Indoor-Outdoor Navigation: Challenges and Best Solutions for 2024

May 04, 2024

Technology Trends

Companies leveraging location-based technology gain a significant competitive advantage. By harnessing intelligent technology, these forward-thinking organizations unlock a myriad of benefits that directly impact their bottom line. From elevating customer experiences and driving engagement to streamlining operations and maximizing revenue, the potential is immense.

One particularly indispensable application of location-based technology is outdoor-indoor navigation. This cutting-edge solution has become a staple for businesses across industries, offering invaluable assistance in navigating both indoor and outdoor environments. However, the seamless integration of this technology can pose some challenges when transitioning between these two realms.

First, let’s talk about the differences between indoor and outdoor navigation and the unique challenges they present. By delving into these differences, we can lay the groundwork for identifying effective solutions.

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Indoor Navigation Facts

By all accounts, indoor navigation has become big business. According to a article, the indoor positioning and indoor navigation market was valued at US$3,472.15 million in 2021 and is expected to reach US$12,312.93 million by 2027.

According to a article, the indoor positioning and indoor navigation market size was valued at US$3,472.15 million in 2021 and is expected to reach US$12,312.93 million by 2027.

This significant projection highlights the immense popularity and continued growth of location-based technology.

Indoor navigation draws on a range of technologies and techniques to assist users in navigating within buildings or enclosed spaces where GPS signals may be weak or unavailable. There are various technology solutions available on the market, and each solution requires different levels of investment and infrastructure.

Common technologies employed in indoor navigation include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, inertial measurement units (which consist of accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers for measuring changes in acceleration, rotation, and magnetic fields), visual recognition, ultrasonic or infrared technology, machine learning algorithms, and mapping and localization software. Indoor navigation systems typically rely on pre-existing maps or floor plans of indoor spaces, often created through mapping or surveying. The system uses positioning information to determine the user’s location on the map, providing turn-by-turn directions or guidance to a desired area.

These systems have various applications, including helping users find their way in large buildings such as hospitals or airports, enabling location-based services and advertising, enhancing customer experiences in retail settings and supporting asset tracking or logistics operations indoors.

Outdoor Navigation Facts

Outdoor navigation is the process of navigating and finding your way in outdoor environments such as roads, parks, hiking trails or urban settings. These systems usually rely on global positioning system (GPS) technology to determine the user’s location and to lend navigation help.

GPS is a satellite-based navigation system using a network of satellites orbiting the earth to transmit positioning signals. GPS receivers, commonly found in smartphones, navigation devices, or wearable devices, receive signals from multiple satellites to calculate a user’s precise location.

These systems use GPS data and various mapping technologies to provide real-time positioning, route guidance, and other navigation features. Some key components and features of outdoor navigation systems include GPS receivers, mapping and route planning, turn-by-turn directions, voice guidance and visual displays, real-time traffic and location services and points of interest.

Outdoor navigation systems are widely used for various purposes, including driving navigation, pedestrian navigation, hiking or outdoor activities, delivery and logistics, and general wayfinding in outdoor environments.

Indoor-Outdoor Navigation Challenges

When working together, indoor-outdoor navigation has some definite challenges due to the different characteristics of each environment.

Here are some challenges facing indoor-outdoor navigation:

Inaccurate or unavailable signals

Outdoor navigation requires GPS signals and they may not be reliable or accessible when indoors where there is often obstructed or limited satellite visibility creating reduced or wonky signals. Other positioning technologies or techniques are needed for indoor spaces to overcome this challenge.

Variable infrastructure

No two indoor environments are the same. They vary by layout, building materials and infrastructure. The accuracy and performance of positioning systems can be affected by these variations. Obstacles, walls and multi-level buildings may create signal interference, multipath effects and a thwarted line-of-site communication. All this can make seamless transitioning between indoor and outdoor areas more exacting.

Complex mapping

It can be a challenging task to create accurate maps of both indoor and outdoor spaces. Indoor mapping requires detailed floor plans, while outdoor mapping requires complete road networks, landmarks and points of interest. Maintaining and updating maps can also be challenging since building layouts, road networks, or temporary constructions change.

Sensor fusion and integration

Without getting overly technical, it’s a challenge to integrate different sensors and positioning technology for indoor-outdoor navigation. It’s hard to combine data from GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other positioning technologies with inertial sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes or visual sensors such as cameras, takes intelligent sensor fusion algorithms to ensure accurate and reliable positioning in different environments.

