6 common challenges with indoor maps

Pointr’s state-of-the-art digital indoor mapping software empowers you to create incredibly detailed and user-friendly interactive indoor maps for your venue, business, or campus. 

Naturally, we prefer to build mapping solutions using maps we generate ourselves to deliver the optimal indoor mapping experience. However, we’re flexible enough to incorporate 3rd-party maps into our mapping solutions when necessary. 

Our indoor mapping platform is built on technology that uniquely positions us to support 3rd-party maps as well as maps generated by us in-house. With that said, the use of maps not native to the Pointr platform is not without its challenges. 

In this article, we look at 6 challenges associated with using digital maps on the market nowadays and how we address these challenges to ensure a smooth indoor mapping experience for our users.

6 problems with 3rd-party raster maps

Generally, digital maps on the market are compiled in a raster format, for example, an image format such as a PNG. The issue here is that raster maps are not designed to map indoor environments (buildings), outdoor environments (car parks, train stations), and transitions between the two.

Before choosing a mapping solution for your building, you should consider the challenges you might encounter. We've listed one of the 6 most commonly seen problems associated with 3rd-party raster maps, including:

Loading speed

Raster maps become huge for large buildings which causes memory and download issues. File sizes are so large that loading time during panning and zooming on the map may be longer, depending on your network connection speed. Due to high CPU and memory consumption (raster tiles are images stitched together), they even have the potential to crash the server.

Georeferencing

Allows maps to treat every single map object individually, making it possible to update only one object at a time and have it reflect its true geo-coordinates on the world map; without having to update the entire map for tiny detail changes. Georeferencing involves assigning real-world coordinates to each pixel of the raster. This means it’s not possible (or extremely challenging) to integrate any outdoor functionality. For example, wayfinding Points of Interest (POIs) between multiple buildings on campus, integrating with food/car pickup, and driving directions to your parking spot.

 

Each building and map object reflects their true geo-coordinates on the world map, making it possible to integrate outdoor functionalities.

Poor user experience

These days, end-users expect vector-based maps like the ones delivered by Google, Apple, Waze, etc. In fact, raster maps are more widely used in geographical research for capturing, storing, and analyzing data such as water flow over the land’s surface, elevation, temperature, and soil pH. Raster maps are not good for capturing spatial data and don’t provide styling capabilities for end-users. They deliver a more pixelated result than vector-based maps and are more fixed and inflexible.

Vector map

Raster map

Source: Maptiler

Issues with multiple layers

Dealing with multiple layers and providing clarity at different zoom levels can be very challenging with 3rd-party raster maps. For example, “show me only meeting rooms and hide other objects” or highlight objects, say, “show me my desk” cause issues. When at a lower zoom, you might want to see department names and, as you zoom in, you might want to hide department names and just show desks or other objects. Again, very tricky to achieve with 3rd-party raster maps.

maps-conditional-styling_

 

Maps without conditional rendering based on zoom level

Conditional rendering maps based on zoom level - Pointr Maps

 

Incompatibility

Most indoor mapping companies that provide 3rd-party maps use a different geolocation system than the major outdoor map providers such as Google Maps and Microsoft Azure maps. This makes it difficult to achieve a smooth indoor-outdoor wayfinding experience for the user. Pointr’s maps easily integrate with maps from major mapping companies.

Two systems to maintain

Using 3rd-party maps means integrating two separate systems; if one system changes, the other may become out of sync, and the result may not work. Both systems need to align on "floor indexing/naming," for example. We've had cases where a mapping vendor changed their floor names without informing our system, resulting in the system not working. The same challenge applies to georeferencing, where both systems have to precisely match latitude and longitude coordinates to make the integration work. 

Clearly, your indoor mapping experience can be greatly enhanced by using a fully Pointr solution without introducing an additional layer of complexity in the form of 3rd-party maps.

Why Pointr Maps?

Here’s a table that summarizes some of the key benefits of using Pointr’s high-performance vector maps over 3rd party raster-based maps.

