Location as Currency: Mapping Apps Will Optimize Indoor Navigation

"Location is the new cookie," says Simon Thompson of Esri, referencing the software in a browser that tracks the websites people visit. Meet the new apps making it happen.
May 21, 2014, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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With a new app called Indoor Atlas, "anyone can use a smartphone’s compass to navigate the interior," writes Quentin Hardy. The new app will bring about the probably overdue convergence of location technology and crowdsourcing in indoor settings. In fact, says Hardy, "our indoor lives will be mapped much as street addresses are today, challenging both conventional business practices and human intimacy."

"A Finnish company called IndoorAtlas has figured out that all buildings have a unique magnetic 'fingerprint' — and has solved how to use that to determine locations inside a structure to within six feet. That is enough to take a consumer to a product in a crowded supermarket, or figure out the location of, say, a half-dozen workers in a building full of them. It’s also much better than cell phone towers can do."

Here's how a savvy marketer could use the app: "IndoorAtlas has enjoyed some success selling the service to stores in Finland. In at least one case, shoppers can load their week’s shopping into their phones, and get interior directions about where every product is located, and how to efficiently walk through the store to get everything."

The article compares the technology to that of OpenStreetMap—a favorite among planners—and predicts an eventual integration of interior and exterior location technologies. "Maps of building interiors, combining the visual logs of OpenSteetMap and the magnetic fingerprints, seem like something that could be easily cobbled together. At that point, a person could get directions that extend all the way to how to walk right to a person’s cubicle."

Hardy mentions two other technologies that might help lead the revolution: Urban Engines and Euclid Analytics.

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Published on Sunday, May 18, 2014 in New York Times
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