One of the hard problem existing within offices, factories, shopping center or any other building is finding the position of movable asset/person/device. Due to the concrete construction the GPS does not work, this leads to huge issues for many industry such as Retail, Manufacturing, Logistics,Security: to offer location specific service, Promotions engagements, moving automated devices, etc…
Potential of business with respect to having indoor position system is huge and we have varied use cases in various industry. Many of them mobile based barring few with movable devices. This not only helps industry but also provides great user experience. For example by having indoor position system one can augment information on top of mobile or google glass to help customers with product usage or in the manufacturing plant the engineer can get machine specific information while standing near the machine. This would help customer to make decision of buying in retail and calling for machine action by plant engineer right there.
The real success of Augment Reality within building can be realized much powerfully with the usage of stable and effective indoor position system.
Existing known ways to solve the problem of indoor position is:
- Bar-Code / QR-Code based encoding: In this case let us take an example of indoor shopping complex, they stick various QR code across the complex with the location encoded on each. This means when the user scans the QR Code using existing QR software from the back end one can inform user about the details of products or location or discount given by nearby shop. This solution expect user to have internet and cost of operation is sticking QR code or bar-code across all the building. The main problem with this solution is precision, one cannot stick around many bar code and the customer/user need to be very close to the QR Code for scanning.
- Bluetooth: Place beacons around to pass the information or trigger actions. Even this could be hard for solving position problem as the precision depends upon the number of beacons placed around. The solution starts to become expensive as we start placing more and more beacons (Bluetooth) enabled devices.
- Infrared sensor based: In this case the Infrared sensor installed in various spots detects the object distance and can push the notification to person. Once again this could be an expensive option as this would mean lots of such devices to be installed all around to cover distance.
- Wireless Router: One of the known good solution is to use the existing wireless access points to detect the user/customer location. All this requires is strategic positioning of wireless router such at all point at least 3 or more router signal can be detected. Using the similar to GPS computation one can find the location of person with the signal strength received by three or more wireless router. In todays world we find having wireless access point as default and this might lead to adding few more access points to get more precise position.
- Magnetic: Latest development in indoor position is utilizing the magnetic property at each location. Researchers have discovered that one can see a unique print of magnetic property in each location and by storing this magnetic print(like finger print) one can map the location of user. This is an active research going on and if successful it eliminates the need of any external devices but to utilize the physics of magnetic field with the construction and object around to detect the position of person. For example person standing on second floor would have different magnetic field as compared to some standing in lower or higher floor. Idea of comparing and discovering the magnetic field prints to detect position is unique and has lots of potential in future. The mobile phones currently have sensor to capture magnetic field. This makes it much simple solution to detect indoor position.
Research across companies are working on ways to solve this problem in many ways. The main idea is to minimize the cost and pain of installation and solve it with existing infrastructure or minimize the operational cost. In such case the technique of wireless router signal strength and unique magnetic print turns out to be the winner as of now, but the precision and ease of implementation of such solution is yet to be adopted in masses.
SAP offers geo-spatial library which could help in various geo-spatial computation, such as distance computation, geo-fence computation (inside or outside fence), etc… but the problem of detecting the indoor position still remains as it need innovation on both software and hardware side.