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TAG Cloud

A while back, we blogged about what are the key requirements and characteristics of Indoor Navigation in What Exactly is Indoor Navigation Matter Anyways - and Why Does It Matter? In this blog, we will shift focus to the crucial foundation that must be in place for navigation to be possible at all: navigation-quality indoor positioning.

Exactly what is required for indoor positioning to be “navigation quality” is something we have learned, refined and perfected over the last 3 years in a rapidly growing footprint of over 50 million square feet of actual deployments at scale.

A Little Background on Indoor Location-based Services and RTLS

First, it is helpful to understand a little background - and therefore the distinction between navigation quality positioning and what is possible with the previous generation of location-based services developed by RTLS companies (Real Time Location Services) such as Centrak, Awarepoint, Stanley Aeroscout and Versus Technologies. Cisco has also become an important part of this space with Cisco CMX and Hyperlocation. These companies were all focused on solving a different set of problems: starting with asset tracking, but over time other needs such as workflow monitoring (e.g. Nurse Call), compliance (e.g. Hand Hygiene) and so on.

The requirements for positioning solutions for these needs were entirely different and most germane to this topic, did not require very rapid positioning updates, uniform coverage and, for some use cases, high accuracy. Where high accuracy is required - what is termed “room level” or “shelf level” accuracy, it is achieved by a hyper-locally placed monitor or “exciter” rather than any uniform and widespread positioning solution.

These technologies have proven to be very valuable and important to many hospitals and Enterprises, but what Connexient learned through hard experience is that they could not provide indoor positioning performance that meets the requirements for indoor navigation.

The Core Requirements for Indoor Navigation

So what are the core indoor positioning performance requirements for indoor navigation? These requirements are not obvious until you actually try to make navigation work at scale, as we have done. So here is our POV.

1. Dynamic Refresh

Indoor navigation requires the precise synchronization of information and prompts to the user based on their location. MediNav, for example, gives the user turn prompts exactly when needed and off route notification if they miss a turn or otherwise stray from their path. This is essential to avoiding confusion and frustration. In order to do this well, refresh rates of 1 second or less are required for true indoor navigation.

2. Reliability

Reliability is crucial. Once you give a user a blue dot, they expect it to be available and work in the same way at all times. It cannot disappear, or lag, or be available only when the user is connected to a wireless network.

3. Uniformity of Coverage

Blue dot coverage has to be continuous, end-to-end for the entire wayfinding journey. There cannot be dead spots, or places where coverage is not available. For Connexient, this challenge also extends to providing seamless transitions between outdoor GPS and indoor BLE-based positioning, and covering areas like large atriums, outdoor walkways and garages, etc. This enables us to power our popular My Car Saver and Parking Planner features that solve some of the most important real world problems of wayfinding at large medical centers.

Why Does It Matter?

At the end of the day, we have learned that MediNav is compared to and must meet the standards of dynamic refresh, reliability and uniformity that users have been conditioned to by Google, Apple and Waze. It is a challenge that we have embraced, but is a very high bar!

But we took it on because we understood two truths.

  1. Indoor Maps - and even location enhanced wayfinding - will not solve the problem.  In facilities of the size and complexity that we address - and generally indoors - users simply cannot cognitively relate maps to the complexity of the environment. Only true indoor navigation, which eliminates the intellectual process of map reading, actually works.
  2. Unless we meet the UX standards of outdoor navigation, users will become frustrated and abandon the solution. To achieve that, we must have navigation quality indoor positioning. Actually, what users don’t realize is that this positioning quality must greatly exceed anything that is achieved outdoors!

Interested readers can learn more about this in:

BLE is the Choice for Indoor Navigation Quality Positioning Today

Over the last 3 years, we have tried just about everything that is out there, and seen that the only indoor positioning technology that can meet the requirements of indoor navigation quality today is the combination of Handset Sensor Fusion together with BLE Beacons.

This this approach is similar to how your smartphone uses GPS satellites to “triangulate” your position for outdoor navigation and location-based services. In the case of BLE, the technique is called “tri-lateralization” - where we can read the signal of 2 or optimally 3 beacons at one time that have known location. This is then combined with other sensor inputs - such as WiFi and EMF “fingerprints”, accelerometer and compass - using sophisticated “Handset Sensor Fusion” and inertial navigation algorithms to produce dynamic, accurate and reliable indoor positioning.

BLE is Now a Part of the RTLS and WiFi Infrastructure

The good news is that BLE has been embraced by most leading RTLS platform and solution providers - as well as CTOs and CIOs as part of their broader "Internet of Things" strategy.  This is ushering in a new era where Connexient is also supporting and leveraging BLE Beacons installed and supported by companies such as Centrak and Awarepoint, as well as BLE Beacons embedded in APs in Cisco Hyperlocation and Mist Beaconpoints.  

There are 3 basic approaches to deploying BLE into the Enterprise today:

  1. Standalone battery powered BLE beacons.
  2. Powered BLE Beacon - either part of WiFi APs or as standalone units.
  3. USB or other “plug-ins” to existing APs.

This new landscape is enabling our clients to move toward a unified location services infrastructure, where Connexient can use the BLE beacons installed and maintained by RTLS and other vendors. Connexient can also flexibly deploy its own battery powered beacons as a bridging solution, or in many cases to supplement other BLE infrastructure to ensure uniformity and reliability of coverage.

