For years I've been writing sentences like "this will be the year that indoor location will explode into the market." I, and many others, have been expecting indoor location technology to enable the huge range of location-enabled apps, which currently work only outside where GPS signals are available, to work inside. But until now the promise of indoor location has remained a promise.
But if we look at the reasons for this, we'll see that it is about to change. 2017 and 2018 are poised to be the years that the challenges keeping indoor location from going mainstream will be solved.
First is accuracy. Most indoor location technologies until a year or so ago had accuracy in the range of 4 to 8 meters. This sounds good in principle, and in fact is better than GPS in many cases. But GPS systems are able to use road details to hide their inaccuracies, so that the blue dot seems to follow your driving car almost perfectly. But indoors, this sort of inaccuracy means your phone thinking you're on the wrong aisle of a supermarket or in front of the wrong counter at the food court. Bottom line, the user experience we all want requires more accuracy.
Second is setup and configuration. Most indoor location systems on the market in the past few years have been based on Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE, BLE beacons are fairly cheap, and can be installed throughout a site, every 30-40 meters, to give better performance (or so is believed) than Wi-Fi based systems. But installing this many beacons, and mapping the site to measure the Bluetooth signals at each point in the site, takes a lot of time. This is especially true for big sites.
Third, all the indoor location technologies reaching market recently have come from small start-up companies. Are these companies able to deliver the solutions that the market will want, and maintain them at all the sites at which their technology is being deployed? Can the companies developing the core technology also handle the load of deploying it at sites worldwide, integrating it with existing site applications, and maintaining it?
A new report from Grizzly Analytics shows that all of these factors are now solved in a growing number of solutions reaching market. First, accuracies of 2-3 meters are becoming increasingly common in the market. (This was shown in the 2016 Indoor Location Testbed.) Second, several new technologies have reduced considerably the setup and configuration time required, including SLAM, crowdsourcing, infrastructure-free positioning, and more. Third, ongoing M&A is bringing indoor location technologies into the hands of major companies, and the ecosystem is maturing into a form in which one set of companies is delivering technology and another set is deploying it in the market.
All of these factors indicate that 2017 will be the year that indoor location technologies can truly deliver what the market wants. The real explosion may take until 2018, but it is happening.
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