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Last Tuesday we announced our partnership agreement with Mutare to integrate their secure Vital Link™ notification system with Connexient's MediNav™ rich indoor mapping platform to launch the first-ever, HIPAA-compliant hospital navigation app with full smart notification integration.
This represents the culmination of many months of discussions with clients, evalution of partners and planning. We are confident that the result will be a breakthrough for the industry, bringing immediate ROI to our clients while setting the path to much more sophisticated integrations that can simultaneously:
Thanks to innovators like Mobile Commons and mobileStorm - and their early adopter clients - there is already a strong body of data that demonstrates that the simple act of sending SMS text reminders can reduce missed appointments by up to 30%!
Now Add End-to-End Digital Wayfinding
Appointment reminders address one issue: people are busy, distracted and sometimes forgetful. But the next problem is actually getting a patient to their appointment through the maze that is a modern hospital and healthcare network. Beyond a mass of anecdotal evidence and our own personal experiences, there is plenty of hard data on the costs this imposes on both patients and Healthcare Networks.
With the Communicator Edition, Connexient is taking the next crucial step to integrate HIPPA-compliant end-to-end digital wayfinding with appointment reminders into MediNav. The result is a patient experience like this.
That's how one very simple integration - supported by HIPAA-Compliant communications and architecture - can deliver real value to both provider and patient.
This first simple step is important, However, with further integrations and development - most significantly with Enterprise-grade Indoor Positioning solutions like Cisco CMX - we can ultimately deliver the same type of effortless Electronic Check-in experience that many of us enjoy today when we take an airline flight.
By combining and integrating these elements - all with HIPAA Compliance - we can achieve multiple key objectives:
These integrations with other Healthcare applications and systems will not happen overnight. They will progress in a step-by-step fashion, driven by our clients' most compelling use cases. But Connexient will be ready - and a leader in realizing the vision of connected Healthcare by focusing on the details of the complex reality of implementation.
Integrationg Indoor & Outdoor Location-based services with HIPAA-Compliant Communications will bring many benefits beyond the Patient Experience, of course. Important and compelling uses case in Operations, Security and beyond are natural and easy to address once this is in place.
We will talk about this next week!
Last week was an exciting one for Indoor LBS! The big news was Apple's announcement and release at WWDC of new Core Location features that let app developers get precise indoor positioning data from an iOS device’s sensors. Here are a couple of articles:
The quick summary is that this new technology - available in iOs 8:
We are going to need to test ourselves to confirm accuracy, of course, but this is Apple so we are expecting it will be pretty good. Further, we had tested WiFi Slam last year before it was acquired by Apple and now baked into the OS - and we can vouch for the ease of set-up and map callibration and "pretty good" accuracy and reliability of the solution. We will be interested to see if Apple has made any improvements.
But what is important here is that both Apple - and we think Google will match or better this at I/O later this month - are making big moves to bring the "Blue Dot" experience to a mass audience. That is going to drive user adoption, awareness and demand on an entirely new scale.
So, let the Era of Indoor LBS begin!
1. Apple can only address "public" spaces - Malls, Airports, etc. - where it is far behind Google. That is not to say that Apple can't do it, but nobody should confuse a technical capability with the actual hard work of mapping, or assume that "venue owners" will flock to upload floor plans and build out maps on Apple, which has far less
2. The owners of such "public" venues are becoming increasingly focused on controlling and monetizing their own maps. Yes Google & ;Apple will be there, but there is a lot of messiness in the business aspects of doing this mapping.
3. Apple still hasn't learned the lesson that the data really matters! It is great that developers can now capture/model the building's geometry more easily - but that has never really been tough. Floor plans or AutoCADS work just fine too. But that is NOT a map, and the data required for directions and navigation is a whole different ball game.
For more on this topic, see our blog: Indoor LBS: The Map Really Matters.
A map is only useful when all of the location and metadata related to that map is structured, accessible, 100% accurate and reliable. To get that, Apple will need:
So Apple's move - and Google's to follow - are great news for Indoor LBS. They will influence Enterprise CEO's and CTO's to move more quickly in making indoor positioning available in their own facilities.
At the same time, it is also important to understand that this is not an Enterprise solution. Approaches such as this - whether handset sensor fusion, BLE Beacons or otherwise - solve the problem of the end user: i.e. where am I now?
That is fantastic for applications like MediNav Navigator Edition - we will now be able to bring a "blue dot" experience to our clients with much less effort and planning over deploying an infrastructure solution. And providing high quality location-enhanced Wayfinding to patients, visitors and staff is an enormous step forward.
But the smartphone-based approach does not and cannot address other Enterprise needs such as:
tracking and reporting where every ;device that has RF is (BLE, WiFi, whatever) - not just addressing individual end user needs;
For this, in our view Cisco MSE / CMX will still be uniquely able to provide the comprehensive solution that Enterprise's require.
For our clients - and any Enterprise looking at Indoor LBS - the path forward is getting a lot easier. Even if Google does not respond at I/O, there are already several "pretty good" handset sensor fusions positioning solutions available for Android (i.e. no BLE Beacons required).
For a demo of MediNav and consultation on the best approach to Indoor Positioning and LBS for your facilities, please contact us.
A few weeks ago, I posted a tweet about Google's "Project Tango":
This is the kind of mind-boggling, "insanely great" technical advance that Google is righly famous for.
And there are lots of other advances happening concurrently now with LIDAR and other technologies for rapidly building incredibly accurate 3D models of buildings - both inside and outside.
