Features: May 11th, 2018

João Fernandes looks at the way navigation software has the potential to bring a whole range of improvements to everyday life.

Outdoor navigation technology matured many years ago; we now walk around with a detailed map of the world in our pockets. But what happens when you enter a building? The navigation drops out. That’s because map technology is enabled via GPS (satellite technology) is rubbish at picking up phone frequencies from within buildings.

Fortunately, solutions to this particular problem have already been developed. Most use Bluetooth beacons positioned around a building’s interior to ping a user’s mobile device, allowing an app to pinpoint the user’s location to within a few feet. Of course, there are more sensitive solutions which allow for centimetre-accurate positioning, but that’s usually overkill for something the size of a person.

These beacons are steadily becoming cheaper and more reliable, making them a cost-effective solution for most large and complex indoor environments, such as hospitals, airports, and sports stadiums. Every environment has its own unique technical challenges to be ironed out, however, meaning indoor navigation requires an expert consultancy rather than a DIY approach.

BuzzStreets, for example, is working on a number of pilot projects with hospitals, offices, and stadiums to iron out these kinks, while Google is offering DIY indoor mapping without navigation features.

Soon we will see the combination of these technologies, providing a quick and simple solution for public buildings, towns, shopping centres, businesses and hospitals of any size. At this point, we will quickly reach a critical mass and the whole world will be navigable – indoors and out. You’ll be able to go from your front door to the specific room, that you need to be in, within the building you are visiting. Navigation will take you all the way – not just to the outside door by reception.

But It’s not just about getting to the right place – it’s about the journey too. Indoor environments, particularly hospitals, civic offices, even shopping malls and offices, will need to change in order to engage visitors and supply them with the information they need.

Indoor navigation could also pave the way for a more automated system of moving people around. Doctors’ and patients’ schedules could be integrated so they know when to move from Orthopaedic Outpatient waiting area through to the x-ray room when it is their turn, for example.

While they wait, they could be provided with information about the procedure in the form of an augmented reality (AR) demonstration. The orthopaedic department may offer physiotherapy instructions, for example, making better use of the patient’s waiting time.

Imagine going into a shopping mall and seeing marine animals swimming through the air, with games and news appearing on virtual screens around you. As you approach your favourite footwear shop you can already see whether they have the shoes you wanted before receiving a special discount code. As you step inside the lighting changes and your favourite band plays softly in the corner.

When visiting an office or public building, indoor navigation data could be used to trigger events, such as pop-up videos and other information.

Some offices already display promotional information on screens dotted around the building. These could be made a lot more immersive, allowing the client to select the information they are interested in and save videos to view later on. They could even get a visual demonstration of how the council has been spending tax payers’ money and the benefits this brings.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a sci-fi vision. BuzzStreets is already playing around with AR ideas such as these to offer patients useful information and keep them entertained while they wait.

When handsfree, wearable devices become the mainstream, this futuristic vision will become a reality. Until then, we will still need to use our smartphones and tablets as a window to this world.

Data is the key. It’s big, it drives decisions and choices, it can make life easier. For hundreds of years we’ve been improving our transport systems, our public services, healthcare, and everything else, through a combination of guesswork and the scientific method. Results are slow to come and never seem to capture the whole picture.

With a global population of over 7,000,000,000 people and rising, the world can’t wait for the results of a five-year trial before making important changes. The world is too complex and fast-moving for that traditional approach. Gathering data in real-time allows us to put our theories to the test, develop new models, and make useful changes quickly and accurately.

How do people move around your hospital? What route do they take to the airport? Where does your mall get the highest footfall? When are people most likely to buy food at a stadium? Why are people visiting your office block?

Data can help answer all of these questions and many more. Businesses can optimise their environments to improve the user experience, save money, and change our lives.

The same approach can also be applied to inanimate objects, such as hospital equipment. If you need a specialist piece of equipment, but it’s not where it should be, location data can help you track it down. Perhaps you find that some equipment is regularly moving long distances through the hospital building, in which case perhaps it would save time and money to buy a second machine.

There are almost infinite ways in which the data gathered by navigation software could be used to improve our lives. The only limit is our imagination.

About the Author
João Fernandes is the Founder and CEO of BuzzStreets, a B2B navigation and location-based services solution. We combine indoor and outdoor navigation with technologies such as augmented reality and proximity-triggered offers, to create a bespoke solution for customer engagement. The analytics the solution can also be invaluable in improving building efficiency and keeping track of vital equipment. Particular verticals that could benefit from BuzzStreets include: Shopping Malls, Stadiums, Hospitals, Airports and Offices.