Accurate indoor maps can offer companies and building owners access to valuable, relevant information to gain that competitive edge, and provide customers with a more efficient, enjoyable method of using different indoor spaces, from shopping malls to airports.
We spoke with Denis Shamanin, a senior member of the HERE team driving the strategy and execution of HERE indoor solutions, who tells us more:
“Over the past two years, HERE has been working to transfer our experience with mobile cell and Wi-Fi-based outdoor positioning technology to indoor environments with standard Wi-Fi equipment and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons.”
Denis describes how indoor requirements are different from outdoor because people behave differently. Outdoors, people typically want to move from A to B in as straightforward a way as possible, so navigation and information on mobility services like public transport is key.
Indoors, people are more open to exploration and serendipitous discoveries, so search and explore functions come to the fore, while routing to the location of interest remains relevant.
Denis adds: “Depending on infrastructure density, indoors we can provide an accuracy of 3-5 metres for Wi-Fi, and 2-3 metres on Bluetooth.”
In order to use these features, companies can either rely on Wi-Fi, or place Bluetooth radio beacons (Apple iBeacon and Google Eddystone standards are supported) around the venue. HERE will then provide an SDK for Android and iOS that can be used in a mobile app to enable an indoor map, indoor positioning and indoor routing.
HERE also provides a range of supporting tools for collecting the radio signals and letting venue owners update and maintain their indoor maps.
“Our approach is unique as we’re not using triangulation, instead we’re using technology which identifies patterns of radio signals in specific parts of a venue to understand where you are.”
“Performance stability is an advantage of this approach,” Denis adds. “If there are a lot of people in a building it can obstruct the radio signal - the technology we’re using isn’t affected by this, and ensures stability.”
The technology is also stable with regards to minor infrastructure changes, so if somebody changes or moves the radio beacons, it isn’t affected, and is capable of automated floor detection, which helps the technology to recognise where you are and which floor you’re on.
Denis stresses that these radio beacons aren’t necessary to ensure good indoor positioning, with Wi-Fi positioning able to provide good enough accuracy for many use cases on Android devices. However, for people with iOS mobile devices to use indoor positioning, deployment of Apple iBeacons or Google Eddystones is required.
Search and explore
“People expect us to provide a dot showing accurately where they are, but also want the routing services they use outdoors to be available indoors,” adds Denis. “This means information and routing to key areas and amenities.”
HERE Venue Maps offers routing within buildings, as well as between buildings in the same complex – a college campus, for example.
When visiting a venue, people typically want to have an idea of the layout, and then want directions on how to get to their destination and help finding points of interest. So, if it’s a shopping centre, they want to find out how to get to a certain shop, but also explore and search for products available.
Another use case is airport routing and information, which helps travelers navigate to their departure gates in the quickest way possible, taking into account flight switch-overs and routing.
Businesses can also reap the benefits of Indoor Positioning and HERE Venue Maps.
Denis explains: “When a business adopts HERE Venue Maps with Indoor Positioning, the goal is to improve efficiency, better serve the user, or both. If I’m a facility manager, how do I know how people are using my space and how it can be improved?”
“With the app, I can see how customers are behaving and whether, for example, a McDonald’s would be better by the exit than a Starbucks.”
These actionable insights, coupled with improved services, can make a difference to businesses and the end-user.
Denis concludes: “The unique part of our offering is that we have a strong core for Venue Maps, with extensive coverage of public venues. We also have outdoor maps with navigation capabilities so that we can provide a full end-to-end outdoor to indoor routing experience on a mobile device, also in an offline mode.”
“We know that an accurate blue dot is worth nothing if you don’t have the map content in place. Thankfully, we have both.”