As we transition to a post-pandemic world, physical spaces are reasserting their central importance in our lives — for consumers, employees, and travelers. This makes it more important than ever for enterprises to maximize the return on their physical infrastructure — from retail stores to workplaces, healthcare facilities to campuses, and hotels to airports.
However, creating and managing indoor maps can be a logistical nightmare — and it’s even harder for large organizations that need scale indoor mapping. The irony is that large enterprises need scalable indoor mapping as it solves a litany of challenges, such as enabling more efficient workflows, inventory or department management, and indoor navigation across thousands of locations.
Organizations with multiple locations must create and manage indoor maps to stay competitive, relevant, and productive in the quick return to in-person work. But indoor mapping doesn’t have to be an impossible challenge for these companies when they have the right tools to support them.
Problems with indoor mapping — and their solutions
Large organizations with indoor mapping initiatives typically face the following problems:
- Map content inflexibility, causing map inaccuracy.
- Limited resources delaying map digitization and deployment.
- Gathering map data from many disparate sources.
In the following sections, we’ll dive into the specifics of these challenges with indoor maps, why they matter, and what strategies and solutions can help map management teams overcome them.
Problem: Creating digital maps is traditionally a painstaking process
Historically, creating user-friendly digital maps from CAD files has been a painstaking manual process that could take weeks or even months. Plus, the resulting maps created are often inflexible, making it very hard to keep them up to date. Now imagine thousands of locations. App teams can quickly find themselves overwhelmed with an avalanche of CAD files that need digitizing and very few resources to do it.
The Home Depot faced this very issue before working with Pointr. Previously, their app team was working with 2D files that were:
- Difficult to look at and interpret
- Consistently out of date
With over 2,000 brick-and-mortar stores in North America, the major retailer was inundated with countless CAD files that needed to be digitized with a standardized process.
This process required manual time and effort from The Home Depot, with digitization for a single map taking up to two weeks to complete. If The Home Depot were to manually implement map digitization across their entire enterprise one store at a time, it could easily take up to 4,000 weeks (that’s 76 years, by the way).
Solution: Leverage the power of AI to quickly and painlessly create maps
With AI, organizations with multiple locations can turn the months-long digital map-making process into a task accomplished in minutes. The right AI tool should help the digital mapping process, even if the source files have a lot of variation — and most importantly, the right tool makes turning CAD files into digital maps fast.
At Pointr, we leverage our AI-enabled MapScale® tool to help The Home Depot on the largest digital map deployment in the world. Every month, Pointr ingests, digitizes, and publishes upwards of 2,000 maps for The Home Depot — facilitating fast, accurate, and effective 3D map creation across their entire enterprise. As a result, The Home Depot can consistently engage in layout updates of digital maps with minimal human intervention.
Our solution uses robust AI and ML capabilities to turn map projects that could be months-long headaches into tasks accomplished in minutes. That’s exactly why we’re able to map 15 million feet of space per month for workspaces alone.
Problem: Inflexibility with specifying map content without starting from scratch
Even when maps are created quickly from scratch, large enterprises need the ability to flexibly make updates without needing a complete do-over. Additionally, once base maps are done, organizations may want to enrich them with ever more content, like routes and points of interest (POIs), which means that maps inherently need to be readily editable.
Problems with customization and digital map editing mean that even if maps can be created fast, the time organizations save with initial map digitization might simply go to waste when they have to create new maps for every slight change or update. The need for flexibility is essential for any enterprise with a large physical footprint, including:
- Retailers — that frequently change merchandising and even layout by season.
- Airports — that often have new restaurant and shopping tenants and occasionally undergo larger transformations from terminal renovations or additions.
- Workplaces — that need to reflect changes from expansion or reorganization.
- Hospitals — that may add new services or change layouts as a result of capital improvements.
Solution: Separate map structure from map content
Large enterprises need a digital mapping solution that can separate map structure from map content as much as possible. These tools should break down essential map features into a basic framework that can then have other “elements” of the map added onto it. Essentially, this means approaching new, edited, or reworked features on a map as “metadata” that can be attached, modified, and removed at will.
When we talk about “metadata,” that includes:
- Points of Interest (POIs)
- Accessibility information
- Keyword lists for in-map search
With Pointr, any changes an organization makes to a map are automatically propagated to dependencies that ensure map accuracy. For example, if a wall is added where there once was a corridor, routes will no longer direct users through that now defunct corridor. Plus, our solution enables blanket changes (like the colors of walls or exit signs) at a high level in one fell swoop, saving map management teams even more time and effort.
Problem: Gathering map data and information from separate resources
While breaking apart maps into frameworks and elements might sound simple enough, the act of actually putting it into practice can be a Herculean task. Point blank, digital maps cannot and do not exist in a vacuum. They contain information deeply connected to many other data sources and systems — many of which are often not connected to each other. This is especially true in large enterprises that often hold countless data points across different databases.
As such, it’s essential to automatically import information from these disparate sources and to keep these data sources in sync.
Solution: Use a powerful CMS and APIs
Mastering digital map management is a matter of facilitating access to information. Organizations should use solutions that provide them with easy-to-navigate content management systems (CMS) and APIs that help implement and automate map updates as soon as they happen — all at enterprise scale.
Some components of a great CMS include:
- A user-friendly interface.
- The ability to specify and implement changes en masse.
- Compatibility with many different types of databases and data resources.
Pointr comes with a powerful, flexible, and intuitive CMS that imports content into APIs. This allows map management teams to easily interpret and implement changes to layouts, ensuring that your maps stay current. That level of flexibility is especially useful to large enterprises as map configurations might need to vary significantly from building to building.
Take our work with Harrods, for example. Harrods offers over 10,000 products in one of the world’s largest retail stores, and the Harrods app enables users to find what they’re looking for with an in-store product locator powered by Pointr maps. While Harrods’ product assortment is constantly changing, these changes can be automatically updated and reflected in digital maps using our APIs.
Handle Indoor Mapping at Scale with Ease
The key to creating and managing indoor maps at scale is leveraging the right tools and solutions that enable minimal human intervention. Large enterprises need to shape their mapping strategies with tools that leverage AI and APIs to generate and update maps with speed and flexibility.
Creating and managing indoor maps at scale doesn’t have to take 76 years. With the right solutions, organizations can turn a decades-long endeavor into a short, repeatable process.
Want to learn everything there is to know about indoor mapping? Download our guide.