Accurate indoor positioning system using the earths magnetic field.

Accurate indoor positioning system using the earths magnetic field.

You can now use a smartphone app to both map and get real-time directions for indoor locations – and not by using internal or external infrastructure such as wireless access points or cell towers like Google are now trialling.

A company from Finland, IndoorAtlas, has developed a novel way to get highly accurate indoor positions using the earths magnetic field. They’re calling this “magnetic anomaly-based positioning”, and it’s how many animals sense their location and are able to navigate around the world – especially during migration season. These magnetic variations exist everywhere, including inside buildings – which have reinforced concrete and steel structures. This causes unique, spatially-varying ambient magnetic fields that can be mapped and used for accurate indoor positioning.

The newest breed of smartphones can sense the variations of magnetic field, therefore smartphone users can use an app to get indoor directions – with an accuracy ranging between 10cm to 2 meters (depending on the construction of the building).

This technology has wide ranging applications, such as for museums, department stores, shopping centres, warehouses, car parks – any location indoors or underground that may require real-time “GPS like” mapping and directions. Thinking a little more “outside-of-the-box”, the technology could also be used during building fires – helping people escape a smoke filled building. Or maybe helping visually impaired people navigate indoor locations using a voice direction app – just like car based GPS devices. The possibilities are endless.

IndoorAtlas provide a full suite of cloud-based tools to create the indoor maps, and these are split into three parts – Floor Plans, Map Creator, and an app creator using their web based API. See their web site for more information.

They’ve shot two videos. The first is an actual demo of walking around a supermarket. You can see the phone in the foreground showing the store map, with the little icon moving around the phones screen based on where the walker is. The second video is how to create the indoor map.

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