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24 July 2017

Lost no more: indoor virtual maps are coming

We’ve all had that angry feeling when running around in circles at the supermarket not finding specific products. People who pay frequent visits to huge and cluttered retail spaces – hypermarkets for instance – will recognize this pain. Now, imagine how wonderful and time-saving it would be if you could use virtual maps that gave clear directions to the items on your shopping list.


Thus far, GPS technology simply has not worked indoors because walls block the satellite signal needed for GPS to function properly. Even outdoors some interferences persist. Did you know that the average user accuracy of GPS technology on a smart phone is 4.9 metres and that it deteriorates near buildings, trees or even if there is cloudy weather? Yes, that’s why GPS has caused some casualties in the past by sending people to hazardous locations.

Today, start-ups and the major tech players are working on "Indoor Positioning", systems that can locate objects or people inside a building via mobile devices. Using mobile phones avoids dependency on a GPS signal and provides location accuracy down to a few centimetres. Indoor Positioning builds on existing technologies, namely Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other solutions, such as light or magnetic fields. Google is developing a Visual Positioning Service (VPS) by using AI together with Google Maps technology.

Indoor positioning is not 100% up and running yet. For instance, it is not possible to detect the direction or orientation of a static person or object. Although there are already many players on the market, there is not yet a standard technical set-up. The best solution remains a hybrid one, able to switch from one technology to the other, depending on the environment.

As a consumer brand, you may be dreaming of guiding shoppers to the exact location of your product or shelf space. Accurate indoor maps for retail spaces would, indeed, be fantastic. Coupled with targeted promotions, product information, up-to-date price tags and integrated payment systems, this would contribute to further revolutionizing the shopping experience.

Indoor positioning holds tremendous potential for marketing and beyond. For all of us who have a smartphone, time spent incognito will become scarce. The resulting behavioural data this will unleash will create opportunities in all fields – not only marketing and retail, but also in science, capacity management, architecture, security, health and many more.

As marketers we need to think about Indoor Positioning as a service, not as an additional way to send push messages. The way I see it, there is no limit when thinking of possible developments for enhancing the customer experience in stores, museums, hospitals, airports or indeed any place where signage and information are not always available.

If you are curious about opportunities for brands, retailers or your own business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with The House of Marketing. We are keen to map customer journeys and develop omnichannel market strategies based on data and technology.

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