Friday, January 03, 2014

Indoor navigation with the Apple iBeacon framework

Already for a long time companies are trying to tackle the issue of indoor navigation. Already in 2011 I wrote a short post about the upcoming market of indoor navigation and what the people at Nokia research lab where doing is this area. Unfortunately, even though a lot of people do see a market potential in this, there is not much to report in this field and not many really adopted products or protocols have been developed by the industry. Now a new attempt to tackle the issue of indoor navigation is coming into play.

with the release of Apple IOS 7 and the software development kit Apple has introduced the option to the development community to make use of BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy.

"The iBeacon works on Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE), also known as Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart. In a real life scenario it would be more of a location-aware, context-aware, pervasive small wireless sensor beacon that could pinpoint your location in a store: iBeacons could send you notifications of items around you that are on sale or items you may be looking for, and it could enable payments at the point of sale (POS) where you don’t need to remove your wallet or card to make a payment. It could be a possible Near Field Communication (NFC) competitor."

Even though this technology is thought to be a pure Apple technology by some people this is a wrong assumption. iBeacons can be pruchased from a number of companies who develop them and all comply to the same standards. iBeacon is nothing more then a framework where some hardware vendors are developing the hardware beacons for. The most known developer of beacons is estimote however beacons are developed by for for example roximity.

An explanatory video from Estimote can be seen here;

The options of what can be done with the iBeacon solutions are numerous. In the above video some examples are mentioned. For example personalized prizing of items in a store which might differ from person to person based upon their membership of the stores loyalty program. Also an option is to show the number of likes for a product and product reviews.

However a large number of other options and solutions that can be created are possible, think for example indoor navigation on an airfield where someone is directed to the lounge or gate where this person should be. Also a personal plan for someone visiting an exhibition, some exhibitions can be extremely large and navigating the floors and be able to see all the vendors and conference speeches can be extremely difficult.

If you take for example the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in the Moscone center in San Fransisco. It consists out of a number of exhibition floors with a large number of vendors and also it is a conference with a extreme large number of speeches. Getting from conference room to conference room and not missing anything can be hard. Currently visitors can select a track and they are guided and helped by a program. Adding to this program an APP that will help you get to the correct room on time and help you, for example, keep track of where all your colleagues are so you can meet up for coffee between talks would be a great addition. Oracle OpenWorld is just an example and a indoor navigation framework could be offered by the conference center owners as a service to the conference that is using their location.
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