Wi-Fi Proving Beneficial for Indoor Navigation

Applied Tech Review | Monday, January 10, 2022

The wireless indoor positioning system operates by establishing coordinates through Wi-Fi access points capable of transmitting specific data.

FREMONT, CA: Indoor navigation (client-based solution) and tracking solutions are now possible with Wi-Fi location (server-based approach). Wi-Fi indoor positioning accuracy is normally 5-15 meters due to the utilization of access stations whose positions have been optimized for data exchange. This precision varies according to the amount of shielding provided by walls, ceilings, and people, as well as the number of access points. The inclusion of smartphone sensors can improve results and also determine the floor level.

The advantages of this technology are that it may be utilized with existing infrastructure in some circumstances and that enabled Wi-Fi is sufficient to find devices; no login is required. The disadvantages include reduced location accuracy compared to Bluetooth Low Energy  (BLE)  and the exclusion of iOS devices from client-based positioning. Additionally, Wi-Fi Tags are more expensive and energy inefficient than beacons.

Client-based approach

Localization occurs directly in an app on the end device when using a client-based approach. The data can optionally be passed to the backend for analysis. This is the most frequently utilized method for interior navigation.

IOS devices cannot be utilized for Wi-Fi client-based indoor positioning due to technological limitations. Each Wi-Fi access point broadcasts unique data, whether a consumer hotspot, a router or an Internet-connected point of sale device. An app can determine the end-user device's current location using the RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) and MAC address (Media Access Control). This necessitates the creation of a database containing information about the locations to which the data can be compared. This is referred to as fingerprinting.

Server-based approach

Localization can be accomplished using existing Wi-Fi infrastructure in some cases, but for other positioning initiatives, a comprehensive solution utilizing infrastructure hardware is the best option. For example, a server-based solution is established when indoor positioning is used to track assets or analyze pedestrian paths. The system can be configured in a variety of ways.

However, localization via Wi-Fi has several drawbacks compared to interior placement via BLE beacons. These disadvantages include imprecise position resolution, short battery life, and expensive Wi-Fi tags. Localization with BLE is thus frequently the optimal choice.

Utilizing pre-existing Wi-Fi infrastructure

Two configurations are available to enable Wi-Fi positioning based on current infrastructure. Mobile Wi-Fi tags can be connected to assets or worn by individuals in the form of wristbands to do this.

In the first configuration, smart Wi-Fi tags acting as clients are applied. The tag gathers signals from numerous Wi-Fi access points and transmits data to the Wi-Fi backend. RSSI decides the tag's position. The algorithm for calculating the position is translated directly to the Wi-Fi tag or the backend in this configuration. Existing Wi-Fi access points broadcast merely signals and do not require special settings.

In the second configuration, intelligent access points equipped with a location engine are deployed. The logic mapping is performed at the access point level in this scenario. The access points detect the signals broadcast by the mobile Wi-Fi tags and forward them to the infrastructure provider's location engine for position determination. Through an interface, third-party suppliers can gain access to the data.

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