Nokia research labs recently launched a promotion video for a indoor navigation system. To be honest, even do the spread of blogposts and news items, this is not new. indoor navigation systems have been around for some time in both good and bad implementations. Some do work some do unfortunately work not so good. So what the big fuzz should be about is not the fact that Nokia is working on it, which is obviously and would be a suppress if they where not, the fuzz should be about that it is Nokia who is working on it and hopefully will make it to a product.
Reason that it is important that a company like Nokia is working on it is that it will be integrated in the new mobile products and that it most likely will trigger the competitors to also speedup the research on indoor navigation.
The next big thing could be indoor navigation. We have seen a giant step forward in outdoor navigation the past couple of years meanly due to the work done by TomTom, Garmin and Google. Google specially for creating Google maps and the integration into mobile phones and services. Applications, devices and all other kind of stuff is now location aware. Pictures taken with a mobile phone or a camera are now location aware and when you need to find your way around a city you can always rely on the navigation systems you carry in your pocket or which are integrated in your car.
Still a open field for improvement is when you are getting into a building a out of the reach of the GPS satellites. When you walk in an airport and need to find the way to, your gate, the toilet, a coffee corner, a shop, you have to turn to the old fashion of reading signs. When you are in a office you do normally not visit you have to find your way to the restaurant, the printer, the coffee corner, the desk of someone, a specific meeting room. When in a conference center you are always struggling to find your location.
Indoor navigation can make that a lot more easy. Imagine visiting the office of a customer for a project. In the beginning every consultant is struggling to find all kind of information to get started. Where do I find the printer room, where is this person located (and who is it), where can I find that conference room and where to grab a cup of coffee and a snack. This could all be resolved with indoor navigation. However this is also putting some stress on people maintaining the building. They will have to provide this information and specially in environments where people do not own their own desk it can be hard to keep track of who is sitting where.
For all those problems a solution can (and will) be provided in time and I strongly feel that indoor navigation will be the next big thing coming to the market. First as standalone apps created for airports and conference centers at a later stage for office buildings and shopping malls. At some point it will connect with social media networks to be able to share great indoor locations in somewhat the same way as you now see for outdoor locations with services like foursquare and similar services.
One big issue is that for indoor navigation you currently need a infrastructure to be able to do locate your position. You will need points in the building broadcasting a anchor point where for GPS you can make use of the satellites around the planet. This will slowdown the growth however it might be integrated with wifi spots. It would not come as a suppress to me if indoor navigation base stations will be in the future also broadcasting free (or commercial) WiFi.