Img Source - Mitch Butler
Modern navigation technologies have firmly entered our daily lives. It’s already hard for many people to imagine traveling without GPS navigation. However, GPS only functions outdoors and gives little to no results indoors. In this case, indoor navigation comes in handy. This technology opens up unlimited possibilities for moving around and finding objects inside buildings. In this article, we will address how indoor navigation works, as well as explain its main features and benefits and how it’s different from indoor tracking systems.
What is indoor navigation?
The indoor navigation system is a state-of-the-art technology that helps visitors navigate inside buildings. It’s based on determining the location of people or objects. To achieve this, special beacons (such as iBeacon) or tags are installed in different places across the area, which send out radio signals at a certain cadence. As soon as a person with a mobile app appears in their coverage area, the sensors immediately determine their location and send signals with relevant data to the reading system.
Indoor navigation systems can be integrated into smartphones with iOS or Android with an already installed application. To implement them, various technologies can be used, such as Bluetooth® Low Energy, Wi-Fi, etc. These allow for determining the location with an accuracy of 3-7 meters. Indoor navigation can be used in any building, be it shopping centers, airports, train stations, warehouses, or factories. When using an application with indoor navigation features, you can:
- quickly find any parts or rooms inside buildings;
- build the shortest and most convenient routes;
- receive notifications with tips and important information;
- receive customer analytics (relevant for company managers).
Thanks to indoor navigation solutions, you can easily navigate complex and intricate buildings. You only need to open your mobile app to see your location in real-time. After you pick a destination, the indoor navigation platform builds a route based on the parameters that you’ve set (e.g. preferring elevators over stairs).
As you move, the map is constantly being updated, so users always see their current location along the route.
Many experts agree that indoor navigation technologies are the future. As MRFR research reports show, from 2022 to 2030, the indoor navigation market will experience rapid growth. The average annual growth rate is estimated at 32.56%, and by 2030 it’s projected to reach $92.36 billion in volume.
Technologies and hardware to implement indoor navigation
As mentioned above, several technologies can be used to carry out the implementation process. In this section of the article, we listed the most popular options that provide accurate and high-quality indoor positioning and navigation.
Bluetooth® Low Energy
Bluetooth® LE technology is one of the most convenient options. To implement it, we use miniature beacons that send out signals with identifiers. The user's smartphone receives these pulses and then transfers certain data. The main advantages of Bluetooth® LE are:
- high accuracy of up to 3 m;
- easy beacon installation;
- low energy consumption;
- easy system management with no skills or experience required.
When installing a Wi-Fi-based indoor navigation system, the location is determined with tags based on coordinate calculation. The calculations are carried out using multilateration, which applies MAC addresses and label signal indicators (RSSI). Wi-Fi accuracy is not as high as that of Bluetooth® Low Energy - up to 3-7 meters on average. However, the system has a high pulse propagation range and can work with existing infrastructure, which significantly reduces the cost of its implementation.
Indoor navigation using QR codes is widely used in many companies and facilities. It can be applied in stores, college campuses, airports, and train stations. When the platform is introduced, a stand with a QR code is installed at the entrance to the building, which a visitor can then scan with their smartphone. After that, the mobile app will open an indoor digital map with points of interest and the feature of building routes. The system is easy to set up, doesn’t require complex equipment, and can provide users with additional information - for example, work schedule, contact information, or tips on discounts and sales.
To learn more about how the system works, scan the QR code below:
Wi-Fi RTT is a new technology that helps calculate location with an accuracy of fewer than 3 ft. The calculation is based on measuring the distance that separates the labels and the nearest routers. Just like conventional Wi-Fi, the system meshes well with existing infrastructure, so implementing it won’t break the bank for your company.
The UWB-based indoor positioning system can be implemented in many asset tracking solutions along with indoor navigation, so you can easily find any objects indoors.
Ultra Wideband is the most accurate technology currently available. With UWB, you can easily find any objects and determine their location with an accuracy of 4 to 12 inches. The system works by transmitting high-frequency signals over short distances. It doesn’t require line-of-sight but is quite expensive to implement, which is why it’s typically used to track high-value assets.
In recent years, non-hardware technology is gaining popularity for setting up indoor navigation. It doesn’t require any beacons, tags, or other infrastructure to be installed. To determine the location, magnetic/wireless interference in the external environment is used. The search for objects is carried out using a directional beam. It detects objects within milliseconds and automatically turns in their direction in case of a change in position. The technology is highly scalable and can be used anywhere. It possesses an accuracy of 3-10 ft.
