It is quite natural to lose one’s way inside a huge shopping mall. That restaurant you visited last month, and want to visit again – was it in the first floor, or the second floor? My favourite shoe brand has a new showroom in this mall… I saw their ads offering inaugural discounts and wanted to check it out. But how can I find it here? I’m sure we all have faced a similar issue once in a while, and this confusion is not limited to shopping malls alone – people get lost in hospitals, exhibition centres, or practically any large building complexes. Sometimes there is a floor plan available in the shopping mall to guide users towards the destination of their choice, but mostly such plans are fixed on a wall or a stand. It is not very easy for visitors to remember the floor plan for the whole time they are inside the building.
The concept of indoor navigation aims to assist visitors to find their way inside buildings. It also helps shopping malls to make their premises popular and visitor-friendly. With the gaining popularity of mobile technologies, indoor navigation service providers offer apps that help assist users find their way inside large buildings. Such apps not only show users the route to their destinations, but also guides them towards reaching there.
There are broadly two types of indoor navigation systems available in the market. Let us have a quick look at how they work and how to choose the best system that addresses your needs.
a. Wi-Fi-based solutions
One popular category of indoor navigation comprises of Wi-Fi-based solutions. Radio-frequency identification chips, beacons or other wireless signalling devices are placed on various points inside a building such as the walls or the ceilings. Signals emitted by such a Wi-Fi positioning system is picked up by the visitor’s handheld device and is decoded by the mobile app, to locate the visitor’s position in the floor plan of the building and the position is displayed on the mobile device of the visitor.
Setting up of a Wi-Fi-based solution could be a tough decision, since it involves procurement and periodic maintenance of costly machinery. Also, it includes additional effort in fixing Wi Fi systems to the ceilings or walls of the building. Signal fluctuations might be possible in Wi-Fi-based systems, resulting in errors and inaccuracies in the path of the user. Additionally, such extra-fittings would be quite visible to users, and would diminish the beauty of the interiors if the walls and ceilings are not designed to conceal such add-ons.
b. Augmented reality-based solutions
Augmented reality-based solutions enhance the user experience by adding elements to the real view as seen through the camera of a handheld device. The camera of the user’s handheld device (such as a mobile phone) decodes a QR code displayed on a sticker placed on the building’s wall or floor, to display additional information on the screen of the device and the direction.
Such additional information might include the opening hours of a store or a medical lab, along with the navigation arrows for indoor and outdoor navigation.
Setting up an augmented reality solution is relatively easy – A floor plan or map layout of the building is needed, which would be edited using an online site manager, adding destinations, defining routes and connecting the destination points to those routes. Print-outs of QR codes for these points are prepared on PVC stickers and fixed in the desired positions. Users would need to download the app free of cost from Google’s Play store or Apple’s App store based on their device type and can start using the same.
Due to exact marker positioning, accuracy of augmented reality-based indoor navigation solution ranges within centimetres as compared to other forms of indoor navigation products whose accuracy ranges between 2 to 20 meters.
Today’s indoor navigation systems also allow users to search for an event, look up for exciting offers at their favourite brand outlets or food joints. So now it is possible to venture out to newer and various locations without getting lost and be part of a growing technological revolution. Rest assured, indoor navigation is here to stay!