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Indoor Positioning Systems: The Ultimate Guide

Learn how an indoor positioning system can improve customer satisfaction and more

As facilities grow in size and complexity, they become that much more difficult for visitors to navigate. At the same time, assets are harder to track, and maintenance requests take longer to fulfill. Indoor positioning systems aim to solve these problems by making it easy for customers to find their way, for management to keep up with inventory moves, and for maintenance teams to stay on top of where they’re needed most. That would be reason enough to invest in indoor positioning, but these systems can also open up opportunities for traffic flow optimizations, advertising space, and new and exciting revenue opportunities.

Read on to learn what indoor positioning systems are, how they work, and how they can keep your business running at maximum efficiency.

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What is an indoor navigation system?

WiFi

Bluetooth

Augmented reality

What benefits does an indoor navigation system provide?

What are some examples of indoor location services?

Businesses that use indoor location services

Indoor location service providers

What is an indoor navigation system?

An indoor navigation system is a way to provide customers with intuitive, real-time directions. It typically incorporates an indoor positioning system to make its directions real-time. If you've ever had the experience of your GPS suddenly failing as soon as you walk inside, you've run into the problem indoor navigation aims to solve. GPS, or global positioning system, works by bouncing a signal from a device like a smartphone or tablet up to satellites and back. That signal rarely runs into interference when traveling outside, but when it has to pass through the walls and ceilings of a building — especially one as big as a shopping mall — it can struggle to accurately pinpoint the user or to find them at all.

There are three common solutions for this problem that aim to make indoor positioning as easy as possible: WiFi, Bluetooth, and augmented reality (AR).

WiFi

WiFi positioning uses WiFi infrastructure to bounce a signal from a customer's phone to the nearest WiFi access point and back, using the response time to estimate distance. It can measure that distance up to 150 meters per access point, with an estimated positioning accuracy of 5-15 meters. Adding additional access points can increase the precision of positioning.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is slightly less convenient to implement because it needs its own dedicated infrastructure in the form of beacons. These beacons can transmit a signal up to 30 meters and determine a user’s position within 3-4 meters. They're relatively inexpensive and can last from 2-10 years without battery replacement, but they require an upfront investment and you'll need a lot to cover a large building. They're also vulnerable to interference from WiFi signals, metal construction, and the bodies of customers themselves.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality systems can be supplemented by WiFi or Bluetooth infrastructure, but they can also function independently. Here's how it works: A user points their phone's camera at a nearby object. The AR navigation system reads the object as a visual marker, then measures the distance from that marker to the user based on where the camera is positioned. Once it's pinpointed where the user is standing, the AR system can map a path from the user to any chosen destination where a visual marker has previously been created.

The trick with AR navigation lies in turning objects into visual markers. Some systems require an administrator to go through the facility and manually set up prominent objects such as signs to be visual markers the AR program can read. Other systems use QR code-like markers on the floor. Vera, Resonai's AR platform, creates a full digital twin of your facility and all the objects contained therein. That, combined with semantic recognition, enables any object in the building to be used as a visual marker for indoor positioning and navigation.

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In addition to indoor navigation, the digital infrastructure provided by AR can open up new opportunities for interactive installations that bring in customers and raise their satisfaction. Read our free guide to the new digital infrastructure for malls and retail properties to learn more.

What benefits does an indoor navigation system provide?

Indoor navigation's main advantage is its improvement of the shopping experience. Customers hate getting lost in malls or struggling to find the exact item for which they're searching. Physical maps often fail to solve this problem to customer satisfaction, leaving them frustrated.

Indoor navigation systems do away with these frustrations. They allow customers to log into your WiFi network and refer to a real-time map and easy-to-follow directions whenever they need. That frees them up to visit more stores in the same amount of time, encouraging more purchases. Plus, while they use the system, they can be served promotions based on stores they're passing en route to their destination, or personalized ads about related stores or sections throughout the building. Personalizing these ads makes them much more effective, as 44% of shoppers say they'll take their business elsewhere without a personalized experience. And even if a customer doesn't make additional purchases, they'll be more likely to return thanks to the smooth and easy shopping experience navigation provided.

Indoor navigation also lets you monitor traffic throughout the facility, opening your eyes to patterns related to shopper volume, traffic concerns, and more. This data enables you to optimize your business through streamlined interior design for alleviated traffic or improve layouts in individual stores. Traffic data also creates a clearer image of how many people pass advertisements placed around the facility, opening up opportunities for additional revenue as a result.

For more on how indoor navigation systems work and the revenue opportunities they provide, read our blog posts What Is Indoor GPS and How Does it Work? And Indoor Navigation Systems: How Spatial Intelligence Drives Value.

What are some examples of indoor location services?

Indoor location services are used primarily to help people find their way through large facilities, be they shopping centers, retail stores, hospitals, warehouses, or exposition halls. Indoor positioning systems can also be used to track assets, keeping tabs on the locations of employees, products, and other items to reduce the risk of lost productivity or goods.

Businesses that use indoor location services

The Dubai Mall sees more than 80 million visitors explore its 12.1 million square feet each year, making it one of the most well-trafficked buildings on Earth. All that square footage can make navigating the mall difficult for some shoppers, so the mall employs an integrated location tracking system that gives customers access to directions for the mall's many stores and services.

The Mall of America is the largest in the United States, sprawling over 5.6 million square feet. It hosts more than 400 events as disparate as fashion shows and concerts each year, and 40 million people visit annually. To keep them all oriented, the Mall of America uses digital kiosks arranged throughout the facility to provide directions and inform visitors of deals and promotions.

The Moscow Trade Center contains more than 6,000 stores across its 200,000 square meters. As the facility grew in size and complexity, managing daily operations became correspondingly complex. To combat the rising tide of service requests, the Moscow Trade Center incorporated Resonai's Vera platform, bringing a suite of automation and maintenance management features that lowered the time to repair by 44% and allowed for 180 more active business hours per year. Vera also enabled new, interactive AR experiences for tenants and visitors.

Indoor location service providers

There are several businesses that aim to provide accurate and useful indoor location services.

  • Resonai's Vera platform creates a full digital twin of your facility that acts as an indoor positioning system, providing AR navigation for customers and collecting data about their travel habits. It can also power AR experiences such as digital art exhibits and send personalized offers for stores in the building.
  • Inpixon provides asset tracking for healthcare facilities and other businesses that make it easier to determine where property, employees, and patients are located. It also enables navigation features that can improve the quality of patient care and outcomes via insights on patient flow, throughput, and wait times.
  • Sewio RTLS aims to increase warehouse inventory management efficiency by allowing managers to track employees, products, and machinery throughout the facility. It provides the hardware and software necessary for that tracking and collects data to generate heatmaps and other resources to identify pain points and optimize workflows.
  • Cisco Spaces creates a secure network to which employees can connect, then collects location information into 3D maps for managers to view occupancy levels and other environmental conditions. Managers can use those insights to improve the employee experience, and employees can use the location data to find available meeting rooms and collaborative spaces, receive notifications about meeting room capacity, and have meetings automatically booked to a secondary room for overflow.

To learn more about how indoor location services, from providers to deployments, read our blog 7 Examples of Indoor Location Services.

If visitors to your facility find themselves lost or stuck in traffic, consider Resonai's Vera platform. Using AR wayfinding and customer heat maps, Vera can help you optimize your facility's traffic, improving the customer experience. It can also open new opportunities for revenue via AR advertising and personalized recommendations for customers. Get in touch with Resonai today to set up a free demo.

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