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5G is the latest standard for cellular broadband. In an indoor positioning context, 5G offers an alternative to other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth as the signal used to power an IPIN system. While it shows promise, currently, technological limitations plus high hardware costs mean it has limited utility for major indoor positioning systems.
Want to learn more about 5G and indoor positioning? Click here.
Access point (AP)
An access point is a device which beams a WiFi signal throughout an indoor location. In an IPIN context, APs are mentioned as, increasingly, companies are combining APs with beacons and other indoor positioning hardware technology. This is of particular note in large modern offices, where multiple APs are needed to provide a strong WiFi signal for everyone in the building.
The drawback of only using APs to power an indoor positioning system is cost. APs cost more than a standalone beacon, and it’s rare that a building will require enough APs for WiFi purposes to also meet the threshold for a very precise IPIN system. As such, AP-based indoor positioning systems may still require additional beacons to offer precision accuracy.
For a more comprehensive overview of the differences between a beacon and AP-based system, click here.
AI stands for artificial intelligence. In an indoor positioning context, it tends to refer to algorithms that take the data accrued by the IPIN system and compile it into actionable insights. Pointr’s MapScale™ also uses AI to automatically detect different features on a CAD file and categorize them on an indoor map without requiring human input.
Angle of arrival (AoA)
Angle of arrival is one of the core pieces of information used by beacon-based indoor positioning systems to determine a user or device’s position. The beacon or sensor takes into account the angle from which it receives the signal from the corresponding device (such as a user’s smartphone) to help triangulate, along with time of arrival and time difference of arrival, where a user is likely to be located within an indoor environment.
API stands for application programming interface, which generally serves as the bridge between two pieces of software.
When apps are mentioned in relation to indoor positioning, it generally means the very apps you regularly download and use on your smartphone. Most indoor positioning systems that are intended for public use are accessed via an app - the one major exception is kiosk-based systems. There are broadly two types of apps; regular apps, and employee apps, which are only intended to be used by the employees or staff of a business. Some IPIN systems require a standalone app, while others, including Pointr’s, can effectively be added to an existing app via an SDK.
A subset of indoor positioning analytics, app-based analytics refers to analytics platforms that collect data from an app-based solution (i.e. an IPIN system that asks users to download an app which can then show them their position on a map). When discussing indoor positioning analytics, most often this will be app-based. The alternative is app-free analytics.
The majority of IPIN systems utilize an app-based solution, requiring users to download an app in order to access features such as indoor navigation and maps. When accessing analytics based on a solution such as this, it is referred to as app-based analytics. However, some indoor positioning companies, including Pointr, also offer app-free analytics. In this case, a business installs IPIN hardware such as BLE beacons, but doesn’t offer an app to correspond with the beacons and provide an interface for users. Instead, the only purpose of the beacons is to collect anonymized data, such as dwell time and heatmaps for the most popular locations within an indoor environment. This data is then fed bac to the analytics platform.
Asset tracking refers specifically to using an indoor positioning system to follow the movements of a particular asset. Instead of app-based positioning, asset tracking often leverages physical hardware tags being applied to different pieces of equipment or machinery - such as mobile scanners in a hospital, or forklift trucks in a warehouse - to then follow its progress around a location. With asset tracking, businesses can check everything from the utilization of a particular piece of equipment to making sure that a particular cleaning cart has visited every location it was intended to.
Augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality is technology that layers artificial visuals or touchpoints over images of the real-world environment, as opposed to virtual reality, which consists entirely of virtual environments. AR is the second most popular type of indoor navigation software, after the classic, top-down Blue Dot style. In AR navigation, the user will use their phone’s camera, which will then have the AR assets (such as the navigational direction arrows and points of interest) overlaid on top.
Want to learn more about AR navigation? Click here.
A beacon is a piece of hardware that powers an indoor positioning system. The term specifically refers to BLE beacons, however such is their ubiquity that in many cases, IPIN systems that don’t use beacons at all (i.e. those that use smart lighting) may still refer to their hardware generically as ‘beacons’.
Want to know more about beacons? We’ve got a post with absolutely everything you could want to learn! Click here.
