What it is: Gatwick airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, has installed beacons indoors for indoor navigation.
GPS (Global Positioning System) provides a way to navigate outdoors, but once you go inside a building, GPS is useless. That’s why Gatwick Airport has installed indoor beacons. By tracking the position of beacons around the airport terminal, smartphone users can navigate around the inside of the building.
Indoor beacons are only useful for indoor mapping. You could use beacons to display a cartoon map showing which way to go, or you could use beacons to help created augmented reality. Instead of looking at a cartoon image of a building, hold up your smartphone and look at augmented reality showing you the directions to go inside the actual building you’re standing in.
Seeing augmented reality instructions overlaid across actual images is far more comforting to guide lost travelers than looking at cartoon maps of the same building. That’s because cartoon maps can’t always update to show any changes such as construction inside a building, but augmented reality will always show you the actual location around you.
Beacons by themselves just suggest indoor navigation mapping is coming soon to large, public buildings like airport terminals or museums. Yet once beacons become readily available in stadiums and train stations, the existence of beacons makes it simpler to create and use augmented reality.
Back in 2016, Apple acquired a Finnish company called Indoor.io, which focused exclusively on indoor mapping or large buildings. Indoor mapping will likely be the first and most obvious reason to use augmented reality beyond games like Pokemon GO. Once people see the obvious and convenient uses for augmented reality for indoor navigation inside shopping malls, ball parks, or even cruise ships, they’ll come to rely on indoor navigation directions as much as people currently rely on GPS driving directions.
With so much activity surrounding indoor mapping and augmented reality, you can be certain the two will work together to create a new experience for smartphone users. Microsoft’s phone operating system is already pretty much dead due to the lack of app support. Once Apple introduces indoor navigation and mapping to the iPhone, android will have to scramble to keep up with a solution that likely won’t be as refined because it will need to be rushed.
This fall, you’ll likely be able to use an iPhone for indoor navigation courtesy of augmented reality and beacons. When people see this new feature available only on iPhones, they’ll clamor for it on Android as well. It will come to Android eventually, but the iPhone will likely lead the way (again) and show the world that smartphones are more than just improved specifications every year.
Expect indoor mapping to become commonplace soon. This will help bring augmented reality to everyday use to the point where we’ll wonder how we ever got along with it.