On Thursday, October 11, GISinc hosted a webinar with thought leaders Steve Mulberry and Chris Blakely called "Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) and GeoIoT." You can see a recording of the webinar here. Below are the answered questions that were submitted from the audience.

Q1: Please describe best options for applications in high rise buildings.

Most technologies support multi-floor structures as they provide calibration techniques to limit signal bleed through and configuration options to assign antennas to floors such as (beacons, access points, LED, etc.). Each floor will require its own grid of antennas/detectors. 

Q2: When using the VLC for tracking, how does it work if someone puts their phone into their pocket? Does the location accuracy just become worse or can you no longer locate that device?

VLC requires the camera on the device to pick up the LED signature. If the camera cannot capture the LED signature (e.g., being placed in the pocket), then the signal is lost. However, a seamless switch over to BLE or even Wi-Fi can take over for determining location. Some options (e.g., Acuity Brands' lights) have the BLE capability built-in along side the VLC capability, so the BLE fail over capability doesn’t require any additional hardware deployment.

Q3: Can you explain the RFID garbage can example? Can you print off tags for objects to track them (how does that work)?

Yes, there are RFID printers that allow one to print tags. The label stock used in these types of printers come equipped with chips and antennas but print a common barcode and RFID labels. These passive RFID tags do not require power – they are energized remotely by the RFID antenna(s).  Because of this, they can last indefinitely and are extremely cheap compared to other types of tags—especially when printing them yourself.

Q4: How are you and your clients addressing privacy issues related to collecting MAC addresses?

Typically, MAC addresses come into play when performing anonymous Wi-Fi tracking that cannot be tied to the individual but is  tied to the device. Therefore, we run a hash encryption immediately on the mac address, which is what is used for any analytics applied to the anonymous data. In cases where the end user opts-in to download and install an application, other techniques can be used to address privacy and security requirements.

Both Apple and Android have begin to implement MAC address randomization for their smartphone OS’s, although it is not yet pervasive. Accuware also hashes all MAC IDs by default—so we can see unique devices, but can never tie a unique hashed MAC ID back to the actual MAC ID of a device.

Q5: I am interested in using this for public safety, specifically fire, but there is no guarantee I will know the layout of the building.

Correct, in some cases the building is not equipped with indoor positioning systems. In these cases, technologies like dead-reconing, acoustic, and video systems can play a role in finding locations indoors. You could outfit the first responder vehicles with technology that would help resolve these challenges.

Here are a couple examples of companies that provide this type of technology:

Q6: Is this possible without any preexisting information or using uncontrolled assets?

It is challenging to perform indoor positioning without implementing some type of technology, whether in the building structure or on the device used to track location.

Q7: What about magnetic?

Smartphone sensors are typically used to generate magnetic indoor mapping and navigation data that is then transmitted over Wi-Fi to a processing system.  

Since each building will give off a uniquely identifiable signature, a magnetic “footprint” map of the building can be helpful in the positioning process.  Many indoor positioning technologies make use of these magnetic footprints in conjunction with other types of information to enhance the accuracy of the calculated position.

Q8: How do you see this affecting public safety?

Indoor positioning systems can greatly impact public safety if deployed correctly. First responders could use this technology to navigate their way throughout a structure. Operations personnel can track and monitor the status of those first responders as they transverse through the building. In the case of active shooter incidents, this technology could provide quick access to information as to the whereabouts of students and staff.

The technology can also be leveraged to perform historical analyses (e.g., finding out which employees were in the vicinity of an incident that occurred in the past).

Q9: Anyone doing indoor positioning using Wi-Fi triangulation/mapping (i.e. w/o beacons)?

Yes, without beacons but Wi-Fi access points are needed to capture the signals of Wi-Fi enabled devices. People can self-locate using apps on their smartphones (e.g., the phone determines where it is based on the ambient radio signal it sees, magnetic signature, etc.). 

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This "Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) and GeoIoT" webinar is Episode 4 of GISinc's "Why Where Matters" webinar series. See the recorded Episode 1"What is GeoIoT?" here, Episode 2 "Work Smarter with Sensor Networks" here, and Episode 3"Asset Tracking and Analytics" here." The series finale is scheduled to take place, Thursday, November 15 as we take a look at "The Future of GeoIoT."