Beacon marketing refers, in general, to the marketing opportunities presented by having an indoor positioning system (whether or not that system actually uses beacons, or another type of hardware). One example of beacon marketing is using geofencing to send push notifications to users in a retail environment to guide them toward a complimentary purchase or to alert them to a special offer.
Want to learn more? We’ve got a post about beacon marketing that you can read here.
Blue Dot is a generic term referring, in most cases, to the visual interface of indoor positioning or indoor navigation systems. It takes its name from the blue dot most commonly associated with the top-down views found in applications such as Google Maps, where the user’s position is denoted by a blue dot.
Bluetooth is a highly popular wireless technology, which is the most widely used technology of its type in indoor positioning systems. Bluetooth is relatively low cost, has a high degree of ubiquity and uptake (it’s been present in the vast majority of smartphones for well over a decade), offers a good degree of accuracy (especially when combined with precision algorithms, such as Pointr’s Deep Location®) and offers strong privacy.
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Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
As the name suggests, Bluetooth Low Energy is a form of Bluetooth technology, which differs from classic Bluetooth in that it is designed specifically for devices that are generally left on permanently, and therefore aims to conserve energy and preserve battery life. Instead of being ‘active’ permanently (as is required for a connection between, say, a laptop and a Bluetooth mouse, or a smartphone and Bluetooth headphones), BLE instead uses a ‘sleep’ mode, from which it periodically wakes to quickly beam information. BLE beacons have become one of the most popular options for indoor positioning hardware as a result of their longer battery life. Other utilities for BLE include basic fitness trackers, which remain connected to a smartphone but only beam information on an infrequent basis.
A Bluetooth tag is a small device - typically designed to fit onto a keychain - that can interface with other Bluetooth-enabled devices and transfer some small pieces of information, which can then be used within an IPIN system to help pinpoint the tag’s location.
CAD file (DWG/ DXF)
CAD stands for computer aided design. In an IPIN context, CAD files are most commonly associated with building maps or blueprints. Pointr’s MapScale™ technology is capable of taking a CAD file and, applying AI machine learning, transforming it into an interactive indoor map, understanding key features of architecture that must be present on the map and those which can be stripped away.
Camera-based indoor positioning
Also known as a visual positioning system, a camera-based indoor positioning system, unlike most of the other types of system covered in this glossary, is a far more hands-on approach to indoor positioning. Instead of using beacons to use wireless signals to calculate positions, camera-based indoor positioning systems entail setting up multiple cameras in an indoor environment to track visitors, either manually or via facial recognition software. The advantage a camera-based indoor positioning system has over other types lies in its utility for security purposes - individual visitors can be pinpointed and, if need be, identified. However, these same advantages also pose huge challenges for camera-based positioning systems. Privacy legislation such as GDPR make recording and storing images of visitors without their consent problematic, and many businesses are finding that one of the major hurdles they face when convincing their workforce of the benefits of a positioning system is trust and privacy. Whereas Bluetooth-based beacon systems are anonymous by default, it’s much harder to convince employees that a camera-based system won’t be used for snooping or monitoring purposes.
CMS stands for content management system. In IPIN terms, it most often refers to the dashboard in which a business is able to make alterations to their indoor maps, highlighting new and changing points of interest and more.
Compasses have, for centuries, been an integral part of navigation. Even in the 21st century, in cutting-edge indoor positioning systems, they play a critical role. The vast majority of smartphones come equipped with a magnetometer, which calculates the magnetic fields of the Earth and provides a compass reading. This reading is critical in helping to determine a user’s orientation within an indoor positioning system. However, systems that rely too heavily on the magnetometer can run into difficulties; nearby items and devices can interfere with the magnetometer’s accuracy, for example. Indoor positioning systems such as Pointr’s leverage complex algorithms for determining user orientation, of which the compass reading is just one important part.
Contextual notifications are push notifications, powered by an app, that are triggered by a user’s activities in an indoor environment. For example, if a user in a shopping mall walks into a certain area which has been mapped with a geofence, they may get a contextual notification that alerts them to a special offer on a nearby product.
