This week, a group of consumer electronics and communications companies joined forces to develop a standard technology for indoor navigation. Biggies founding the In-Location Alliance include Broadcom, Nokia, Sony Mobile, Samsung, and Qualcomm.
GPS is notoriously unreliable indoors. This group plans to use Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi to make indoor navigation work. Taking advantage of these capabilities requires, however, that Wi-Fi hotspots be mapped and that facilities install Bluetooth navigation beacons. Devices built to the standard will likely include multifunction chips like Broadcom’s BCM4752 that supports these two wireless standards as well as GPS.
The Alliance expects member companies to roll out the first consumer applications of this technology sometime next year. And those apps will likely be moneymakers for their providers, pushing paid ads and coupon offers to mobile devices based on their location.
These companies are not the only ones hoping to set an indoor navigation standard. Google already has Indoor Maps, covering such venues as airport, shopping, malls, museums, and Las Vegas Casinos. (This last category, I have to admit, gets my attention—I’ve circled inside the MGM Grand Hotel for far too long in a struggle to get from the monorail to Las Vegas Boulevard.) Apple is launching its own mobile mapping application this fall; details about indoor maps have yet to be announced.
It’s no surprise indoor mapping is jumping; expect to hear a lot more about developments in the next few months. The technology is ripe and the advertising dollars, it seems, are ready. Remaining to be seen, of course, is whether consumers will put up with yet more advertising pushed at them in order to more efficiently navigate their local shopping malls.
Photo: Google’s Indoor Maps
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.