Wayfinder Brings Map Tech Indoors for App Developers

December 18, 2015 - 3 minutes read

WayfindrWhen it comes to indoor navigation, the options in the mobile app development toolbox are few and far between. The main roadblock has been the scale — mobile app developer toolkits like Google Maps can determine routes intelligently using widely available satellite imagery, but getting a feel for the layout of a building is much more complex. (For an AI system, at least.)

Enter Wayfindr: a new initiative recently awarded a $1 million grant from Google to bring mobile mapping indoors. Developers at the London-based organization are leveraging Bluetooth technology to orient with landmark hardware built into partnered buildings. Initial tests with Pimlico station in London have been promising, and the group is looking to expand rapidly in the coming year.

Mobile app developers, real estate developers, and business owners are all eager to see the technology mature; after all, the wins are big on all sides when consumers can be guided through spaces based on smart tech insights. Shoes on sale on floor three? Push notifications with directions to previous customers when they walk through the area. Lost in the airport? A smart assistant could provide real-world guidance and even recommend shortcuts.

But for the tech developers at Wayfindr, the most exciting application for the technology is in opening up the world for those in need. Particularly for the blind and visually impaired, an open standard providing audio navigation opens up a whole world of freedom for mobile app users who would otherwise be stuck with old-world solutions. Seeing-eye dogs are life-changing, but they aren’t much help when you need to find the way to a specific exit, or identify a specific store within a multi-story mall.

The first version of the standard should be published by the middle of next year, with wide-scale retail adoptions available to London mobile app development companies by 2017. While it was initially envisioned as a simple system for helping the blind, Wayfindr is quickly growing into something extremely exciting for iPhone and Android app developers keen to tap into indoor navigation in their product designs. Namely, an established standard for both mobile app developers and retailers — with the potential for big wins on all sides.

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