Coordinates has multiple different meanings in an indoor positioning context. Most commonly, it refers to a particular area or piece of iconography within a building that an indoor positioning system - particularly those that are camera-based - uses to orient itself and then determine a user’s whereabouts. Classic longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates are also important for ascertaining the precise location and orientation of a building within a world map (also known as georeferencing). This is critical for indoor navigation systems that utilize indoor - outdoor transitions - if a building is inaccurately located within a world map, the attempts to navigate from an indoor to an outdoor environment will offer a very poor user experience.
See occupancy analytics.
Deep Location® is the name of Pointr’s indoor positioning platform, the technology which makes Pointr one of the most accurate and trusted indoor positioning companies in the world. Deep Location® is the result of years of iterative development, as we’ve risen to meet the ever-evolving needs of our large range of customers. Deep Location® takes the standard methods of calculating indoor positioning - such as angle of arrival and time of arrival - and builds upon them, with multiple patented algorithms working to ensure fantastic indoor positioning accuracy.
Originally coined in an industrial context, the phrase digital twin is now used frequently when discussing IPIN systems. Digital twin generally refers to a digital equivalent of a physical object or area, which can then be used for testing or visualization purposes. In an IPIN context, a digital twin generally means the digital version of the building which is planning to install an indoor positioning system. Once a digital twin is created, the hardware topology can be planned out and any potential hurdles, such as awkwardly shaped rooms, can be addressed. Digital twin can also be used once the system is in place, to mean the analytical view provided by heatmaps.
Dwell time refers to the amount of time a user or device spends within a certain section of a building. This could be a physical location, such as a particular room or on a particular floor, or a virtual location, such as a geofence. Dwell time is of particular use in beacon marketing and indoor positioning analytics, as it enables businesses to see which areas of their venue are oversubscribed and which are underutilized, or make decisions about which areas of a location are doing the best job of keeping users interested.
An employee app is an app which is used exclusively by staff or employees of a particular company or location. For example, a hospital may have two apps - a regular app for use by patients for indoor navigation purposes, and an employee app, which enables staff to track the location of certain pieces of medical equipment via asset tracking. Employee apps tend to be private and inaccessible to the public.
Fingerprinting is a particular method used in some IPIN systems to determine the user’s position. Unlike a system such as Pointr’s Deep Location®, which utilizes patented algorithms layered on data like time of arrival and angle of arrival, fingerprinting takes a different approach, while still using beacons or sensors. Instead of devices such as smartphones receiving signals from a beacon and calculating the user’s position ‘live’, fingerprinting instead uses signal strength. A particular beacon or sensor will be calibrated by measuring the strength of the signal from a device at a range of distances away. These different signal strengths are then stored in a database. Then, when a device receives a signal from that sensor, it measures the strength, cross-references that strength against the number in the database, and makes an assumption of the device’s distance from the sensor based on the ‘fingerprint’ measured when the system was first set up.
The main advantage of a fingerprinting system is that it’s relatively straightforward technically. If enough beacons are calibrated, and are calibrated correctly, then determining a device’s position is just a matter of looking up multiple signal strengths and using those to triangulate that device’s location. There are no complex algorithms required.
However, fingerprinting comes with numerous disadvantages when compared to a complex location platform such as Deep Location®, which makes complex calculations as devices or users move throughout an indoor environment. Firstly, fingerprinting is time consuming to set up. Every beacon or sensor requires calibrating in order to populate the database of different signal strength readings. These readings must be accurate, or else the sensor will provide completely inaccurate positions.
Secondly, the moment anything changes in the indoor environment - such as a new wall being put in place, or a beacon needing to be moved - the system becomes out of date and needs to be recalibrated. This lack of flexibility is incompatible with many modern buildings where layouts change regularly. This is why a platform such as Pointr’s Deep Location®, which can adapt as and when beacons are available, is so valuable.
GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a piece of EU privacy regulation that came into effect in 2018. Fundamentally, it pertains to the rights of individuals to control how their personal data is stored and used, and it has had a sizeable impact on the internet.
