Nokia Research has been working on an indoor navigation concept that takes GPS-style navigation to the next level. For one, it works indoors, where GPS receivers lose the signals from satellites around the Earth. Secondly, it is accurate to 30cm (1 feet), which is more than enough to enable precise location-based services within a building, or even within a store. You could, for example, make a list of what you need in a store, and an application could formulate the quickest path. I bet that store owners would hate that, as they would rather have you looking around. There tons of scenarios where such a technology could be very useful, like public places, office buildings, and so on…

However, it’s not that simple. This indoor navigation relies on positioning beacons . Although Nokia says that they are “low-cost”, the question remains: what does it really mean? How many beacons per 1000sqft do we need? And of course, each beacon need to be wired, at least for power.

Secondly, such a technology needs to be cross-vendors. Nokia will have to open-source the protocol so that other handset makers and infrastructure players can compete. Without that step, we will never see the industry look into it, never mind actually using it. Nokia has been using open source before, and they might  be ready to do it again. We’ll see.

Finally, we need maps! Indoor maps for each and every place  that will be equipped with such a technology. Expect this to roll out slowly (if/when it does) because it’s going to take time. Expect airports, and other terminals-type buildings to go first, then malls and shopping centers. Private buildings will take more time, but in the long-run, it’s absolutely doable.

From there, the next step would be to use augmented reality to provide additional information about the user environment. Because the positioning is so accurate, additional information from a gyroscope and a compass should be enough to provide meaningful information — although I still believe that nothing beats actual visual recognition of the environment.

What would you do with indoor navigation? Where should it be implemented first?

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