January 23, 2013
GPS-enabled smartphones have made location the cornerstone of the mobile experience. Location powers popular smartphone apps such as Foursquare, shopkick, and Yelp; overall, navigation and mapping apps are the third-most-used category of smartphone apps, ranking higher than gaming, news, and shopping. Yet, as important as location is, its dependence on satellite-based positioning systems prevents it from playing a significant role indoors — where we spend up to 90% of our lives.
As I discuss in my new report, Next In Tech: Indoor Positioning, indoor positioning technologies are rapidly changing this situation by enabling users, venue owners, and app developers to determine a person's (or object's) position inside buildings. The impact of this change will be profound:
- Make the physical world searchable down to the object level. By geotagging objects (through manual tagging or low cost tracking beacons), indoor positioning will make it possible to search for products and objects in the physical world as easily as we can on the Internet.
- Provide a new platform for in-store shopper engagement and experiences. Indoor positioning will not only help shoppers with tasks such as locating products on shelves, calling for assistance, and accessing in-store services but will also enable retailers to engage shoppers in real time as they shop.
- Digitize the call for help. Requesting help in venues will soon go digital, as indoor positioning will enable the help to come to you rather than you going to the help.
- Make smart devices responsive to their environment. Location is quickly becoming an essential tool for organizing, discovering, and accessing information and services about our environment. Indoor position will amplify this trend by enabling devices to become alive with relevant services and capabilities when customers walk into a room, store, or venue.
- Enable universal tracking and monitoring of people and physical assets. Think of this as Apple’s Find My Friends on steroids. Only now, you can see their exact location within venues or set up geofences to alert you to when they have arrived at your location or are waiting for you in a conference room.
- Improve wayfinding to your actual destination. Directions to the airport used to stop at the parking garage, but indoor positioning will extend it to include wayfinding directions to your actual gate of departure. It'll also help you find your car in the parking garage on your way home.