Indoor LBS

  • Apple's New Indoor Positioning Technology

    This Marks the Tipping Point for Indoor LBS

    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:

    • provides location updates for getting indoor positioning;
    • does not need a deployment of iBeacons mesh nor other technology.;
    • Uses Wifi and motion sensors to determine device position.

    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!

    But Not So Fast

    There are three key issues that have been overlooked in all the excitment about this announcement.

    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:

    • lot more collaboration and effort from venue owners than simply uploading their floor plans; or
    • a huge amount of mapping team resources to go do all this work themselves.

    And this is not an Enterprise Solution

    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;

    • maintaining network security against rogue devices - a huge issue in a BYOD world;
    • providing real-time and historic visibility and analytics across all devices.

    For this, in our view Cisco MSE / CMX will still be uniquely able to provide the comprehensive solution that Enterprise's require.

    The Path Forward Is Getting a Lot Easier

    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).

    1. Start now with handset based solutions that support the end-user need for location enhanced Wayfinding.
    2. Consider BLE Beacons as an enhancement option for even greater positioning accuracy and reliability.
    3. Move forward with Cisco CMX on a long term infrastructure to provide robust, Enterprise-wide, comprehensive device positioning for the broader applications and benefits of Indoor LBS.

    For a demo of MediNav and consultation on the best approach to Indoor Positioning and LBS for your facilities, please contact us.

  • Enterprise Indoor LBS: Going Beyond the Patient

    Enterprise Indoor LBS:  Going Beyond the Patient

    Several weeks ago, we talked about the compelling use cases for patients and visitors that will be enabled by our new partnership with Mutare to integrate HIPAA-compliant communications into MediNav, starting with integrating appointment reminders with end-to-end wayfinding.   From there, a wide array of useful features and services flow that will tangibly improve the patient experience while increasing efficiency and capture lost revenue for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers.

    Not surprisingly, the same or even greater benefits arise when you apply Indoor LBS to other areas, such as:

    • Operations;
    • Security;
    • Facility Management;
    • Clinical Workflow;
    • and More

    Each of these areas have use cases that bring compelling value to users and direct ROI to the Enterprise in capturing lost revenue, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. That's why we emphasize to our clients that when we develop and deploy navigation-quality Indoor Maps, what we are really doing is laying a foundation for Indoor Location-Based Services (LBS). Wayfinding and Indoor Navigation may be the first "killer application", but it is really just the tip of the iceberg.

    The Four Cornerstones of Enterprise Indoor LBS

    Over the next few weeks, we will illustrate each of these and discuss the steps we are taking together with innovative clients and partners to realize these benefits.   First, however, we think it would be useful to lay out the conceptual framework for how we approach Enterprise Indoor LBS.

    Each of these cornerstones are critically important, and only when all are fully deployed can all of the benefits of Indoor LBS be realized.  At the same time, however, when building any infrastructure - even a digital one - there is a natural sequence and progression, and the Enterprise can realize substantial and increasing returns at each step along the way.

    1. Indoor Mapping

    Navigation-quality Indoor Mapping is the first step. Why? Because Indoor LBS is about leveraging location in all its aspects. Where things are, which is closest, how to get there, how to optimize flows and positioning of people and equipment, and so on. None of these questions can be answered without navigation-quality mapping.

    The good news is that the Enterprise can achieve immediate benefits as soon as this cornerstone is in place - enhancing patient experience with high-quality digital wayfinding being just one example.   So we advise our clients to start immediately and first here.

    2.  Integrations

    Integrations are the next cornerstone - and where the Enterprise can start to achieve measurable ROI. Why? The fundamental driver of the enormous success of the Internet has been the power of connections:

    • devices (computers);
    • applications;
    • data; and ultimately
    • people.

    As a whole, this truth is captured best inMetcalfe's Law, which says that "The value of any network is proportional to the square of the number of its connections."

    This is why Connexient is committed to providing the best and most complete set of APIs and data connectors that integrate mapping, location and navigation into other Enterprise applications, platforms and IT. We hope that many clients will find that MediNav™ and other applications we create provide value. But the greatest ROI from our platform and services will come as our maps, navigation and location-services are integrated to make other applications and platforms in the Enterprise location aware.

    3. Security

    In building a foundation for Indoor LBS for the Enterprise, security is the third cornerstone. By definition, we are building maps and providing features and services that are at the core of a company's operations, as well as its activities and engagement with its customers and visitors. That is vitally sensitive, and needs to be handled that way.

    In Healthcare, this issue comes to the forefront and must be addressed first through HIPAA compliance.Whether dealing with patients, caregivers or other staff and partners, it is critically important that communications and personally identifiable health information be kept private and secure at all times. But other aspects of Enterprise facility data, operations and activity are equally sensitive and important to protect with the same standard of care.

    That is why Connexient partnered with Mutare to support HIPAA-compliant communications and is implementing HIPAA-Compliant architecture throughout its application, servers and systems.

    4. Indoor Positioning

    Indoor Positioning is the final cornerstone of the digital infrastructure for Enterprise Indoor LBS. As we have all experienced in our every day lives with Google Navigation on our phones, asset tracking, maritime navigation and so on, the power of knowing where people and things are - including yourself - is transformational.

