Indoor GPS Gets Closer With French, Korean Tests

French vendor Movea said last week it has overcome a key problem and successfully demonstrated an accurate indoor navigation system—the long awaited "indoor GPS"—VentureBeat reported.

While virtually all smartphones have GPS location-tracking built in, it's largely useless indoors, both because GPS satellite signals have a hard time penetrating some buildings and because GPS accuracy isn't as fine-grained as needed to pinpoint a customer's exact location in a store or shopping mall.

To get around that, Movea uses a combination of data from a smartphone's accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, pressure sensor, Wi-Fi and GPS, and matches the combined data against known maps. Movea's location app also depends on knowing the user's height, which it uses to calculate step length, so when other sensors notice the user has taken a step, that distance can be figured in too.

The company says in two separate demos in busy train stations—one in Paris and the other in Seoul, South Korea—people using Movea's dead-reckoning system successfully navigated through each station's labyrinth of passages, corridors, and elevators.

The problem for retailers is that giving customers directions, the way a car's GPS system does, is only half of what's needed. The unsolved challenge is figuring out exactly where in a store the shopper is and what she's facing. In theory, Movea's system could use its merger of smartphone sensor signals to pinpoint the shopper's exact location in an aisle and in which direction she's turned.

Then, presuming there's an accurate planogram for the store available, a chain could send out coupons or promotions in real time to the shopper's phone.

Yes, that is too heavy on the "in theory" and "presuming" side. But the more vendors work on the problem of combining data from phone sensors to locate customers, the better that positioning will get. Movea may not have reached "indoor GPS" status yet—but it's getting closer.

For more:

- See this VentureBeat story

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