Indoor navigation deals with navigation within buildings. Because GPS reception is normally non-existent inside buildings, other positioning technologies are used here when automatic positioning is desired. Wi-Fi or beacons (Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE) are often used in this case to create a so-called "indoor GPS". Contrary to GPS, however, they also enable you to determine the actual floor level. Most applications require an "indoor routing" functionality that guides people precisely through a building using an indoor navigation app and in this way, automatically determines their position – very similar to the navigation systems that we use in our cars.
A typical application is turn-by-turn navigation in an app (displaying directions on a digital map) used for train stations, airports, shopping centers and museums. This kind of application can also include many other useful services. However, indoor navigation is also possible without automatic positioning – for example, when a digital building map is integrated into a website or in a digital signage system (multi-touch kiosk/interactive terminal). In this case, no location hardware is required (Wi-Fi, beacons).
Indoor navigation with automatic positioning is normally used as a client-based application. This means that the position is determined directly on the smartphone of the user and thus requires an app. The location is determined usually via Wi-Fi or beacons. A feedback channel is also available, for example, for sending push notifications. A server-based approach is also possible, but this comes with technical challenges. Read more about the differences between client-based and server-based positioning here.
Indoor navigation with Wi-Fi has an accuracy of 5-15 meters. The various signal strengths of several Wi-Fi access points are evaluated for this purpose. Precise positioning within the building, even over multiple floors is made possible through specific shielding characteristics. The advantage of Wi-Fi is that the available infrastructure can be used (e.g. customer hotspots, Wi-Fi-capable point of sale systems, routers) - the user only has to activate Wi-Fi on his/her smartphone, a connection is not required.
However, client-based positioning via Wi-Fi is not supported by Apple devices - so if you only use Wi-Fi as a positioning technology you will be excluding a large portion of users. Beacons are the alternative. Read more about Wi-Fi and indoor positioning here.
Indoor navigation using beacons is quite widespread because Bluetooth transmitters function across platforms and have an accuracy of 1-3 meters. The most well-known types are called iBeacon (from Apple) and Eddystone (from Google). Both operate using the BLE standard (Bluetooth Low Energy) and thus are very energy efficient. Numerous hardware manufacturers market these small devices. They have a battery life of 1-8 years and cost between EUR 3 and 30 depending on the functional scope and battery type.
A beacon management platform from infsoft simplifies the maintenance and replacement of the transmitters. A beacon should be placed every 7-10 meters depending on the desired accuracy. Beacons are the most popular hardware for indoor positioning due to their high level of flexibility and accuracy. Read more about beacons and indoor positioning here.
Indoor navigation with Ultra-wideband has some significant advantages in industrial environments: The accuracy is 10-30 cm, which is considerably better than when working with beacons (1-3 meters) or Wi-Fi (5-15 meters). Latency time is very low (position request up to 100 times/second). Height differences can be measured accurately.
For the client-based installation infsoft Locator Tags are required. They transmit their position directly to the smartphone - either via a USB dongle which is directly plugged into the smartphone or via Bluetooth. On the smartphone, there is an app installed which contains a digital map determining and displaying the current position.
However, the technique is a special solution which requires appropriate components and thus is mostly suitable for special industry applications. Compared to Wi-Fi or BLE, UWB is more cost-intensive when installed on the same area. One possible use case are floor conveyors whose drivers should receive precise turn-by-turn directions. Because of their high speed, latency must be kept to a minimum. Read more about Ultra-wideband here.
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Smartphone sensors are always called upon to refine the positioning function - for example, GSM, 3G/4G (LTE), magnetic field, compass, air pressure, barometer, accelerometer and gyroscope.
infsoft offers various web-based tools for managing the digital map and checking the status of beacons, for example. infsoft's technology is also available as a plugin for integration into existing systems (e.g. apps). An SDK (Software Development Kit) is available for the Android and iOS mobile operating systems and as an HTML5 plugin.