Indoor Positioning System (IPS) technologies explained


It is now possible to create systems for the user location and guidance in the interior, closed, or covered areas where the existing location technologies for locating and guidance applicable to open and outdoor areas cannot be used, thanks to recent advancements in a variety of locating technologies.

Due to the inability of satellite positioning to operate in enclosed spaces, new technologies like Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) have been developed to enable such positioning.

A system of interconnected devices called IPS wirelessly locates people and objects inside buildings and partially covered areas. Due to the potential need for additional infrastructure, implementing indoor technologies can be more complicated than outdoor positioning (using GPS).

Technologies utilized by those systems become obtainable commercially in various configurations (necessary hardware) and with various features (functionality utilizing visual contact, radio-frequency, magnetic field, and sound).

How does IPS work?

The IPS system works like the GPS for outdoor positioning when looking for a route. The IPS exchanges signals between location devices and smart device sensors instead of obtaining the satellite signal. Users can navigate in a location like a mall or a hospital with the assistance of a route search functionality. The user’s movement is predicted and guided based on their current path. Similar methods for finding friends allow users to do so inside.

Applications of IPS

IPS could be created to help people find specific items or groups of items in the supermarket, locate the right items inside a building housing a facility, get around easily in an airport or museum, or even find one’s way around a hospital complex.

Additionally, IPS promotes marketing opportunities. For instance, a mall can arbitrarily define the locations where they want to display information or place advertisements. Without moving the hardware responsible for notifying customers, areas can be installed and defined within the IPS system.

Additionally, IPS can display a user’s movement throughout a building and provide detailed analysis—even in real-time—so that a user can make decisions. Such analysis makes it possible to determine which mall areas are more frequently visited. Additionally, IPS allows for the analysis of customer behavior, including which stores receive the most foot traffic, which store the customer just passed by, and what was his or her route, as well as whether the customer stopped in front of a store window and precisely which store window.

Institutions that provide healthcare also use IPS. The system can direct the patient to a particular doctor’s office. Using location devices for medical equipment to locate specific equipment more easily, which is especially helpful in emergencies, is another way the healthcare industry uses the IPS system.

Technologies used for IPS

1. BLE

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that allows for close-proximity data exchange. The primary benefits of Bluetooth include its low cost, low power consumption, short range, reliability, and universal use. Bluetooth operates in the unlicensed 2.4 to 2.485 GHz frequency range, offering a 1 Mbit/s transfer rate. With the potential to operate for several years on a small power source (AAA batteries) and compatibility with mobile devices, tablets, and computers, Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is distinguished by its extremely small size, low cost, and low power consumption.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that enables data exchange nearby. The main advantages of Bluetooth are its affordability, low power consumption, limited range, dependability, and widespread use. Bluetooth offers a 1 Mbit/s transfer rate and operates in the unlicensed 2.4 to 2.485 GHz frequency band. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) is distinguished by its incredibly small size, low cost, and low power consumption, with the potential to operate for several years on a small power source (AAA batteries) and compatibility with mobile devices, tablets, and computers.

2. WPS (Wi-Fi positioning system)

Radio waves are used by Wi-Fi technology to establish a connection to the network. A wireless adapter helps establish a Wi-Fi connection by setting up a wireless local area network close to a wireless router, which is connected to the network and enables users to access Internet services. Once set up, Wi-Fi enables you to connect wirelessly to devices by sending signals at frequencies ranging from 2.4GHz to 5GHz, depending on how much data is transferred over the network.

In various situations, including passages between tall buildings and enclosed spaces where GPS signals may be weak or intermittent, WPS can be used in conjunction with a triangulation of mobile operator repeaters and GPS to obtain reliable and accurate data on the position of users.

Triangulation (also known as dynamic positioning) uses the intersection of three circles of Wi-Fi access points to determine the user’s precise location. All active Wi-Fi access points’ signal strengths are gathered by triangulation. The exact location is determined by calculating the user’s distance from a specific access point based on the signal strength.

WPS technology has the following drawbacks: It is necessary to constantly update the database of Wi-Fi access points because WPS does not function if the user is outside the Wi-Fi signal’s range. Wi-Fi can be used similarly to BLE transmitters, but it necessitates an external power source, more expensive installation, and more expensive hardware. Although a Wi-Fi connection must be enabled, the smart device must not be connected to a Wi-Fi network. Compared to BLE technology, the signal is stronger, can travel a greater distance, and has a precision of 5–15 meters.

3. Geomagnetic technology

Utilizing a compass sensor, magnetic field detection can also be used for indoor positioning. A smart device can use the same map to locate indoor locations after using fingerprinting to map the magnetic fields at a specific location. Only in specific situations where the magnetic fields indoors are stable can this technique be used. Buildings’ distorted magnetic fields from the materials they are made of make them ideal for magnetic imprint. The more distinctive the imprint, the more metal is in the area. Any indoor setting can use geomagnetic technology. No additional hardware installation is necessary for such a system. Moving through a room is enough to gather enough information for magnetic positioning.

4. VLC

A wireless technology called Visual Light Communication (VLC) uses LED light as a communication medium. The VLC’s operation causes the LED to change states rapidly, going from ON to OFF and back (nanoseconds). The smartphone camera that receives the LED’s blinking light pattern is the receiver. The pattern is altered and sent to the server in encrypted form. The encrypted version of the pattern is compared to the one on the map on the server. The system assumes that the user is positioned below the LED when the exact encrypted form of the pattern is discovered on the map. The drawback of VLC technology is that the LED must be visible to the user’s camera. Contrary to the BLE technology transmitter, which does not require visual contact, the device won’t receive a notification if it can’t make eye contact. VLC locates objects very precisely, even to a tolerance of 5 cm.

5. Near Field Communication

A power source is not necessary for near-field communication, a wireless technology that operates over short distances. If the NFC device is within 30 cm of a smart device, the smart device will recognize the NFC device and read the serial number. Although this technology is currently used in retail, it can also be applied indoors for accurate positioning. Newer smart devices support NFC technology. Since QR codes need to be visible and require better lighting and a camera, the NFC could replace QR20 codes. The signal can be received up to 10 meters away. Using Bluetooth technology, NFC can increase the IPS system’s robustness because it can quickly connect to a smart device.