Lighting Matters: Indoor Positioning Systems – Monthly Column featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine

By definition, indoor positioning systems (IPS) locate objects or people inside buildings using lights, radio waves, magnetic fields, acoustic signals or other information collected by mobile devices. There are numerous such systems available commercially, but there is no single standard for IPS.

Mari Saua Svalastog wrote her thesis on indoor positioning technologies, services and architectures at the University of Oslo in 2007. Of course, IPS has since developed and been implemented at an alarming rate.

GPS technology use satellites to plot your position on the planet by means of triangulation. Trilateration determines the user’s exact position, speed and elevation.

Trilateration is a constant process while the user’s device is in service, but GPS does not work indoors. Enter IPS.

Indoor positioning systems are very similar to GPS technology except for the fact that they broadcast to customers’ mobile smart devices. The system can use Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi or Li-Fi working via the luminaires.

The basic architecture for the IPS consists of an indoor map; smartphone sensors; software; Wi-Fi or Li-Fi connectivity and the user’s smartphone. The system leverages the internal sensors in the smartphone by broadcasting signals to it from beacons located throughout the space to calculate the device’s position.

Whenever I visit Spain and shop at Carrefours in Madrid, I use the store application on my smartphone. I prepare my shopping list on the smartphone beforehand. On arrival, the system sends a unique message to my smartphone, plots the quickest route to the items on the list, sends promotional news to my phone and then updates my loyalty points. Finally, payment is taken from my account.

At Madrid’s National Archaeological Museum, the visitor uses a tablet with a headset. The tablet guides the visitor through the museum and, at each of the exhibits, provides a comprehensive explanation.

Several South African retailers are also preparing to introduce IPS and in-store shopping applications. Several already have online shopping applications which can be extended to include IPS software.

Next month, we will explore the different IPS systems.



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