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Big in Japan! Geomagnetic indoor positioning

Technology News |
By Julien Happich


The company was founded in 2012 but is already gaining traction in Asia, most notably with a $10 million A investment from China’s top search company Baidu (back in 2014) for exclusive access to their technology in China, but also in 2015 by signing a $3 million partnership with Korean commerce service platforms provider SK Planet, and now signing a brand new contract with Japan’s leading internet portal, Yahoo! Japan.

eeNews Europe caught up with Daniel Patton, IndoorAtlas’ Chief Commercial Officer to learn more about the company’s technology and strategy for Europe.

“The technology is simple”, explains Patton, “modern buildings all have a unique magnetic signature”. The building’s structure and materials interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and that yields a unique magnetic map for each floor, which once recorded and stored in the cloud, can be used to accurately pinpoint and track a person’s location indoors. Today’s magnetometers are sensitive enough to make this work.

A building’s magnetic fingerprint as exploited by IndoorAtlas’ tools.

Patton is keen to emphasize that the data is very stable over time (unlike RF signals from WiFi hotspots or Bluetooth beacons), and that no other indoor positioning technology can scale so easily, simply because it is a software-only solution, with no hardware infrastructure to deploy and maintain. It is also easy to scale across millions of users.

For a subscription fee, IndoorAtlas’ Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) delivers all what developers need to design in-building geolocation mapping services and to map new locations, if need be.

Say you want to map a large train station with multiple levels and hundreds of corridors, it may take two days for a person to walk through its mazes, starting from a known anchor point and validating the collected geomagnetic data at key anchor points.


Although users can upload 2D floorplans before collecting data points, the company owns and manages the final data. It already boasts 25,000 developers using its PaaS in over 100+ countries, claims over 200,000 monthly active users and says it has crowdsourced over 15,000 buildings.

The Chinese deal with Baidu gave the company a boost, which Patton hopes will help IndoorAtlas reach critical mass, meaning that as users walk around cities, more building indoor maps can be crowdsourced, hence creating new data points for free and increasing IndoorAtlas’ overall coverage.

“Last year, Baidu rolled out our technology in its Baidu Map service, it has already mapped thousands of buildings in China, and it expects to increase its indoor mapping coverage ten-fold in 2016”, said Patton.

The new contract with Yahoo! Japan is also promising. The portal generates 63 billion page views per month and Japan ranks number four in smartphone penetration worldwide, even a small percent of active users could rapidly grow the number of maps.

IndoorAtlas’ web tool can be used to create locations and add floor plans.

“What’s happening in Europe is that we’ve been reached out by a number of organizations wanting to develop mapping services for hospitals, train stations, but also by private industries where apps are created to keep track of the flow of workers, for safety or security reasons”, explains Patton.

“Often, the apps are designed to enhance the user’s experience, say in a shopping mall for proximity marketing. We are aware of several airports using our app, to ease transfers. The app may serve the coming flights time and schedules, the direction to a connecting flight and the time it will take passengers to walk there, and on their way, it highlights where the shops and restaurants are”. “We are also in conversation with transportation companies”, he added.


Original screen shots from the Westfield Mall app (NewYork), showing way-finding/navigation, search and multi–dot.

The company offers a freemium pricing model so customers pay as they grow, based on the number of monthly active users. An SDK can be downloaded and used for free up to 100 monthly users to get a flavor of the indoor mapping and positioning capabilities.

“On the economics side, our subscription model offers the lowest cost approach compared to beacons”, the CCO concluded.

 

Visit IndoorAtlas at www.indooratlas.com

 

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