    The good news - and the bad news - is that the technology for "Indoor GPS" is currently in a state of very dynamic evolution. For those companies that want to be early adopters, there are good solutions available right now for smartphones and smartpads using a combination of handset-sensor fusion software and bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons.  Meanwhile, Apple and Google are working very hard on their own solutions that will be baked right in to iOs and Android respectively.

    Most importantly of all, Cisco is working hard and moving rapidly with a roadmap for Cisco CMXthat will make a true Enterprise solution for navigation-quality Indoor GPS available by mid-2015.  In the meantime, with their recent release of MSE v. 8.0 and the "FastLocate" module, indoor positioning sufficient for "Location-enhanced Wayfinding" is available right now.

    This is why Connexient has invested so much time and resources into testing and pioneering the integration of Digital Wayfinding with the most advanced indoor-positioning solutions available in the market, and works so closely with Cisco to push the envelope of what is possible today and tomorrow with Cisco CMX.

    Life as a young company on the bleeding edge of technology is hard and full of uncertainty. But we believe the risk and effort are worth the pay-off in being able to deliver the transformational power of Indoor GPS to the Enterprise.

    Bringing It All Together

    When all of these cornerstones of the digital infrastructure are in place, the complete potential of Enterprise Indoor LBS will be immediate, measurable and clearly visible to all stakeholders and deliver ROI and value across nearly all aspects of the Enterprise.

    Connexient's mission is to help our clients realize these benefits. We start first by addressing the four cornerstones, working together with partners and clients to find the right strategy and path to implementation. As these are put in place, Connexient is constantly working to improve and perfect its solutions in four areas:

    1. navigation that guides users (whether they be human or machines) through complex facilities and networks;
    2. analyticsthat give both the Enterprise and users visibility into the key drivers for decision-making;
    3. business logic and intelligence that leverage and weave together all of the elements of location, data, analytics, targeting and personalization;
    4. compelling user interface and experience (UI and UX) that make Indoor LBS intuitive, useful and actionable.

    This is how, we believe, Indoor LBS can and will transform the Enterprise and create an entirely new level of convenience, efficiency and utility for end users.   It will not happen overnight or through one single innovation. It will take hard work, planning and collaboration to get there.

    But our key message is that each cornerstone brings immediate value and returns along the path to laying a complete digital foundation and infrastructure.

    In the next articles in this series, we will focus on the "low hanging" fruit in different areas of Healthcare that we can address right now as we move step-by-step with our clients down this path.

    Want to Learn More?

    Want to learn more about Connexient's MediNav and the path to leveraging Indoor LBS to enhance patient experience, reduce costs, capture lost revenues and improve efficiency?

    Please contact us to schedule a consultation or demo.

  • Meet Me Kicks Off the New Era of Location Sharing in MediNav

    Coming Soon in Navigator v. 3.1:  Meet Me!

    With our Navigator v. 3.0 launch and initial roll-out in our rear view mirror, Connexient is now focused on a busy roadmap of enhancements and innovations in 3.x releases over the next several quarters.    The first of these is a great new feature called Meet Me!

    The Problem

    Anyone that has ever worked in a large, complex healthcare facility knows that just finding a family member or friend - or colleague or co-worker - who is already deep inside a building can be a daunting challenge.   

    The Solution:  Meet Me!

    Our new Meet Me feature - now in internal beta and launching in October, 2018 - will make meeting up fast and easy by sharing either your current location or a designated location that you are headed towards.    

    The initial release will start with a very simple, intuitive and robust initial design.  Going forward, we will be expanding functionality in many ways, including dynamic updates of the other user's location (think Uber), management of opt-in users and groups (e.g. your family, co-workers, etc.), and more.

    The New Era of Location Sharing with MediNav

    This is just the first step into location sharing with MediNav - which will open up a world of new capabilities that can radically improve both Patient Experience and Staff Efficiency.    The size and complexity of healthcare facilities and campuses exerts a negative friction on everything that moves around in them - making things more difficult and stressful for patients, less efficient for staff, more costly for operations.   

    With location-sharing, MediNav can now start to address not only the problem of "wayfinding" - how to get there - but the even more important challenges of how to coordinate and connect dynamically.   In the past, we have called this the "Uberization of the Enterprise."   We are not talking about Uber as a ride sharing service.  Rather, we are referring to Uber as a service that leveraged mapping, GPS, and navigation to create a remarkable new platform for logistics that enabled the transformational services of ride sharing, but reaches far beyond it.

    By adding location sharing into MediNav - and integrating it with other Smart Building and Indoor LBS platforms -  we can help to coordinate the movement of people, assets, equipment - and one day soon perhaps robots - across large, complex facilities and campuses.   Whether it is something as simple as meeting up with a family member or co-worker for a coffee, improving the valet service so the car is ready to pick-up when you arrive,or as complex as transport logistics for vendors and staff, combining location sharing with indoor navigation will create transformational benefits for both users and our Enterprise clients.

    Let the new era begin!

  • What is Navigation-quality Positioning Anyways - and Why Does It Matter?

    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 featuresthat 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 Centrakand 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?

Connexient LLC

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