There have been many great inventions in human history, all of which have contributed immensely to making our lives easier and expanding the scope of what we deem possible. GPS, or the Global Positioning System, has been one of these great inventions.
But as great as GPS is for tracking movement outdoors based on satellite signals, it does have its own shortcomings, one of which is the fact that it is grossly unsuitable for tracking things indoors to a high level of precision.
Thankfully, the human propensity for invention never stops. Today, a major leap forward has been made in terms of indoor precision tracking. The technologies that make this possible are all collectively known as indoor positioning systems (IPS).
Indoor positioning systems have come a long way since their invention. They have opened up a whole new possibility regarding navigation in an indoor environment. But what exactly is an indoor positioning system, and what are the scope of its functions?
Well, first, an indoor positioning system is any network of devices whose main purpose is to locate objects and people in an enclosed space to a high level of precision and accuracy.
Simply put, indoor positioning systems do indoors what global positioning systems do outdoors.
An indoor tracker can be put to use in places such as train stations, underground locations, hospitals, shopping malls, among others. An indoor tracker offers so many benefits that it is almost impossible to overestimate their importance.
We will take a look at some of these benefits in the upcoming section, but first here’s an in-depth look at how an indoor tracker works in the first place.
IPS works based on the same transmitter – receiver principle that governs most tracking systems. Through indoor localization, an IPS makes use of a variety of tags and beacons to estimate a target object’s location from a group of available data.
The stationary beacons known as anchors are responsible for receiving the signals, while the mobile beacons known as the tags are attached to the object in question, that is the object that we want to know its location.
Once the anchors receive signals from the tags, they forward the data to a server, which is ultimately responsible for calculating the real-time location of the data.
As we’ll see below, there are more than a few types of indoor positioning systems and indoor location-based services. All of these systems have their own varying degrees of accuracy, precision and security.
Indoor positioning systems open up an array of possibilities when it comes to indoor location tracking and more. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the areas where this can be applied. But one thing that is common to these applications is that they are all geared towards what is known as indoor localization.
Indoor positioning technologies perform many functions, but their primary objective is indoor localization. Indoor localization is the process whereby a technology is able to accurately collect data to identify the layout of an indoor environment, and locate objects and people in this environment with a very high level of accuracy and precision.
The indoor localization platforms require the use of sensors and various estimation techniques.
Making your own indoor positioning system can be a quite complex procedure. All indoor tracking devices have a software and a hardware component, and to make your own, you will have to acquire both components.
Furthermore, indoor location tracking devices also have different levels of functionalities, depending on what you want to do with them. For instance, an IPS to be used in a small office will be different from an IPS for large retail stores and warehouses. Additionally, you have to carry out tons of testing to not only ensure that your indoor tracker is functional, but also safe.
Overall, if you need to carry out indoor location positioning, it would make sense to make use of a ready-made indoor location-based services through an indoor positioning device to achieve your goal.
Now, there are lots of indoor positioning solution options in this regard, each with its own level of accuracy and precision. We take a look at some of the most popular options below.
Of the technologies that can be used for indoor location positioning, below are the most noteworthy.
To an extent, all of these techniques have been used for indoor location tracking. Of course, the best option for you will depend on the scope of your project and what you’re trying to achieve.
This is because all of them have their own advantages and shortcomings. Wifi, for instance, is great because it offers high accuracy down to the meter, and can work in a dense environment. It is also widely available with lots of infrastructure/access points around.
Bluetooth based tracking is great if you’re looking for a technique that doesn’t consume a lot of power and can work in low coverage areas without wifi infrastructure. Its accuracy is also impressive, just like wifi. You should have in mind, though, that Bluetooth can be interrupted by changes in environment.
As mentioned above, ultra wideband is without a doubt the most accurate and precise. As an indoor tracker, it can provide accurate location data down to the centimeter.Other available options include inertial measurement units, visual-based tracking by cameras and computer algorithms,radio frequency identification (RFID), and ultrasonic-based tracking.
You can try to use GPS indoor, but don’t expect to get any worthwhile results. GPS indoor accuracy isn’t worthwhile because GPS relies on satellites orbiting the earth to transmit signals at a high frequency. The problem is, these signals are greatly reduced in strength as they pass through solid objects, making them fragile indoors.
For this reason, an indoor GPS tracker will always yield inaccurate data, especially if the obstruction is significant. Furthermore, we usually don’t expect accurate results from an indoor GPS tracker because their signals are affected by what is known as multipath interference. This occurs when a signal is reflected off a wall or other solid objects before reaching the intended device.
Another issue with any indoor GPS system is that they can never initiate a clear view of the sky, because of roofs and other building coverings. Of course, for an indoor GPS system to even have a high GPS indoor accuracy, there must be a clear view to the sky, which most buildings simply don’t have.
Below are some of the most popular industries where you’ll find indoor tracking and positioning systems being applied.
The following are some use cases for indoor positioning in the retail industry:
The following are some use cases for indoor location trackers in the healthcare industry:
The following are some use cases for BLE indoor tracking in the manufacturing & logistics industry:
The following are some use cases for indoor location systems in the education industry: