NAVTEQ announce enhanced indoor navigation maps

Published by David Gilson at 11:54 UTC, March 24th 2011

NAVTEQ, the Nokia-owned company behind Ovi Maps, have announced a new product called “Destination Maps”, which aims to provide the data that would enable guidance services inside public buildings. Initially, the data will cover more than 200 shopping malls in the U.S. One of the possible indoor location technologies that could use this data was previewed at Nokia World 2010, where I interviewed one of the development team about this technology. Read on for more information on its background and implementation.

The Destination Maps provides a new way for software to understand internal structures of buildings, including various combinations of stairs and escalators, and different floor levels known as Z-levels. Along with this they are providing meta data on events and promotions for each location. As said in their press release:

NAVTEQ Destination Maps moves the industry beyond the interactive floor plan maps available today and into a three-dimensional data model essential to a more advanced exploration and guidance experience.  It does this by providing pedestrian-specific attributes unique to interior requirements like stairs and elevators as well as recognizing different floor levels (called Z-levels) that are essential for applications to "understand" movement between floors once inside a venue and generate routes and guidance.  NAVTEQ Destination Maps also include a Virtual Connections feature that enables more intuitive guidance by recognizing how pedestrians "cut across" open areas.

In order to make use of such data an internal positioning system is required (GPS does not work inside); there a re a number of options, one of these was previewed during Nokia World 2010, for which each transmitter was said to cover an area of 200m2.

The internal location transmitter

An internal location transmitter at Nokia World 2010

These location transmitters operate on the familiar 2.4GHz freqency band. Therefore, existing handsets should be capable of receiving the signal through their existing WiFi and/or Bluetooth antennas. The remarkable thing about this technology is that, whereas GPS requires as many location signals as possible to work well, NAVTEQ’s indoor location technology can get a location fix with just one transmitter. Obviously, overlapping transmitters will help increase accuracy.

If this technology becomes widely adopted, it would be hoped that indoor location transmitters become part of building codes, rather than having to be retrofitted. This was according to Fabio Belloni, part of the local positioning team at the Nokia Research Centre in Helsinki, Finland.

The current roll out of the technology will help users find their way to exits, bathrooms, etc. More interestingly, it will also include dynamic points of interest (POI’s), such as movie listings, according to the press release. In the future, other dynamic information will probably include more marketing data, notifying users of special offers that are relevant to their location in the building.

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NAVTEQ’s advantage here is the combination of their extensive outdoor mapping data with their indoor guidance service. This means that users of NavTeq mapping software (i.e. Ovi Maps) will be able to seamlessly transition from outdoor to indoor mapping in the same application. This was one aspect that needed to be worked out when I investigated the technology at Nokia World 2010.
“Fabio told me that they would expect mapping software (e.g. Ovi Maps) would intelligently switch modes; there would be no requirement for users to switch applications or manually change modes. In this case, there was a technological question of how to handle the transition and the handover from outdoor positioning systems to the indoor system.”
You can read the full press release at NAVTEQ, but here’s an excerpt:

“NAVTEQ Destination Maps moves the industry beyond the interactive floor plan maps available today and into a three-dimensional data model essential to a more advanced exploration and guidance experience.  It does this by providing pedestrian-specific attributes unique to interior requirements like stairs and elevators as well as recognizing different floor levels (called Z-levels) that are essential for applications to "understand" movement between floors once inside a venue and generate routes and guidance.  NAVTEQ Destination Maps also include a Virtual Connections feature that enables more intuitive guidance by recognizing how pedestrians "cut across" open areas.

The product even includes access restrictions to avoid being guided to an "emergency exit" as well as precise locations of important points like the nearest public bathroom.  Additional POI detail such as meta-tag data enables search to be associated not just with a POI (e.g., a department store) but with specific sub-information (e.g., perfume) within those categories.”

David Gilson for All About Symbian, 24th March 2011.

 

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