GDPR relates to indoor positioning due to the need for positioning data to be anonymized and stored securely. BLE beacons, BLE sniffing and WiFi sniffing are data privacy friendly and are anonymous by default. Other forms of indoor positioning systems, such as camera-based indoor positioning, are more problematic from a GDPR perspective, as by necessity they film users in order to track them.
Geofencing is the act of designating a specific area on a map, which then triggers an event as someone or a device enters, exists, or dwells in the area for a set period of time. Common applications of geofences are alerting a user to a particularly strong discount when they’re nearby in a retail environment (via a contextual push notification), or letting a member of hospital staff know when a patient has arrived in a waiting room before a scheduled appointment.
Geomagnetic indoor positioning is an alternative to beacon-based, camera-based or other types of indoor positioning. Geomagnetic positioning combines smartphone information with geomagnetic data to track indoor positions, rather than using, for example BLE signals.
Georeferencing refers to placing an indoor location map within a wider context such as a world map. For many indoor positioning systems, georeferencing isn’t particularly important - it’s the accuracy of the indoor map that is paramount. However, in cases where an IPIN system is being deployed across multiple buildings, such as a hospital or university campus, georeferencing becomes critically important. Without accurate georeferencing, buildings will not be in the correct position on a world map and will offer a confusing user experience. This would be compounded if the indoor positioning system offered indoor-outdoor navigation, which enables users to be guided between indoor and outdoor environments.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is the standard by which almost all outdoor positioning and navigation systems operate. Using multiple satellites, GPS can triangulate a device’s whereabouts and empower navigation when that positioning data is used in correspondence with a map.
So, can GPS be used for indoor positioning? In short, no. GPS signal has incredible difficulties penetrating ceilings, meaning the quality of the data once indoors is extremely limited. GPS also has quite a large margin for error when it comes to precision. In outdoor environments, this rarely matters. For example, when using GPS in a car to navigate, if two turnings off a road are separate by 100 meters, it doesn’t particularly matter if the GPS positioning is 10 meters out - you’ll still be able to work out which turning is the one you’re aiming for.
However, indoor positioning has to be far more precise. The difference between your position and ten meters away could be multiple rooms or desks. It’s for this reason that companies like Pointr have dedicated so much time and energy into developing systems and algorithms that enable us to offer precise positioning indoors.
In an indoor positioning context, hardware refers to the physical infrastructure required to enable the system. This can take many forms, including beacons, WiFi access points, smart lighting and more.
A heatmap is a view of a map - normally from a top-down perspective - with a graphical layer overlaid on top to show the areas of the map most frequently occupied. Heatmaps use a color scale, similar to what you’d expect to see if looking at something using a heat-sensitive camera, to demonstrate the most popular or frequently occupied areas on the map. Heatmaps are useful for giving a visual representation of where possible choke points are in a building, or which areas are rarely visited.
Hot desking is a growing trend in workplaces - particularly those belonging to companies making use of hybrid working - in which employees don’t have set desks. Instead, they are able to book desks as and when they need them, depending on what days they’re in the office, and who it would be useful to sit near on a given day. Hot desking and indoor positioning systems go hand in hand, as the employee may need guiding to where the desk is, or want to see how many nearby desks are occupied in real time.
To learn more about hot desking, click here.
HVAC refers to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. These systems are becoming increasingly automated, and as such are beginning to be tied to indoor positioning systems via analytics. With businesses increasingly concerned about emissions and looking to reduce their carbon footprint, an indoor positioning system can automatically detect when a part of a building is completely unoccupied, and adjust the HVAC system to use less energy or turn off entirely. The same is true of lighting systems.
Hybrid working refers to businesses which enable their staff to work flexibly from home and from the office. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid working has become increasingly popular. Hybrid working goes hand in hand with systems such as hot desking and meeting room booking, as offices need to be more agile and adaptable with different members of staff attending on different days. An indoor positioning system and accurate indoor map is the ideal foundation for an office that makes use of a hybrid working schedule.
To find out more about hybrid working, click here.
Indoor mapping is, simply, the process of mapping an indoor space. This is sometimes done manually, while other systems such as Pointr’s MapScale™ are able to automatically generate indoor maps via CAD files.
Want to learn more about indoor mapping? Click here.
