The need for navigation is steadily increasing, not only outdoors but also indoors. As I previously explained, GPS guarantees high levels of positioning accuracy.However as GPS only functions outdoors, Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) were developed. With the IPS locating an object or a person, indoor navigation became possible. Indoor navigation needs indoor maps as well as indoor positioning technique which can guide users to their destination. The difference between positioning systems and navigation systems is as follows:
- Positioning is the process of knowing your location with respect to a known reference frame,
- Navigation is the process where the system suggests you a path to follow.
In this article, I’d like to discuss, as in the previous article about positioning systems, the different devices and techniques used in the Indoor Navigation Systems.
Indoor navigation with Wi-Fi
Indoor navigation using Wi-Fi is a logical solution when Wi-Fi has to replace GPS in buildings. For example in complex infrastructures such as shopping malls, exhibition halls, railway stations, airports, hospitals, museums, office and industry buildings. An indoor navigation app improves visitor service and enables analyzing visitor flows.
Indoor navigation with Wi-Fi has an accuracy of 5-15 meters. Specific shielding characteristics make precise positioning within the building, even over multiple floors, possible. The available infrastructure can be used for Indoor Navigation with Wi-Fi, such as customer hotspots, Wi-Fi-capable point of sale systems, routers. This makes it easier to deploy which is a big advantage. So the user only has to activate Wi-Fi on his/her smartphone while 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 a large portion of users will be excluded.
Indoor navigation using beacons
Indoor navigation using beacons is the most widespread because Bluetooth transmitters function across platforms and have an accuracy of 1-3 meters. The most known types of beacons are the iBeacon (from Apple) and Eddystone (from Google). As they both operate using the BLE standard (Bluetooth Low Energy), they are very energy efficient. A beacon is a small device that 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.
Moreover, Beacons have lately received much attention not only because of Apple’s iBeacon but because it is being used by several high-profile entities such as Apple Stores, Major League Baseball stadiums in the U.S. and retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters among others.
Indoor navigation with Ultra-wideband
The accuracy of Indoor Navigation with Ultra-wideband is 10-30 cm, which is considerably better than when working with beacons (1-3 meters) or Wi-Fi (5-15 meters). The latency time is very low as the position request is up to 100 times/second. Furthermore height differences can be measured accurately. Consequently, Indoor Navigation with Ultra-wideband presents the best solution for industrial environments. For the client-based Indoor Navigation, they transmit their position directly to the smartphone – either via a USB dongle which is directly plugged into the smartphone or via Bluetooth. An app should be installed on a smartphone 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 industrial applications. Compared to Wi-Fi or BLE, UWB is more cost-intensive when installed on the same area.
In conclusion, what makes this technology unique is the different approaches to indoor positioning. It is important to choose the suitable navigation method depending on the critical parameters. Choosing the suitable navigation method affects the navigation inside a closed building. In my next article, we will further explore how Indoor Navigation systems are developed based on the use and requirements of each space (mall, airport, industry, etc.).