Benefits of indoor navigation systems
Indoor navigation has many benefits. Its main advantage is the opportunity for visitors to visualize their location in a building in real time. It’s enough for a person to just use their smartphone to quickly find the room needed and get to it as quickly as possible. This helps save time, increases customer satisfaction from visiting the institution, and makes them more loyal to a particular company.
Businesses that implement indoor navigation systems into their infrastructure also reap significant benefits from indoor navigation. The main ones include:
- optimizing visitor flows;
- obtaining a direct channel of communication with customers;
- improving customer and staff safety;
- adjusting workflow in real-time;
- getting advanced analytics to optimize business processes;
- an additional platform for location and asset tracking.
With the introduction of indoor navigation technologies, businesses can improve their service quality, making the experience easier and more comfortable for users. This attracts more potential customers and increases profits.
Application scenarios for indoor navigation
Indoor navigation systems are used in many business areas. They are a popular solution for retail, transportation, healthcare, and cultural and educational institutions.
Indoor navigation technology helps visitors better navigate stores and supermarkets. To make visiting the store pleasant and easy, it’s enough to use a navigation app, which will help you quickly access the desired products. In retail, an indoor navigation system can perform the following tasks:
- building store maps with points of interest;
- developing routes to shelves or products;
- providing turn-by-turn navigation with high search accuracy;
- sending push notifications on promotions and discounts based on visitor location.
When using indoor navigation and positioning technology in a shopping mall setting, the shopper receives a detailed digital map with the location of all shops and boutiques, cafes/restaurants, and service-oriented businesses. You can easily find restrooms, get to the management, or access various amenities. The system improves user experience and customer satisfaction after visiting the mall. It also saves time since customers no longer need to wander around the store for a long time to find the product they want.
Museums and art exhibitions
Thanks to indoor navigation, museum visitors get a reliable mobile assistant that makes it easier to study the exhibits. The system builds maps of museum halls, develops routes, and makes sure you find objects of interest with ease. You can quickly navigate through large-scale expositions and get a lot of useful information about the exhibits. Indoor navigation technology is often used to create personal mini-tours, as well as to provide a smart guide that will help you get to know the museum better.
Hospitals and clinics
In medical facilities, indoor navigation systems make it easier to find doctor’s offices and procedure rooms. This software creates the shortest path to the desired room, which is crucial when visiting large hospitals with many separate buildings. Patients and visitors who have the mobile app installed can make use of the following features:
- building maps of the hospital with rooms and wards;
- developing routes to any locations;
- turn-by-turn navigation through the territory of a medical facility in real time;
- booking an appointment remotely;
- receiving personalized push notifications with tips.
Indoor navigation systems allow you to create convenient mobile apps for airports, train stations, or other transport hubs. With indoor navigation, passengers can quickly find ticket offices, check-in counters, cafeterias, and restrooms. The system builds quick routes and provides turn-by-turn navigation through terminals. Thanks to it, it’s possible to increase the loyalty of passengers to a particular transport zone, as well as to minimize the number of plane/train delays.
Colleges and universities
Introducing indoor navigation is a great solution for educational institutions, especially for educational institutions with many buildings and large campuses. This is convenient for teachers or staff and new students who are still having trouble finding their way. The indoor navigation platform can perform the following tasks:
- looking for buildings;
- building routes to any points on the campus map;
- getting to classrooms quickly with real-time navigation.
This technology greatly reduces the chance of getting lost on campus and helps students get to lectures on time.
Office buildings/business centers
Companies that occupy large business centers often face issues with navigating the building. Visitors have to spend a lot of time wandering through the floors and hallways, which doesn’t have the best impact on their loyalty to the company. Indoor navigation solves this problem. You can now build quick routes to any room and easily find points of interest. Statistically speaking, using indoor navigation in office buildings can increase effective working time by an average of 10-20%.
Navigation vs tracking: what’s the difference?
In addition to indoor navigation systems, many companies use indoor tracking, which is also based on location data and helps track company assets indoors. While indoor navigation improves wayfinding in buildings, tracking provides 24/7 monitoring and creates opportunities for controlling the working process. Its main features are:
- tracking the location and movement of objects;
- providing alerts and notifications about emergencies;
- fixing the entrance to restricted areas and the time spent there;
- building paths for equipment;
- providing detailed analytics based on monitoring results.
Navigine develops and implements indoor navigation for any facility. We offer our customers Navigine SDK, which integrates into mobile apps and extends their functionality. You can test the system using our navigation demo kit at https://navigine.com/demo-kit/.