Indoor navigation is one of the key reasons that indoor positioning systems are becoming so popular. The aim is simple - take the navigation experience users have become accustomed to with GPS-based outdoor systems such as Google Maps and enable them in indoor environments. As time has gone on, companies such as Pointr have taken the lead and moved indoor navigation beyond a simple line on a map. The leading indoor navigation systems are now capable of re-routing users around congested areas, taking them between indoor and outdoor environments, and even offering navigation overlaid with AR.
To learn more about Pointr’s indoor navigation system, click here.
Indoor - outdoor navigation
Indoor - outdoor (or vice versa) navigation refers to an indoor navigation system which is capable of guiding the user from an indoor location into an outdoor environment and back again. These systems may require the navigation to switch between both technology (going from BLE beacons or other indoor positioning hardware to GPS, for example) and the map itself, with the outdoor map requiring a completely different scale to the indoor one. Indoor - outdoor navigation with seamless transitions (which Pointr is capable of) is most useful in large campuses, such as hospitals or universities, where users may need to navigate between multiple buildings.
At its most basic level, indoor positioning is the name given to the technique of locating a person or device’s location in an indoor location, specifically in areas where GPS signal isn’t strong enough to work. Some indoor positioning systems are as basic as using three or more beacons or other technology to roughly triangulate a device’s position within the area. Others, such as Pointr’s, leverage proprietary, patented algorithms to locate a device with extra precision. In indoor environments, when a single meter could make a huge difference when it comes to navigation or geofencing, accuracy is paramount.
To get a complete overview of what Pointr’s innovative, market-leading solution to indoor positioning looks like, click here.
Indoor positioning analytics
One of the core benefits of a user-facing indoor positioning system is the analytical insights that are unlocked as a result. Indoor positioning analytics show businesses everything from dwell time to underutilized spaces in their indoor environment to popular features they need to emphasize. In an office, for example, these analytics could demonstrate to the business the amount of money they’re wasting heating and lighting areas of the office that get little or no footfall. In a retail environment, a store owner could see which parts of the store visitors naturally funnel through or gravitate towards, and rejig their displays to position high margin items within these sections of the store.
To see how Pointr handles indoor positioning analytics, click here.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is a phrase that encompasses the increasingly connected virtual and physical worlds. The IoT tends to be used in relation to objects that were previously ‘dumb’ but are now considered ‘smart’. This includes consumer smart devices in homes, such as thermostats and doorbells. In terms of indoor positioning systems, IoT is often used in the same manner. Sensors and beacons that are embedded in previously unconnected items - such as lighting, as is the case with smart lighting - are part of the IoT. The term also covers entire buildings, which, via initiatives and technologies such as indoor positioning systems, have become ‘smart’.
IPIN is a commonly used acronym, standing for indoor positioning and indoor navigation.
Other than apps, kiosks are the most common places to see indoor maps in public places such as shopping malls. Kiosks enable visitors to find where they are on a map and can then direct them towards a nearby point of interest.
Listening, in an IPIN context, refers to how devices such as smartphones and sensors such as BLE beacons interact. Typically, beacons broadcast signals which devices such as smartphones (that have greater processing power than beacons) ‘listen’ for. The signals are then fed into something like Pointr’s Deep Location® which calculates the position of the listening device.
Location sharing is a feature available in some indoor positioning systems which enables a user to send the details of their live location to a fellow user.
See indoor mapping.
MapScale™ is Pointr’s revolutionary mapping platform, designed to create and update thousands of maps in minutes. Pointr designed MapScale™ when a client asked how they could improve upon their pattern of painstakingly updating each of their 3,000 store maps in image editing software. Using AI, MapScale™ can transform CAD files into beautiful, interactive indoor maps.
Learn more about MapScale™ by clicking here.
See indoor navigation.
Occupancy analytics is a type of indoor positioning analytics. The purpose of occupancy analytics is to track the number of people in a given indoor area, normally with a view to restrict the number of people able to enter that area. This is typically done in order to ensure health and safety measures such as social distancing or fire regulations are adhered to.
Outdoor - indoor navigation
See indoor navigation.