For just one example of this, take a look at Zeb1 / Zebedee, where one person using a handheld scanner can build a 3D model accurate to one centimeter in the time it takes to walk the hallways:
This is the kind of technology that makes a company dedicated to Indoor Mapping and Navigation salivate! We are committed to exploiting such technologies and approaches to make the most accurate Indoor Maps, more efficiently and effectively than any other Enteprise service provider.
As excited as we are about this coming revolution in Indoor Mapping tools like Project Tango, it is critical to understand that a 3D model is not a map.
Let's look forward a few years from now (maybe less). Using Tango or a similar technology, Connexient will be able to send our map "go team" out to a client facility and build a 3D model - all the actual dimensional data along with complete photographic capture, dynamically married to GPS X/Y - and building Z - coordinates of a very large building in a matter of days.
That will be a fantastic tool for building a comprehensive 3D data set and representation of a building. But a user "walking" through such a model will be just as lost as the one walking through the real building. This is data capture for mapping, not the map.
In the same way, the satellite photographs that Google (and others) use also is not the map. It is very useful visual information that has many powerful user applications. But that is not the map, and definitely not a data set for turn-by-turn navigation.
It is only after we have captured comprehensive, accurate data that the work of mapmaking required for Indoor Navigation and Location-based Services actually starts. This involves challenges like adding meta-data that is relevant, eliminating extraneous data that is unimportant to the user, correlating data on POIs, places, people and so on to the map.
That requires - and for next 5 or 10 years at least will continue to require - a lot of hard, detail oriented, painstaking work by human beings. And keeping the data accurate requires good tools and techniques for both map-checking and making it easy for users to report errors and changes as they are encountered.
This may seem like a funny thing to say for a company that prides itself on our rich, interactive 2.5D Indoor Mapping and Navigation UX. But its true, and the distinction is crucial.
My brother has worked for 3DVia, a 3D modeling start-up and then acquired division of Dassault Systems for the last 10 years. Dassualt is among other things the equivalent of AutoCAD for building airplanes, factories, refineries, etc. So he knows a thing or two about 3D.
To summarize many discussions over the last couple of years - and his experience over the last 10 - tools for 3D have come a long way, but nearly far enough for anything other than very high end Enterprise and Entertainment types of applications. The problem is fundamentally not technical.
Once you make the jump to "3D", you are:
making a commitment to a level of detail in data, design & everything else that creates prohibitive cost;
You are adding resource load onto the CPU and RAM that is still beyond what is generally available in mobile devices or PCs;
generally adding complexity that is beyond most general purpose computers - it has been very hard to get 3D to work well except on dedicated specialized hardware and oftware.
To understand this, take a look at Panda3D for example:
The minute you go 3D, the user is conditioned - thanks to games & movies - to expect photorealism. No matter what technology you use to capture raw data, doing this well is very difficult and very expensive. No doubt the end result is super cool and compelling. But not an efficient way to go about mapping.
The key reason for this is that when it comes to maps, less is more. A map needs to reduce information to what is important and necessary for the user objective. In most cases, this is getting somewhere efficiently.
When you then combine map information with turn-by-turn directions in the carefully synchronized dance of navigation, the need to reduce information becomes even more acute. The challenge here is to provide the right information - and only the right information - at exactly the right time so that a user can make a navigation decision without distraction and information overload.
That's why Connexient selected the "3D-like" UX for our Indoor Maps. This approach - especially the "birds-eye view" that gives the user context of what comes next - adds real value to the map and navigation UX - but does that without the overhead of true 3D.
There are two curves converging to an intersection sometime in the next decade that will make 3D more viable and accessible for non-gaming and filmaking applications.
Technologies like Zebedee and Tango that are dramatically increasing the efficiency of gathering the data / doing the 3D modeling of the "real world"; and
the continuing increase in processing power & resources on devices coupled with slow improvement in the 3D software platforms.
When these curves cross, there is no doubt user interest and demand for 3D will increase dramatically. But what this is not going to do is decrease by much the cost of producing 3D models that look good and feel real.
The key question for Enterprise Indoor Mapping and LBS is that of cost versus the user and business objective. What purpose does a 3D model serve?
There are already lots of good examples out there of how this kind of complete virtual photographic model of a facility has other valuable applications in operations, security ("situational awareness") and so on.
And when it comes to the Indoor Map, the concept of Google Street View with 360 degree navigable interior photos is obvious, and one that Connexient is already pursuing. That type of immersive representation of the real world - when and only exactly when it is needed by the user - is very helpful.
Combine this with the ability capture, geo-locate and reference such photos cost-effectively, and it is a very powerful addition to our Indoor Mapping solution.
It all comes back to that simple truth: when it comes to Indoor Maps and Navigation, less is more. The last thing somebody walking down a hallway needs to be looking at is the picture of the hallway they are walking down. To pre-plan a route or confirm where you have arrived at the right place? Sure. But not while in transit.
What you need while in transit is a simple, intuitive set of choreographed visual and audio cues of when to turn where, and what important information that can be easily observed in the world around you can be correlated to that.
Let's again step forward a few years and think about a world, perhaps, where millions of users stroll around with Google Glasses on.
It is easy to envision then that the visual representation of the map goes away entirely. The user will not even view a map, much less a 3D model. Rather, the will have the map and navigation information and cues projected onto the real world they are observing and navigating.
The other simple truth - and Connexient's mantra - is that the Map Really Matters. The different ways of visualizing a map are also important. But at the end of the day, it is the accuracy of the underlying map data and metadata - and how it is correlated - that make it useful.
No matter how compelling, beautiful and elegant the UX, if the map does not get the user infallibly to where he or she wants to go in an intuitive way, it will not be used.
So we remain eager and enthusiastic early adopters in every technology that will make that job faster, more accurate and less expensive - while keeping a perspective and focus on what will actually be useful, not just cool!