Nokia indoor location positioning research shown at MWC 2012

Grizzly Analytics has been looking closely at indoor location technology, both technology research at major companies and technology solutions available to store-owners and other site managers.  At MWC we expected that indoor location would be prominent, and we weren't disappointed! We had the pleasure of seeing a large number of demonstrations of indoor positioning in action.  This is the first of several blog posts looking at these demonstrations, starting with Nokia.

First I'll give some explanation, then below is a video showing Nokia's demo in action and hearing comments from their researchers.

Nokia has been researching indoor location technology for years, and the technology has advanced each year but not yet reached market.  Their demo is, in a word, breathtaking, in the speed and precision at which it tracks people walking around the room.  People are seen on a computer screen or phone screen, in real-time, moving as they walk around the demo room floor.

There are two catches, though.  One is that Nokia's positioning relies on Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, which is not yet approved and not yet available in phones or chips.  Their demo uses dedicated tags that the people are wearing to be tracked.  Practical deployment of their technology will wait until Bluetooth 4.0 becomes standard.

Second is that their tracking technology relies on dedicated "beacons" that are deployed on the ceiling.  These beacons enable the amazing accuracy that Nokia is able to demo, but this means that their technology will only work in places where the beacons have been deployed. We understand that deploying this indoor location technology will be done by Nokia's Navteq business unit, which is already working with malls and other site owners to map their sites.

Here's the video showing Nokia's indoor location demo in action.  For more on indoor location technology, including research by over a dozen companies and solutions by almost 20 start-up companies, see Grizzly Analytics reports on indoor location technology and indoor location services.

6 comments:

  1. This indoor location technology is another first from Nokia. Though, other brands of mobile phones have their GPS mobile tracker which can be the same like Nokia indoor location technology.

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  2. Mobile GPS, thanks for the comment, but the key is that today's GPS doesn't work indoors. Try using cellphone GPS or dedicated car GPS and watch it as you drive into an underground car park. The whole point here is how to get GPS to work indoors. See this report for research in the area or this report for start-ups bringing it to market now.

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  3. The iPhone 4S has bluethooth 4.0 - it'd be interesting to so if it could interact with the beacons

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  4. There have been so diverse technical approaching to indoor location including most commercialized PAN/LAN connectivity in 2.4Ghz ISM band. In my experience, I think this indoor location business looks not a technical matter. Only for this Nokia's way, it might be worse than WiFi in cost view to hook up new beacons. In only technical view, the most accuracy for indoor location could be achieved by another connectivity in 802.15.4 pool with ignoring infra expense.

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  5. There are actually a couple of other pretty big gotchas...

    1. Privacy. The Nokia system obviously requires a server that takes the information from the antenna arrays on the ceiling, calculate each mobile location individually and send that information to a console and/or back to each mobile device....aka big brother monitoring
    2. Related to this is that there is latency in letting the mobile device know where it is. Worst yet, there is a finite number of mobile devices the server can monitor and report back to at any one time..and of course latency increases with the number of users in the location domain.

    A better approach is where the infrastructure is dumb and the mobile uses it to calculate its own position in private just like outdoor GPS works. No latency, infinitely scalable and private.

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  6. Re "Flubber"'s commments: There are certainly many approaches, and anyone who wants to know more about all the approaches out there can see the Grizzly Analytics report on the subject:
    http://www.grizzlyanalytics.com/report_2012_05_indoor.html

    Nokia has achieved much more accuracy in their approach than anyone has achieved with Wi-Fi approaches, and they're using a technology which is already on the way to market. On the other hand, as you said, deploying beacons is a difficult prospect in many cases.

    Re "Anonymous"'s comments: My understanding is that Nokia is also moving in the direction of smart devices and dumber infrastructure, as soon as there are phones with BLE technology inside. The approach with tags and smarter infrastructure is just an interim approach.

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