Blog skyhook logo What is Indoor Positioning?

Mar 24, 2021 9:00:00 AM

What is Indoor Positioning?

Posted by Isolde Decker-Lucke

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Indoor positioning refers to the ability to locate a connected device inside of a building. The reason indoor positioning matters in the location technology space is because traditional location methods, like GPS, cannot accurately locate a device once it no longer has a direct line of sight to a satellite. This means that when a device that’s using GPS for location enters a building, parking garage, or goes under a bridge - it loses the ability to resolve location accurately. Similarly, a growing number of IoT devices operate on LPWAN networks, and particularly when used indoors, these devices may require an enhanced level of indoor accuracy in order to be valuable.
Hybrid Location Solves the Indoor Positioning Challenge
Hybrid location leverages GPS, Cellular, and Wi-Fi signals to provide the most accurate location possible in any given environment. Skyhook, for example, uses proprietary algorithms to blend these signal types to provide accurate location, alongside other battery-saving technologies like MAC address collapsing, to minimize battery use and help prolong device life. By accessing information from multiple sources, the location returned is precise and ensures that devices can be positioned seamlessly while moving through different environments. Whether outdoors or indoors, in a basement or parking garage, consumers today expect that applications and devices can provide location within roughly 20 meters of accuracy (the distance of about 4-5 car lengths). Devices operating indoors on LPWAN networks can also benefit from a hybrid solution that pairs network-side and Wi-Fi location for greater accuracy and precision, while maintaining minimal battery usage.
Indoor location may sound like something that is of low importance for devices that are mainly used outside, but there are many use cases where indoor location is important. Here are a few examples:
Asset Tracking
Tracking assets with a location solution that works both indoors and outdoors allows companies to gain insights about supply chain performance, locate lost products within a warehouse, and more. 
Wearable devices are often used to track exercise performance, and many people do their workouts indoors or want to track the number of steps they take in a day regardless of where they walk. Indoor location capabilities make sure no movement is missed
Personal Emergency Devices
mPERS devices alert emergency responders when the users press a button requesting help. The location details they are sent will need to be accurate in order for responders to arrive as quickly as possible. Emergencies can happen anywhere, so accurate location indoors is critical. 
Pet Trackers
Pet tracking collars can alert owners when a pet leaves a geofenced area - like their house or yard. If the device cannot accurately track location when the pet is inside, the owner may be incorrectly notified about pet movement. 
Many communication protocols such as BLE and UWB require additional hardware infrastructure in order to be used for indoor positioning. This increases costs and can potentially drain device battery faster, which limits the usable life of devices. Skyhook’s software-based solution adds wireless indoor positioning capabilities to devices of all kinds, operating on different network types, with several key advantages:
  • Cost-effective deployments that use existing device hardware, so no additional hardware is required.
  • Devices can be tracked indoors, outdoors, and globally, even offline.
  • Industry-leading accuracy with configurable settings to manage device and network resources.
Enhanced indoor accuracy can also be achieved using proprietary tools like OnSite, a mobile application that allows users to upload floor plans of the area where they need location, and map the ground truth of existing Wi-Fi access points. This is a great resource in areas like warehouses, medical facilities, and malls where accuracy can be impacted by physical indoor obstructions, but location accuracy and precision are critical.
To find out more about indoor positioning and how it may work for you, check out this page about Skyhook’s indoor location technology.
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