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Indoor Positioning

Ruchi More Aug 06, 2014

Indoor Positioning Technology Indoor Positioning System

Geo-fenced push ads have been a rage since the app makers discovered the power of region monitoring using GPS.

Imagine a potential customer walking down the street, getting a geo-fenced push when he is about 2 blocks away from your retail outlet and actually changing his route to avail the benefits of a discount you have just offered him through the push message!

I bet most of the businesses have leveraged the benefits of local marketing this way. But what if a customer is already inside your retail store and you want to inform him about a great deal on an item? What if you want to assist him with his shopping by suggesting items which might pair well with other items he has already bought?

Store assistants are there, of course. But there is a restriction on the floor area each of them can cover. As customers pass various floors and aisles, the store assistant there might not know what he needs.

All this while, I was talking about retail sector.

The above scenario applies to any indoor setting. GPS, though a very helpful and accurate technology - loses its utility the minute a potential push message receiver is indoor or the distance between which the messages need to differ or be pushed again is less than 300 meters.

In this case, an Indoor Positioning System (IPS) is just what you need.

An IPS uses low energy (LE) transmitters to broadcast information or serve as guiding pointers in an indoor area or even outdoor area (like college campuses, airports, etc.)

These LE devices pair with apps installed on user’s smartphones, and give out timed triggers which can be utilized in the app. These triggers can be as simple as location information or even deals/discounts, push ads or product lists placed near the LE device.

There are many ways to implement an Indoor Positioning System:

1. Wifi Positioning

Wifi Positioning is one of the cheapest solutions as it leverages the already existing Wifi setup of the environment in which indoor positioning/targeted marketing is required. However, it has relatively high risk of data being compromised as it is over a shared network. The location information determined using Wifi signal strength is not as accurate as NFC or BLE Beacons.

Typically, Wifi positioning is recommended for huge public places with FREE Wifi access e.g. airports, railway stations, college campuses, etc.

2. NFC (Near Field Communication)/RFID

This standard was perceived to be due, to be taken up for a long term research by Apple. However, since the acquisition of WifiSLAM and the declaration of iBeacon standards, Apple has shown a shift towards BLE Beacons.

The reasons for this are said to be the very short range (about 20 cm).

NFC is recommended only when there is requirement of highly secure in-app payments through the app. However, incompatibility with iOS devices acts as a major handicap for app makers.

3. BLE Beacons (or iBeacons)

BLE Beacons are low energy Bluetooth transmitters with a fairly good range of about 200 feet, which helps cover a radius convenient for broadcasting information to passing customers.

Most BLE Beacon manufacturers ensure compliance with Apple’s iBeacon standards. iOS Compatibility adds a greater reach of iPhone/iPad using customers.

They are typically used where hyper-targeted information is required to be passed, along with accurate location information.

iBeacons are compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, 5C and 5S, iPad 3, iPad mini (all devices should have iOS 7) as well as Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0 and Android 4.3 and above (Samsung Galaxy S3/S4/S4 Mini, Samsung Galaxy Note II/III, HTC One, Nexus 7 2013 edition, Nexus 4+).

Combining any of the 3 technologies above with GPS and geo-fencing allows retailers to devise seamless navigation-cum-positioning apps.

Picture this:

A potential customer visits a retail outlet; his number is saved in the CRM. He installs an app of the retail chain. When he passes by another outlet of the same retail chain, he is notified of some ongoing deal. He decides to visit and is guided to the retail outlet by GPS. Once he is inside the building, he is offered store assistance and navigation based on his product preferences.

The future of customized navigation and hyper-local marketing is here!

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