Global positioning system, or GPS, technology has become mainstream today and is included in everything from cars to cell phones. However, GPS has a flaw, which is that it does not work properly indoors. GPS operates by triangulating a location based on satellite signals, but these signals lose power inside buildings. A variety of indoor navigation technologies have been invented to compensate for this limitation and allow GPS for indoors.
How Is an Indoor Positioning System Useful?
People spend most of their time indoors, whether at home, work or shopping in stores and malls. GPS is very good at helping you navigate around the streets of your town, but what happens when you get lost in the mall or the convention center? Large buildings can be just as easy to get lost in as a city neighborhood, and indoor positioning technology can keep your child or elderly relative from getting lost. It can also help hospital staff respond to emergencies faster or airport security respond to threats more quickly.
How Do Indoor Positioning Systems Work?
The technology that powers indoor positioning has come a long way and is still evolving. Currently, there are several different technologies being developed under several different companies. The following are a few of the most promising indoor navigation technologies:
• High-sensitivity Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology uses the same satellite system as regular GPS, but with much higher sensitivity that can get a strong signal inside buildings. The advancement of chip technology to create more powerful receivers has made this possible, and this technology is expected to continue improvement as chips become consistently more powerful.
• Magnetic positioning is an older technology that uses the existing compass capabilities of smartphones to calculate position based on the disruption of Earth’s magnetic field by the iron composition of buildings. This technology is limited by its short range and the fact that not all buildings contain iron.
• Wireless indoor positioning technologies use WiFi, Bluetooth and other wireless systems to pinpoint locations based on signal strength. These systems are usually combined with digital indoor maps as part of a smartphone app. Another common use for wireless indoor positioning is security; when visitors or employees sign into the company WiFi service, their position within the building can be tracked.
What is the Future of Indoor Positioning Technology?
The future of indoor positioning systems is likely to use a combination of multiple technologies working together at the same time. High-sensitivity GNSS, for example, could be used in combination with a WiFi based system to provide navigation and security for the occupants of a building. Indoor positioning may also be used in more security and logistics applications as the technology continues to improve.