Indoor Positioning Software

Indoor positioning software can elevate your indoor mapping experience. Users can view their real-time position within the map and venues can use positioning data and analytics to improve their business.

What is an Indoor Positioning System (IPS)?

An indoor positioning system (IPS) can be thought of as GPS for indoor venues. Using a variety of methods, these systems can detect real-time locations to determine the coordinates of people or assets inside a building. These coordinates are typically represented visually by a blue dot on a digital indoor map to provide additional context to users and features such as wayfinding.

Who Needs Indoor Positioning Systems?

Shopping malls, offices, hospitals, retailers, warehouses, and more can benefit from indoor positioning. These industries can provide an enhanced blue dot experience that mirrors the one offered in outdoor environments.

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Indoor Positioning vs. Indoor Mapping

It is important to understand that indoor positioning and indoor mapping are different but complementary services. By integrating IPS with a digital map, businesses can provide enhanced mapping features including custom starting location, turn-by-turn directions, follow mode, proximity messaging, and more. However, indoor positioning without an indoor map is rendered nearly useless for any visualization purposes.

The key difference between these two technologies is that indoor mapping helps to visualize an indoor space, while indoor positioning locates a user's current real-time position within a particular and defined map. In short, venues can have an indoor map without indoor positioning, but not the other way around.

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How Indoor Positioning Systems Work

Using a variety of techniques, indoor positioning technology detects the precise location of a user's device. This can be accomplished using "on-device" systems accessed directly through your mobile device, or paired with sensors installed throughout an indoor space.

The combination of these two techniques is called "Sensor Fusion" and tends to be the most accurate approach to indoor positioning today. The location coordinates are ingested by these positioning systems which then generate accurate, real-time coordinates which are displayed on an indoor map, enhancing the indoor experience.

Indoor Positioning Use Cases

Using accurate positioning in an indoor environment allows businesses to provide new efficiencies and experiences, such as:

Intuitive Wayfinding

With IPS, users can see their precise location represented by a blue dot within the context of an indoor map. Similar to outdoor GPS, users are not required to enter a "start" destination and as they begin to follow along a route, the blue dot moves with them, providing an enhanced navigational experience.

Asset Tracking

Indoor spaces such as hospitals, warehouses, offices, and even buildings under construction can leverage IPS to track important assets. Documents, employees, building material, and equipment can be visualized in real-time on a map. Indoor location tracking and positioning can significantly increase efficiencies and reduce errors in these spaces.

Contact Monitoring

Indoor positioning solutions allow businesses to pull an accurate location of employees in real-time, which can be combined with spatial and temporal analysis to identify potential contact events. These solutions are helping to make indoor spaces safer.

Smart Building Applications

By enabling wayfinding, asset tracking, and contact monitoring through IPS, buildings are able to create a network of connected devices and experiences. Together, these pieces allow buildings to get a true picture of their venue and expose areas of improvement.

Different Types of Indoor Positioning Systems

Technology

WiFi-based Systems

Apple's IPS utilizes the radio frequency (RF) patterns of your Wi-Fi access points enabling an infrastructure-free solution. This technology achieves GPS-level accuracy in indoor spaces by simply performing an RF survey of your venue.

Beacons

Apple and Google released Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specifications for iBeacons and Eddystone beacons, respectively. These offer similar proximity to WiFi access point providers.

Proximity-based Systems

Existing Wi-Fi access point providers (APs) like Cisco and Aruba have added geofencing and proximity capabilities to their enterprise offering. Users on the network running an enabled application can determine their rough location indoors.

Sensor-based Systems

Sensors can be added to your venue to locate Wi-Fi and Bluetooth/BLE along with cellular signals to enhance the WiFi-based location systems. This can help to increase the overall accuracy of your positioning system, however, comes with an added hardware cost.

Intertial Navigation

Onboard motion sensors built into every cell phone estimate user positions by sensing physical motion and last known position.

Sensor Fusion

Sensor Fusion combines multiple of these positioning services to provide an even more accurate experience.

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Infrastructure-Free Systems vs. Hardware Positioning Systems

Infrastructure-free systems rely solely on a user's mobile device and the WiFi within a venue. Apple’s indoor positioning is an example of this as it uses your existing WiFi to achieve GPS-level accuracy in indoor spaces by using the radio frequency (RF) patterns of your WiFi access points.

Infrastructure-free in this case also equates to a low setup and maintenance cost. Positioning systems that utilize hardware such as beacons can be implemented to supplement infrastructure-free solutions but can come with a large price tag both to set up and maintain over time.

How to Choose the Right Positioning System

When deciding on the indoor positioning provider that will work best for your business, there are four key factors to evaluate. Outlining your goals for each of these will enable you to build the appropriate indoor positioning system with the right provider.

target iconAccuracy Expectations

What is the realistic expectation under normal or sub-optimal conditions? For reference, the accuracy of assisted GPS is approximately three meters outdoors.

coins iconBudget

How much will it cost to implement, own, and maintain? For example, your implementation and ownership costs may be low, but the system might require a lot of maintenance at an additional cost.

clock iconResponse time

How long does it take for the system to respond? For example, on-device calculations are faster than server-side ones, because of the latency involved for the signal to travel there and back.

wifi iconReliability

How well will the solution function indoors? New systems sometimes get a pass when they start out buggy, but navigation is often mission-critical.

Best Indoor Positioning Companies

There are many indoor positioning systems available today. To find the provider that is best suited for your business, it's important to understand what you want to use these real-time location systems for and ensure you have an indoor mapping foundation to visualize these systems on top of. Many IPS specialize in specific industries and can cater to the needs of your building and use case. Below are some of the notable providers available.

For infrastructure-free indoor positioning: Apple. For indoor positioning that uses the Sensor Fusion approach: IndoorAtlas, Inpixon, Senion and Here Technologies.

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Indoor Positioning System FAQs

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