Part 1: The Path to Infrastructure Convergence
At Connexient, we often talk to our clients about how Patient Experience is just the first “killer application” of indoor navigation and navigation-based services in large, complex facilities. Indeed, our vision for MediNav is about Navigation-enabling the Enterprise: where these services can bring compelling value to users and increasing ROI to the organization as they are integrated to address high value use cases across operations, safety & security, facility management and more.
It has been exciting and gratifying to see that this vision is shared with many of our clients. Over the last several quarters, as we have moved forward in our strategic planning with several of them, some recurring questions frequently comes up, such as::
- How do RTLS and Indoor Navigation fit together today and in our future roadmap?
- Will these infrastructures - and particularly the BLE Beacons - work together?
The good news is that these are indeed very complimentary solutions today, and in the future will only become more so. The key to achieving this is a spirit of collaboration and focus on integration.
Today Positioning for Indoor Navigation and RTLS Are Complimentary Deployments
First and foremost, when it comes to "Location Services", it is important to understand that we are agnostic to the indoor positioning / location services solution - so long as it is navigation quality. We have always expected over time that this will become part of the infrastructure of every large facility, and our experience in the market thus far has reinforced that conviction.
But that time frame is likely to be quite long - a decade or more - and there will often be a need for us to supplement or compliment with our capabilities. There are several reasons for this.
First, BLE Beacons and other potential position data sources will often typically be deployed for the particular purpose of asset tracking, not navigation. A system that is deployed for RTLS - today at least - is almost always incomplete and inadequate to the needs of navigation. We then need to supplement with our own to fill those gaps. When there are RTLS or positioning infrastructure partners that do provide the comprehensive coverage, density and configuration of BLE beacons required, Connexient can and will leverage this to support indoor navigation.
Second, today - and for the foreseeable future in our view - only handset sensor fusion software on the phone can deliver dynamic, navigation quality positioning. So even in the cases where the RTLS or positioning infrastructure partner provides the beacon coverage and density that is needed, we will still need to bring handset sensor fusion - and all of our knowledge and experience of how to fine tune this - to deliver reliable, robust navigation at scale in large, complex facilities.
Third, the new emerging use cases for BLE - such as tags for asset tracking - rely on a different approach and configuration of infrastructure. Whether it be Cisco Hyperlocation or other solutions, these involve bluetooth radios and WiFi receivers and transmitters as part of a system to both locate BLE tags and provide their location back to a cloud server. The good news is that handset sensor fusion can take advantage of these transmitters as additional data inputs.
So, Connexient’s approach of using smartphone based handset sensor fusion software complements existing RTLS infrastructure, while being well aligned with the growing importance of BLE beacons in this mix.
Over Time, Indoor Positioning Infrastructure Will Converge
After this transitional period of complementary deployments, Connexient expects that some day most or every major facility will have some existing unified infrastructure for indoor positioning, which is likely to be a mix of network-based and BLE-based approaches. The inexorable logic is there should only be one solution long term.
In most cases, we believe that the complementary expertise and capabilities of handset sensor fusion software will still be required in order to meet the stringent requirements for dynamic, accurate, reliable and robust indoor positioning to support a navigation user experience. That may in some cases come with infrastructure solution at a particular client, but in other cases the infrastructure will provide the hardware component and leave the rest up to the solution provider.
Connexient, as always, will be ready and able to configure and adapt to optimize our deployment for each client to leverage their infrastructure and ensure that navigation quality maps and navigation-based services can be integrated across Enterprise IT where it can deliver compelling value to users and ROI to the organization.
But the Challenge of Navigation Will Be Unchanged
When that day comes, Connexient’s mission will remain unchanged: to deliver robust, reliable indoor navigation and navigation-based services. Just as we do with GPS for the outdoors, we will now leverage an existing positioning solution indoors. What is important to us is how indoor positioning is used to deliver value to end users and the organization.
In the same vein, however, we also see an inexorable logic to every Enterprise standardizing on one solution for navigation-quality mapping, navigation and navigation-based services. To understand why, it is important to understand that Indoor positioning is just one component of what is needed to successfully deliver indoor navigation.
In our next installment, we will discuss how navigation and navigation quality mapping are fundamentally different than and complementary to indoor positioning and location tracking.