See occupancy analytics.
Modern smartphones come with a variety of sensors that are useful for constructing indoor positioning systems. These include accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers (which are used to power the phone’s virtual compass), through to cameras (which can be used in conjunction with indoor navigation and augmented reality).
Pilot refers to a trial period for an indoor positioning installation. Many companies that intend to roll out indoor positioning in dozens or even hundreds of locations will often pilot several competing systems individually before deciding on which option to go with.
Point of interest (PoI)
A point of interest is a point on a map that is highlighted for a variety of reasons. The purpose of the point of interest could be functional - for example, an elevator to another floor - or a particular type of store or attraction. Indoor mapping systems such as Pointr’s enable businesses to control their PoIs via a CMS.
See indoor positioning.
Radio frequency identification (RFID)
Radio frequency map (RF map)
An RF map shows different devices emitting and receiving RFID signals within a certain area.
Short for Real Time Location System. It is used for tracking solutions, both for asset tracking and people tracking in industrial environments.
SDK stands for ‘software development kit’. In an indoor positioning context, some solutions require a specific app (or a new app to be built from the app), while other solutions (including Pointr’s) use an SDK, which can be effectively bolted onto an existing app and enable features such as navigation or Blue Dot.
Some basic indoor positioning systems can be implemented without the provider actually visiting the site, particularly if the building in question is of a uniform shape. However, when dealing with buildings that have multiple levels, non-standard dimensions and other factors that could impact the effectiveness of beacon signals, the IPIN company may conduct a site survey, where they physically visit the indoor environment in question in order to map out the area and take photos of potentially challenging spots.
Smart buildings are those which leverage the Internet of Things for enhanced systems and connectivity. This could take the form of things from indoor positioning systems to automated HVAC systems to smart lighting and more.
Smart lighting is a piece of IoT-empowered hardware that features a piece of indoor positioning related beacon technology, often BLE, within a traditional lighting fixture. Similar to smart WiFi access points, smart lighting is an increasingly popular choice for new buildings, as it mitigates or, if enough smart lighting is installed, completely negates the need for additional hardware such as beacons to be installed in order to enable indoor positioning.
Sniffing relates to intercepting the information passed between two Bluetooth devices. Sniffing is of importance to developers, as it enables them to fully understand what data is being transferred between, for example, a BLE beacon and a smartphone.
Time of arrival (ToA)
Time of arrival, along with time difference of arrival and angle of arrival, is a fundamental part of sensor-based indoor positioning systems. Time of arrival calculates the time taken for a signal to travel between the transmitter and receiver. With this information, the sensor or beacon can make an educated guess as to the approximate distance away a device such as a user’s smartphone is from the beacon. Then, combined with the angle of arrival, and the time difference of arrival from other sensors, the indoor positioning system can begin to determine a user’s location with some accuracy.
Time difference of arrival (TDOA)
See time of arrival.
Trilateration is the method used by GPS to calculate the outdoor position of a user. As opposed to triangulation, which uses angles, trilateration uses distances to calculate position. By measuring the distance between an end device and three or more GPS satellites, it's possible to calculate the location of said end device with a solid degree of accuracy.
Ultra Wideband (UWB)
UWB is a relatively new wireless technology which operates in a similar manner to Bluetooth within an IPIN context. UWB’s core advantage over Bluetooth is that, in the right environment, it can offer a greater degree of accuracy - in some cases, down to centimeters. However, the major drawback is that UWB is currently a long way from the level of ubiquity of Bluetooth, which has been present in the vast majority of smartphones for well over a decade now.
Until UWB achieves a similar presence, its utility as an indoor positioning technology is limited to environments when individual assets are tagged (for example, a warehouse setting where all the forklift trucks are manually tagged with a UWB device). In environments where the beacons need to interface with consumer devices like phones, Bluetooth remains the outstanding choice for wireless technology.
Video-based indoor positioning
VLC (Visible Light Communication)
VLC is another form of technology capable of powering an indoor positioning system. Using special LEDs, certain sensors - such as camera phones - can pick up the light signals and interpret them to determine an approximate indoor location.
See indoor navigation.
See access points.