Has indoor navigation lost its way?

March 13, 2014 // By Peter Clarke
Indoor navigation, which has been a driver for at least some MEMS developments in smartphones, doesn't work well and is not really needed by phone users, according to Teemu Ramo, senior manager of audio hardware for Nokia Lumia Technology.

As a result pressure sensors, along with other sensors, could be omitted from some handsets in the future, he said.

Speaking on a panel at the MEMS Executive Congress Europe, held in Munich, Germany on March 11, Ramo said: "It used to be that we chucked everything in. We are seeing a move to 'less is more.' For example indoor navigation has not panned out as planned. So the pressure sensor may get dropped from the mobile phone. We have to ask what is the added value for any given sensor, so the air pressure sensor may go."

The pressure sensor is there to distinguish between floors of multi-level shopping mall, but one question is: for whose benefit?

Users are savvy and know that one reason it is there is so that they can be pitched at – and they don't much like it. Also an indoor navigation system that doesn't work well merely serves as a persistent negative advert for the phone maker's brand.

Teemu Ramo, senior manager of audio hardware at Nokia Lumia Technology, speaking at MEMS Executive Congress Europe.

Meanwhile there is business pressure to component count, cost and energy consumption and do primary smartphone functions well, Ramo said.

It is part of what could be a coming trend to focus on what smartphone users actually want rather than gimmicks intended to wow technophile early adopters, according to Ramo. He did qualify this by saying that user requirements do get filtered through the mobile phone service operator channel, which may yet dictate that Nokia and other phone companies continue to throw more and more MEMS into their handsets to please apps developers.