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Indoor mapping technology or indoor positioning systems are the next big thing. They help us to find our way inside complex buildings, saving us from the trouble of getting lost and finding our way. Hospitals, shopping malls, airports and all other big buildings are mapped which can be used by common people via their smartphones.
All this seems like a dream come true. A personalized map, which guides you in the right direction to reach your destination from your current location? Not only does it help you reach your desired destination, but also helps you find your way inside. Too good to be true, isn’t it?
A large number of apps are offering indoor navigation features and are gaining popularity. These apps provide additional features such as helping to plan marketing campaigns and emergency responses.
However, though indoor mapping technology is becoming quite popular, there are a number of challenges that makes it hard to achieve.
Firstly, the Global Positioning System or GPS which is used by the indoor navigation systems to determine the position of a person does not work well indoors. Though some GPS chips can get signals from satellites even within buildings, these are usually obscured by walls, roofs and other objects. This makes the GPS inaccurate and sometimes the error can range outside the building itself. Providing inaccurate data results in failure of the technology as people have no use for data which is not reliable.
Another challenge faced by indoor positioning systems is that though it can detect the position of a person or object, it can seldom determine the orientation and direction faced by the object. This becomes a problem when the application does not know which direction the user is facing and is unsure whether it has to give instructions like “go straight” or “turn right”. This problem can however be resolved by using devices like an orientation sensor or the like to receive the information about the user’s orientation and direction.
A bigger problem than the two mentioned above is that indoor navigation systems require indoor maps. Mapping the indoors of a large shopping mall or a big grocery store with many aisles can be difficult. Imagine mapping hundreds and thousands of stores and buildings like that within a city. There would be millions of such indoor maps to be created for a state or a country. This can prove to be an enormous task. An option is to crowdsource the mapping of some private buildings.
Also, these applications need to integrate with dynamic data. For example, if in a University, an Economics class is taking place in a different location today, then the app needs to know this information in order to direct the student to the right class. Though this seems like a bit far-fetched, the more dynamic information an app contains, the more useful it is. Despite of these challenges, companies like Jibestream are working day and night to make navigation more easier for us.
Indoor positioning systems are not only possible, but already happening. This is not just a research project or an idea anymore; it is already being used in many places and developed vigorously for the untouched places. It can be quite a hard journey, but aren’t all great things difficult to achieve?