As technology evolves, one thing in particular has remained a challenge for those in the location business: tracking indoors. Once those concrete walls start to add up, conventional GPS signals begin to falter. New technology from product development firm Cambridge Consultants, however, can reportedly "accurately detect someone's location indoors when GPS drops out." A number of sensors and a custom algorithm determine the location, with an accuracy of within approximately 1% of the distance travelled. Yet the technology uses low-power, low-cost sensors and the device concept is small enough to clip on a belt. It also doesn't need any existing internal infrastructure.
"We are excited about the many possibilities this cutting-edge technology opens up and the impact it can have in many different situations," said Geoff Smithson, technology director, sensing systems, at Cambridge Consultants. "It could be used to help locate firefighters in smoke-filled buildings, for example, or to pinpoint the closest doctor in a hospital during an emergency – or to track offenders during home curfews. We are just starting to see the potential of this approach and the diverse demand for this type of low-energy, highly accurate system."
Indoor tracking systems which process data from one or more sources of location information to estimate where a person or object is located are not new. But they often rely on RF signals from Wi-Fi access points or custom infrastructure, poor-quality GPS
signals or expensive, high-quality sensors. The availability of low-cost smartphone components – including accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers and pressure sensors – has enabled a new generation of location devices and applications, when combined with a tailored Bayesian algorithm to fuse the information. The new technology platform can be embedded in an existing design or operate as a stand-alone unit, with options to compute the location locally or transmit the information to a remote system which can process the data before visualising it on a smartphone
When will we see this stuff out in the consumer world? It's a little too early to tell, but mall walkers know that it can't come soon enough.