Indoor Navigation with BLUETOOTH beacons

1 reference

2 In brief

Recent technological developments have turned Bluetooth beacons into
a competitive tool for indoor navigation solutions. BLE beacons present
significant opportunities for companies to better visitor experience and
provide all-new opportunities through wayfinding. Beacons have applications in
a diverse array of industries including retail, museums, and transport.

3 Indoor Navigation

3.1 Wayfinding with different Technologies

Bluetooth is not the first technology to address the problem of wayfinding.
Companies have used NFC, QR codes, and GPS to try to tackle it. Many of these
solutions, however, have proven either ineffectual or impractical. GPS, though
great for seveeral large-scale or outdoor scenariors, is not suitable to the
indoors or more precise tracking.

3.2 The difference between WIFI and Bluetooth

Wifi has become one of the most widespread platforms, and it is one obvious
answer in proximity marketing. However, it does not necesarily offer the best
foundation for wayfinding.

There are three primary differences between WIFI and Bluetooth as used in
indoor navigation.

  • Modern WiFi-based systems generally require an entire infrastructure complete
    with wired access points capable of receiving signals and determining position.
    Beacons don't require this kind of infrastructure. WIth beacons, smartphones
    can do all the heavy lifting. Even if you did use the smartphone in a WiFi-
    based infrastructure, it would still not be practical as the signal strength
    is most often adapted dynamically by the access points which makes it unusable
    for a wayfinding system.
  • This leads to the second defining factor: accuracy.
    Accuracy with WiFi will rarely be better than 10 meters. For a lot of use
    cases, that just isn't enough. On the other hand, Bluetooth-based solutions
    can achieve 2-3 meter accuracy.
  • Finally, indoor navigation with WiFi is not natively supported on iOS. Apps
    on these phones cannot scan for a WiFi signal. They can't use trilateration
    or fingerprinting methods used for indoor navigation. While it is possible
    with Android, the instability of the signal will makes it impractical.