GPS, especially on a smartphone, has paved a new way to navigate through to any location, but there have been only a few overwhelming players and strides in the indoor mapping realm. While companies like Apple start building their own outdoor mapping technologies and Google spends resources creating highly accurate indoor maps for attractions such as Museums and Airports, neither has followed what many people have used for years – using magnetic positioning to help users navigate through indoor environments.
Finland-based startup Indoor Atlas, has found a way to use magnetic fields and a smartphone to locate people, which could lead to the development of indoor mobile maps or even targeted messaging if users are present in front of certain stores. The team of ten computer science and engineering professionals tells us:
“Many animals utilize local variations in the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way around. These magnetic variations commonly exist inside buildings as well. Many sources can contribute to these variations including Earth’s magnetic field, and the structures of the building. Modern smartphones can sense and record these magnetic variations to map indoor locations. IndoorAtlas is the world’s first company to offer this exciting new technology.”
Most competitor technologies rely on WiFi or radio signals to pinpoint user locations, but magnetic fields with building structures gives a more accurate targeting. It’s so precise that it can tell a user if they are in the checkout line or in the freezer aisle at a grocery store. The technology behind Indoor Atlas requires a developer to upload a building floor plan, and then create a magnetic map by walking around the space with Indoor Atlas’s smartphone tool. The developer can then create an app that can communicate with Indoor Atlas’s cloud-based servers to triangulate a user’s location that is accurate between 10 cm and two meters.
The requirement and need for manually and accurately plotting a space may not deter Google, Microsoft, or Apple from using WiFi solutions for indoor plotting. But, the opportunity for smaller scale applications to track people in specific locations could be appealing to those that have the time to upload and plot niche locations.