans as we navigate in a building where indoor map data is available.
But indoor location technology can also provide other uses; for example, you can get product information at a grocery store or get a product coupon as you walk by a retail store.
The big players
Apple recently acquired WifiSlam, a company that offers indoor mapping services through the use of Wifi signals. Smartphones pick up WiFi signals and pinpoint user’s locations on a map real-time with 2.5m accuracy. The location accuracy is further enhanced by utilizing the smartphone’s Compass and Acceleratometer (e.g. capturing a person’s movement) as they get closer to a WiFi hotspots. They’re deploying the technology in a number of hospitals and shopping malls.
Microsoft and Nokia developed their own mapping technology that uses Bluetooth beacons which beam signals to a smartphone app, which then updates a user’s location on a map. The Nokia map now includes more than 3,000 facilities, including many U.S airports, shopping malls, and major convention centers.
Google, similar to Apple’s technology, relies on Wi-Fi and mobile towers to navigate users indoors, where GPS signals aren’t available. The tech giant is encouraging businesses and institutions to make their own maps and upload them to Google Maps. Currently, more than 10,000 maps have been added from U.S. and international facilities.
Watch out for independents
Independent start-ups are also participating in the indoor mapping race. For example, ByteLight, based out of Boston, uses LED light bulb technology to pinpoint indoor location. Their special LED light bulb emits a signal that is picked up by the ByteLight app. The company also offers APIs and allows 3rd party developers to build their own mini-apps that work within the ByteLight ecosystem.
ConnectQuest, a CT-based company, uses Bluetooth transponders that emit signals which a smartphone picks up and delivers location-sensitive information to the user. The company works with local retail stores and malls and helps to market products and promotions.
Indoor mapping is quickly becoming a key differentiator for organizations with large campuses. We’ve been working closely with clients in the higher education and hospital space to explore indoor mapping options.
If you’re interested in exploring indoor mapping, contact us today to learn more.