By Alexandra Burlacu email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Jan 15, 2013 02:52 PM EST
Communication and navigation technologies have come a long way, but indoor navigation was a real challenge for mobile devices - at least until Movea came along.
Movea's new mobile app uses a phone's existing sensors to accurately calculate the user's position indoors, a difficult task for mobile devices. Typical GPS satellite data works well outdoors due to satellites in space and Wi-Fi triangulation, but such technologies face challenges indoors, especially inside buildings where signals don't reach.
Movea, however, has overcome this problem and has demonstrated accurate indoor navigation through its new mobile app. Movea's indoor navigation system takes signals from a handset's accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, pressure sensor, GPS, and Wi-Fi, and matches them against known maps.
To begin with, Movea's mobile app asks for the user's height in order to estimate one's step length. With every move the user makes, the phone's accelerometer registers the step and the app detects the movement. The app further uses the phone's magnetometer as a compass to determine which way the user is facing.
The user can move slower or faster at times, therefore the Movea mobile app also takes into account the difference in step length. In time, the app can determine one's trajectory and use it for determining the location.
Movea's director of marketing and partner alliances David Rothenberg showed off the software at this year's International CES, demonstrating how the app could calculate a route. Using a regular Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, Rothenberg showed attendees how the app could guide users from the lobby of the Las Vegas Hotel up to the sixth floor and to the right room, complete with all the maps, arrows, and turn-by-turn directions a modern navigation system would provide.
"It's very early days for indoor navigation, so you'll see occasional artifacts," Rothenberg explained as he showed of the software. "Once inside, we use no Wi-Fi, no GPS, and no cellular network data."
The "map matching" feature, however, plays a big part in improving accuracy. The company obtained accurate blueprints of the hotel from the owner and used them to match location. Moreover, the system is also context aware, which means that it can tell whether the user is trying to walk through walls and can even detect when the user is in an elevator. It achieves the latter by sensing a change in pressure (the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a pressure sensor). Movea's software can also figure out which floor the user is on, prompting the user to get off when the elevator reaches the right floor.
It is important to note, however, that the software is still in the early stages and it is not ready for general use. Such calculations do not work in uncontrolled environments yet, especially if the company doesn't have the indoor blueprints for the specific building. What it does do is prove that accurate indoor navigation is possible and the technology has enormous potential.
Just imagine how helpful it could be for blind or visually-impaired individuals if the app could provide voice instructions to guide them through a building.
Movea is a technology solutions provider, which means the company neither plans to create the finished consumer product, nor build the underlying hardware. Instead, Movea creates the software and does the integration work, making future products possible.