IndoorAtlas Vies for Position Among Location-Based Service Technologies

Yahoo Japan hopes that IndoorAtlas' geomagnetic positioning technology will help it grow its location-based services business.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 01, 2016

Finnish technology company IndoorAtlas sells location-tracking software that it says can leverage Earth's magnetic field to map the unique magnetic signature inside modern steel-structured buildings, and then determine the locations of smartphones moving within those spaces, to an accuracy of 1 to 2 meters (3.3 to 6.6 feet). Its technology, the company reports, enables businesses to communicate with consumers via their smartphones, while requiring less infrastructure and providing greater location granularity than beacon- or Wi-Fi-based alternatives.

Last week, IndoorAtlas announced that it has signed an agreement with Yahoo Japan through which Yahoo Japan will employ IndoorAtlas' geomagnetic position technology to map indoor spaces and provide indoor location-based services in Japan. This follows six months during which Yahoo Japan tested the technology in Tokyo.

A visualization of how the geopositioning technology works indoors
Daniel Patton, IndoorAtlas' chief commercial officer, says the agreement could mark significant growth for its footprint in Asia, since Tokyo has the fourth largest smartphone market in the world and its metropolitan area is home to 38 million residents. During its tests, Yahoo Japan, a joint venture between Chinese telecommunications firm Softbank and tech company Yahoo, mapped indoor spaces in Tokyo, such as subway tunnels—which, Patton notes, contain many restaurants and retail shops.

To make a map, he says, the customer (in this case Yahoo Japan, or a third party it hires) must have an individual walk through the building with a mobile device running the company's mapping software. The software uses the device's magnetometer (compass) to detect each part of the building's unique magnetic signature, Patton explains, which is generated by the disturbances the steel infrastructure causes to the Earth's magnetic field. It then transmits this data, along with the building's floor plan, to IndoorAtlas's cloud-based server, which creates a geomagnetic positioning map.

When a smartphone user in an indoor space that has been mapped uses a mobile search or map application (such as Yahoo Japan's) that has integrated Indoor Atlas's software development kit (SDK), the IndoorAtlas server is queried and the provider receives that user's location. Based on that information, the mobile app's provider may serve an advertisement or special offer to the user, based on agreements that the provider has with nearby businesses.

Consumers can also download retailer apps that leverage IndoorAtlas' geomagnetic positioning data and will direct them to a specific product within the store, or a real estate management company could offer an app that helps shoppers navigate a mall. At the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, located in Mumbai, India, the Mumbai T2 app uses IndoorAtlas software to direct travelers through the airport's Terminal 2, Patton says.

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