I spent a couple of of very worthwhile days in Washington DC this week attending GeoBuiz Summit. A top highlight of the sessions was the presentation by Greg Turetzky, Principal Engineer in the GNSS and Location Strategy group at Intel. Greg described a new chipset for wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) in mobile devices that includes in-chip support for indoor location positioning.
Indoor mapping is already supported by Google and Bing. Micello is in the business of creating indoor maps of major venues around the world. Most of the activity seems to be focussed on consumers and locations such as malls, airports and department stores. A typical indoor application would lead you directly to particular products in a mall or department store.
The major problem that distinguishes indoor from outdoor location and mapping is that there is no widely recognized indoor equivalent of GPS. When you are outside of buildings on most of the Earth's surface you can use GPS or other GNSS systems to determine where you, other people and things are. But as soon as you walk into a building, GPS no longer works. Tracking people and objects in a building has been one of the major challenges facing the geospatial industry.
There have been many attempts to solve this problem. Tracking cell phone location using RFID, accelerometers, or installing transmitters with low frequency radio frequency waves that are not as affected by walls as high frequency waves. The prevalence of WiFi has made possible using Wifi signals from transmitters with known locations to triangulate location.
The business benefit of indoor location is significant because it increases the value of your assets - when you can locate equipment and facilities easily, you will use them more. In the case of hospitals it can be a matter of life and death to find the "crash cart" in seconds rather than minutes.
The Open Geospatial Consortium's IndoorGML Standards Working Group has released an IndoorGML Encoding Standard. IndoorGML has been developed to provide a schema framework for interoperability between indoor spatial applications such as indoor location services, indoor web map services, indoor emergency control, guiding services for visually handicapped persons in indoor space, and indoor robotics. The IndoorGML standard specifies an open data model and XML schema for indoor spatial information. IndoorGML is an application schema of OGC GML and intentionally focuses on modelling indoor spaces for navigation purposes.
Intel's 8270 chipset, which is based on the 802.11mc standard, is able to provide 2-3 meter accuracy 90% of the time. Intel's indoor location technology relies on fine time measurement (FTM) which measures the distance between a handheld device and 802.11mc-compliant Wi-Fi access points. Multilateration is used to compute the device's location.
The chipset is available. There is a video of the chipset in use. Intel is encouraging geospatial developers to create mobile apps using the chipset.