Whatever the infrastructure choice our clients make, Connexient will leverage our Handset Sensor Fusion, proprietary calibration processes and expertise to deliver true navigation-quality indoor positioning and our indoor navigation user experience.

Want to Learn More About BLE and Unified Location Services Infrastructure Strategy?

PoleStar Connect Day

SNCF, Unibail Rodemco, Schneider Electric and Connexient discuss use cases and strategic value of indoor positioning and navigation

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in an excellent panel and event hosted in Paris by Polestar dedicated to use cases and strategic value of indoor positioning, navigation and location-based services. The panel was moderated by Ludovic Privat of CROWDLOC and ConnecteDriver; and featured the following speakers:

Transportation: Pauline Bongrain, SNCF, French railway operator
Healthcare: Geoff Halstead, Connexient
Smart Corporate Buildings: Luc De Crémoux, Schneider Electric
Malls & Retail: Julien Marlot, Unibail Rodamco

The discussion was wide ranging, touching on the important real world use cases and value drivers from the large scale deployments in 4 very different verticals. This alone speaks to the fact that indoor positioning and navigation has now truly passed the market tipping point.

Pauline Bongrain of SNCF presented how location services is enabling both navigation at railroad stations and presence detection that power location-based features that enhance the experience of their business travelers.

Geoff Halstead of Connexient talked about how indoor navigation is solving the important pain point of wayfinding in hospitals for patients and visitors. Once navigation-quality maps and navigation services are deployed into large complex medical facilities and campuses, howeer, other important use cases begin to emerge.   At Connexient's deployment at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, for example, the primary users and uses cases have been staff and operational. Since launching and features addressing facility management have been added. Other clients are looking to integrate with asset tracking to optimize the flow and management of assets.

Safety and Security has become a big focus of future development. Today when responding to incidents, safety and security staff are literally "flying blind". With navigation services, suddenly an entirely new range of capabilities become possible to coordinate response efficiently, direct intelligent egress of people from buildings, providing location intelligence and routing for first responders and more. In total, it represents a revolution with very high value to the Enterprise.

Julien Marlot of Unibail Rodemco discussed how exactly the same progression has been happening after their initial deployment at location services at their Malls for customer experience. They are now piloting the use location services for security response and management, utilizing tags provided by a Polestar partner.

Luc De Crémoux of Schneider Electric concurred, summarizing how location services will become an enabling Enterprise infrastructure that will ultimately address many powerful use cases and needs.

There were, of course, many more topics and insights - please view the videos for complete coverage!

B2B Use Cases


End User Services


I recently came across this position paper called:

published by the outstanding Center for Health Design.

While it was published in 1992 - and thus predates virtually all Digital Wayfinding - it is strking how the issues and principles it articulates continue to resonate.  To excerpts stand-out.

The Benefits of Good Wayfinding

In sum, good wayfinding promotes

  • Reduction of stress and frustration for the visitor
  • Functional efficiency
  • Visitor accessibility
  • Safety
  • Patient empowerment, improving cognitive skills in spatial understanding
  • Improved bottom line

All of those benefits apply to Digital Wayfinding, of course, but even more powerfully. We start with addressing patient and visitor stress, and all the impacts that has, but that is just the starting point. Some of the most compelling use cases we are now discussing and addressing with our clients in our roadmap revolve around staff efficiency and safety and security. This is all part of our vision of Navigation Enabling the Enterprise.

The Dynamic Nature of Wayfinding

The White Paper presents a very clear understanding of the "dynamic" nature of Wayfinding.

Unlike spatial orientation with its static relationship to space, wayfinding is a dynamic relationship to the space. It is dynamic in that people’s movement with their direct sense of orientation to place must be accommodated

It then lays out the rinciples of good wayfinding system design.

Unlike spatial orientation with its static relationship to space, wayfinding is a dynamic relationship to the space. It is dynamic in that people’s movement with their direct sense of orientation to place must be accommodated

1. Knowing where he or she is (i.e., “I have just arrived at the front door of the surgery center”).

2. Knowing his or her destination (i.e., “My instructions from the physician’s office indicate that I need to check in and register with the information desk”).

3. Knowing which route gets him or her to the destination (i.e., “The information receptionist told me to follow the signs to the elevator and take the elevator to the third-floor surgery waiting room and check-in desk”).

4. The ability to follow that route (i.e., “I need to locate and interpret appropriate signs that lead me to the elevators, exit the elevator on the third floor, and locate the surgery waiting room”).

5. Knowing when he or she has reached the destination (i.e., “This appears to be the surgical waiting room, and the desk is most likely for registration”).

All of these are core principles in the design of our Indoor Navigation UX. There is one fundamentally new and different characteristic of ;Indoor Navigation that differs from static wayfinding systems (i.e. signage), however:

1. Knowing where he or she is

In a navigation UX, that sense of "knowing where you are" goes away -and actually becomes a distraction. Referencing visual landmarks is important - but for a different reason. These indicate to the user that he or she is on the right path - i.e. that navigation is on track. Slowing the user down with map reading and map awareness is counterproductive and confusing.

Navigation is about what is next and where you are going, not where you are.

In a typical wayfinding journey, a user might well shift between navigation to map reading - in which case that location and map awareness come to the forefront again. That is why Connexient puts so much emphasis on all modalities and all screens, not just navigation. But they key to navigation is understanding the difference!

Connexient LLC

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