Thanks to Google and our smartphones, almost all users are aware of GPS or global positioning systems. With GPS, we can locate our position on a map displayed on our smartphones with an accuracy of about 200 m. This technology serves us well while traveling – when we have to reach a destination from our present location or when finding the best route between two locations. However, GPS is not a very suitable technology for either indoor use or when the smartphone is offline.
For instance, it is not easy to navigate successfully through a large shopping mall, a superstore, or an airport unless there are way-finding directions available. In fact, marketing research has pointed out that stores lose considerable business (nearly 15%) because customers are unable to locate their required products in the stores. In the US, customers spend about $500 billion annually, on personal care, groceries, and various sundries. Over time, adoption of indoor location and related initiatives could influence this indoor market by well over $10 billion.
Therefore, there are over several startups competing for attention in the emergent arena of indoor location and proximity marketing. Additionally, there are multiple technologies for bringing offline analytics and indoor location to malls, stores, sports stadiums and other venues. Although these technologies include LED lighting, inaudible sound waves, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi, and Cameras, magnetic positioning leads the way.
All other technologies need installation of additional hardware and hence, involve additional expenses. In comparison, magnetic positioning makes use of the Earth’s magnetic field to enable the compass in the user’s smartphone to locate the individual precisely within indoor spaces. It does not require additional hardware and is compatible with almost all smartphones.
In nature, animals make use of the Earth’s magnetic field to locate themselves in relation to their destination. That is how migratory birds and fish return to their breeding grounds every year even when they are thousands of kilometers away. Smartphones are similarly capable of detecting and responding to magnetic field variations inside buildings.
According to IndoorAtlas, promoting and deploying magnetic positioning, each building or structure, with its reinforced concrete and steel structures, presents a unique magnetic fingerprint. This is based on the way the materials of the building affect and distort the Earth’s magnetic field. Once these patterns are precisely assigned to a building floor plan, users of smartphones can be located accurately inside indoor spaces such as airports, malls, hospitals, and retail stores. In short, this is like indoor GPS, and much more precise.
In comparison to GPS, geomagnetic indoor positioning is capable of 1-2 m accuracies in indoor environments. According to IndoorAtlas, mapping an area of roughly 25,000 square feet requires an hour to offer six-feet accuracy through sensors streaming data into a cloud storage. As a store or building interior is remodeled or changed in any way, the indoor maps are updated automatically using the sensor data.
Apart from tracking shopper location, geomagnetic indoor positioning offers direct blue-dot navigation to an area of product on the shelf or in an aisle. Therefore, customers are able to locate their desired products, bringing immediate benefits to the retailers.