Calibration and maintenance

To make sure performance is accurate and consistent, indoor-outdoor navigation systems require maintenance and calibration. Maps need to be updated and components such as beacons or access points also have to be maintained. This can be costly and complex.

Power drains

Continuous use of positioning technologies, sensor data processing, and wireless communication can consume significant power from smartphones or wearable devices. It can be a challenge to optimize consumption of power to extend the life of a battery while at the same time maintaining accurate positioning.

Interface design and user experience

Indoor-outdoor navigation systems must be user friendly. Instructions must be clear giving visual instructions where possible and real-time updates. This can be difficult, but necessary to provide easy transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces.

GPS Helpful Clues

GPS is one of the most reliable data sources when it comes to indoor/outdoor detection and transitions, especially for Mapsted’s innovative solution that draws on multiple data sources to create a pioneering level of indoor-outdoor accuracy without external hardware required. When outdoors, GPS is typically quite reliable with an accuracy of less than 10 metres.

Indoors, GPS is typically much more erratic and results in accuracies that can be 30, 50 or even more than 100 metres in environments such as underground parking lots. Mapsted technology leverages this data, so when GPS is reporting a low error/reliability, that indicates a high probability the user is outdoors. Similarly, if there are very large accuracy values, that is a good indicator the user is indoors. Factors such as the user’s motion while approaching an entrance or exit, as well as the anticipation of transitioning into or out of the building are also considered.

The revolutionary engineers at Mapsted incorporate these data points into innovative machine learning technology to create the most precise and dependable indoor-outdoor mapping solution on the market.

The Mapsted Solution

Mapsted’s advanced outdoor-indoor navigation technology system delivers smooth outdoor-indoor navigation without using Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi or additional external hardware. It can easily navigate from building to building and from outdoor areas to indoor spaces in the same general location like university campuses or hospital complexes. An advanced map fetching feature dynamically loads surrounding routes as users navigate the area. Most current maps automatically load for the property right upon arrival.

The Tech Factor

Overcoming challenges with indoor-outdoor navigation requires ongoing advancements in positioning technologies, sensor fusion algorithms, mapping techniques and user interface design. Addressing complexities will enhance the accuracy, reliability and usability of these systems, unlocking their potential for a wide range of applications, including smart cities, transportation, logistics and personalized navigation experiences. To learn more about how Mapsted’s innovative location technology addresses the complexities of indoor-outdoor navigation and how we can elevate your business, reach out for a no-cost demonstration.  

If you are interested in learning more about technological trends that are shaping the future of business you may want to read our blog on What Is Datafication and Why It Is the Future of Business?. For more information on the potential of location intelligence for business please check out our blog on What is Location Intelligence Technology and How Can It Help You Grow Your Business?.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is indoor-outdoor navigation?

Ans. Indoor-outdoor navigation is being able to seamlessly move between indoor and outdoor environments using a single navigation system or technology. It enables users to navigate within buildings or enclosed spaces and continue their navigation when transitioning to outdoor areas, all within a unified navigation experience.

Q2. What are some issues concerning indoor-outdoor navigation?

Ans. Indoor-outdoor navigation poses several challenges and issues that need to be addressed for a seamless and accurate navigation experience. Some of these issues include signal availability and accuracy, seamless transitioning, mapping and data integration, sensor fusion and calibration, additional infrastructure requirements, power consumption and device compatibility and user interface design.

Q3. What are the best solutions to address the problems with indoor-outdoor navigation?

Ans. Some of the best solutions to improve the indoor-outdoor navigation experience include improved indoor positioning systems such as Mapsted’s sensor fusion and calibration, cloud-based mapping and data integration, machine learning and artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing and data collection, user interface design and user experience, infrastructure development and standardization and interoperability.

Q4. What are the factors contributing to the price of indoor-outdoor navigation?

Ans. It’s important to note the cost of indoor-outdoor navigation systems can vary significantly depending on specific requirements, scale, and complexity of the application. Therefore, it’s advisable to conduct a thorough assessment of the project needs, evaluate available technologies and providers. Mapsted can help with this decision by providing a no-cost demonstration of its intelligent, hardware-free system.

Q5. How does the system ensure a seamless and uninterrupted navigation experience during transitions?

Ans. To ensure a seamless and uninterrupted navigation experience during transitions between indoor and outdoor environments, an indoor-outdoor navigation system employs several techniques and technologies. Key aspects include hybrid positioning, sensor fusion, mapping integration, contextual awareness, preloading and caching, predictive algorithms and real-time updates.

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