Bringing the navigation services of the satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) to buildings and structures where satellite reception is weak or unavailable, indoor positioning systems (IPS) use a suite of new technologies to make indoor navigation services available in these settings.

Indoor positioning is used in robotics, security and monitoring, shopping, inventory and to provide navigation in unfamiliar buildings, vision tools for the blind and maneuvering support in low visibility. Innovative technologies used by the firms providing IPS include designs using radio signals, bluetooth, artificial vision, magnetic and acoustic strategies.

  1. Vision Positioning System
    The leader in VPS systems, Google, builds its IPS offering on top of their Tango 3D device-based vision technology.

    Announced in November of 2016, the Tango augmented reality system uses images captured by android device cameras to create maps and to triangulate locations based on features in the environment. The powerful resolution of this technology enables the device to determine its position in distances as small as a few centimeters.

    Tango-based VPS would have practical applications in consumer shopping, providing assistance with locating products in stores, for example.

  2. Wireless-based IPS
    Chronos, a technology developed by researchers at MIT, uses a single WiFi connection point to pinpoint the location of connected objects to within tens of centimeters. This positioning system makes use of sub-nanosecond differences in the time it takes for the different frequencies in the radio transmission spectrum to travel to their destination.

    By computing these differences and then multiplying the results by the speed of light, the distance to and location of the WiFi connection point can be calculated.

    This indoor navigation system is extremely effective and attractive because of its low cost to implement and the wide range of applications that it supports such as tracking users and equipment.

  3. Bluetooth
    Using stationary transmit-only beacons, bluetooth provides reliable indoor navigation. Connected devices determine their locations based upon the unique signals emitted from the bluetooth transmitters.

    This system is accurate to within a yard, making it suitable in shopping applications where a customer can be prompted with coupons or notified of sales as they pass by in-store beacons. Similarly, the technology can be used in museums and art shows to assist patrons with locating exhibits and providing them with context specific information related to a piece or work they are viewing.

  4. Visible Light Communication
    VLC uses light emitting diodes (LED’s) to communicate position information. Pulse signals are exchanged with hand-held devices such as phones and tablets as well as equipment fitted with photo diodes. The devices exchange identification information that is translated into into location and movement data.

    As with bluetooth, VLC positioning can be used practically in retail settings including shopping malls, grocery stores and hardware shops. Additional interesting uses of this method of IPS include transportation and travel settings such as hotels, airports, parking garages and car rental outlets.

  5. Dead Reckoning
    Dead reckoning begins with a device having knowledge of its beginning position and uses local sensors to capture changes to its movement and orientation, continuously updating its location relative to that starting point. As a positioning system, it is less precise than the others that are updated from outside sources. Small errors accumulate over time and the accuracy of the position calculation degrades.

    Its primary benefit stems from the fact that it does not require any outside input and can be used in scenarios where external signals are impractical such as highly secure buildings, the deep sea and underground positioning in mines, wells and tunnels.

IPS delivers a comprehensive suite of effective technologies that provide indoor navigation in scenarios where GPS services are not available.

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