3rd Party Raster Maps

Pointr’s Vector Maps

Slow loading speed

Raster maps create huge files that are slow to load and may even overload and crash the server.

Smaller file sizes

High-performance maps that load effortlessly without putting huge demands on server speed and stability.

Difficult to georeference

Tricky to assign real-world coordinates to raster pixels making it challenging to integrate outdoor functionality and to update single, discreet objects on maps.

Easily georeferenced

Wayfinding points of interest between multiple campus buildings, integration of pickup points, directions to car parking locations, etc. all possible.

Poor user experience

Raster maps are not good for capturing spatial data (polygons) and have a poor, often pixelated, appearance.

Meet user expectations

Vector maps deliver the superior mapping experience expected by users who are used to Google, Apple, Waze, etc

Lack of clarity showing multiple layers

Dealing with multiple layers and providing clarity at different zoom levels is very challenging. Doesn’t work well to show/hide specific objects when zooming in or out.

Easily display just the data you want

e.g. when at a lower zoom, you can show department names and, as you zoom in, you can hide department names and just show desks or other objects. 

Synchronization issues
Integrating, maintaining, and synchronizing two different vendor platforms cause issues if one changes - the system becomes out of sync and can stop working completely.

Always in sync

Because you’re not dealing with a 3rd-party map vendor but using a single “built for purpose” platform, you can be assured all parts of your mapping solution are perfectly in sync at all times.

Why settle for less than accurate?

  • Cluttered map view
  • Slow to load, poor performance
  • Poor UX Design
3rd-party-maps-vs-pointr-maps
  • Clean, simple map view

  • 50% smaller in size, faster to load

  • Interactive maps available in 2D/3D

 

What we do to mitigate 3rd-party maps challenges

When we support 3rd-party maps, we implement a range of calculations behind the scenes to ensure a logical wayfinding experience for users. If you’re not using our digital indoor mapping software in conjunction with maps from Pointr, our algorithms correct for anomalies that may be caused by using 3rd-party maps.

We mitigate potential inaccuracies caused by 3rd-party maps by:

Re-routing users if they veer off the path, thereby making sure they always have a clear path to follow.

Ensuring the route starts from the blue dot at all times, avoiding any disconnect or confusion for the user.

Applying route smoothing so you always get a clear direct route without zigzags.

Enabling map tracking modes so the map rotates with the user's own rotation or when there’s an upcoming turn.

Ensuring levels change correctly,

again avoiding confusion for the user.

What's even more? Pointr Maps seamlessly matches blue-dot and paths together for a better wayfinding experience.

Pointr Maps vs. 3rd partymaps

Our algorithm continuously monitors for inconsistencies and corrects confusing anomalies caused by 3rd party maps - on the fly. This ensures consistency between the blue dot, pathfinding, and the map thus avoiding confusing user experiences such as the blue dot trying to join a parallel path. 

Pointr Maps perfectly match blue-dot and wayfinding together, delivering a smooth, intuitive wayfinding experience. Whereas for 3rd party maps, blue-dot sometimes tries to join a parallel path from a different angle, causing frustrating wayfinding experiences for their users.

(see the example above.)

For guaranteed results, best stick with Pointr!

As you can see, while we do support 3rd-party maps, it can make everyone's life more complicated than it needs to be. Functionality may become compromised (for which we continuously monitor and correct). However, a major system variation by the 3rd-party map supplier could potentially render the system inoperable. This eventuality is, of course, beyond our control.

At Pointr, we relish a challenge, and we have solved many indoor mapping puzzles that our competitors have shied away from. A 100% Pointr technology solution is the preferred route for total peace of mind and a robust wayfinding experience you can be confident of - with no hidden surprises!

Want to learn more?
Watch our MapScale™ webinar to explore the revolutionary mapping platform that enables 100,000x faster map production.

Watch MapScale™ webinar on-demand

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Contributor: Marianne Slamich, Eva Cheng