How Does The Indoor Positioning System Work?

Applied Tech Review | Thursday, May 05, 2022

While GPS remains an important tool for outdoor navigation, it requires the receiver to have an unobstructed line of sight to satellites.

FREMONT, CA: The satellite-based GPS signal loses significant power indoors due to signal weakening caused by building construction materials. As a result, all mobile location-based apps, such as navigation, cannot function inside airports, malls, subways, and so on. Furthermore, GPS cannot provide information about the user's current floor and building level.

These factors pose a bigger challenge for the next generation of location-based services applications, emphasizing the requirement for a system that can accurately and precisely locate a user inside a building, making positioning and navigation inside as simple as outside.

So, How Exactly Does the Indoor Positioning System Function?

An Indoor Positioning System (IPS) depends on nearby anchors (nodes with known positions) rather than satellites to either actively locate tags or provide environmental context for devices to sense. IPS can be local to one's smartphone (or another portable navigation device) and passively create a location fix.

The Ascension of the Beacon

Unlike GPS, there is no standard method for developing an indoor positioning system. However, the list of supporting/evolving technologies is as follows.

Although Wi-Fi received signal strength (RSS) and RFID systems are becoming more popular, they cannot achieve the sub-meter accuracy required for many indoor WSN applications such as personnel tracking in crowded airports. Due to this, companies are turning to beacons for high-precision indoor localization.

Beacons are Bluetooth low energy (BLE) tracking tags sent out by sensors. These sensors can be placed throughout a venue, and a mobile device can detect the BLE signal and determine its proximity. When this technology is used to build a mobile app, it can be used in novel ways to interact with the end-user, such as notifying a customer of a promotion for an item they are close to purchasing.

Beacons are low-cost and simple to deploy, and they can provide a granular, proximity-based indoor location for a better guest experience. This allows businesses to communicate with their customers based on their precise location, and when combined with other indoor navigation technologies, it can provide extremely accurate tracking.

Beacons can also be used in airline cargo to track inventory in real-time as it enters and exits the warehouse. The system can automatically notify relevant staff when there is a shortage or surplus of inventory in a given area and collect logistics data. Inventory visibility aids in reducing unnecessary losses caused by product unavailability.

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