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Beacons, App Help Patients, Employees Navigate Huge Clinic

The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center has launched an app that leverages data from beacons to guide patients and personnel around a 3-million-square-foot building.
By Claire Swedberg

Having a variety of options for patients and personnel is crucial, says Geoff Halstead, Connexient's chief product officer, since people have unique needs when seeking directions. Some may not want to use their phones, for instance—they might prefer to utilize a paper map (users can print a map from the web version of the app before arriving) or a screen (MediNav software can run on touchscreen kiosks, though NIHCC opted against use of kiosks within its facility), or to seek directions from an individual accessing data on the app.

"Of course, we still have other resources available if an app isn't their thing," Cole states, "such as friendly hospitality department staff who can personally guide folks, as well as lots of maps and signage"

Connexient's Geoff Halstead
The idea for the wayfinding app, Cole says, originated in 2015 with an NIH manager who works in Building 10. A nurse working in the building came up with the name TakeMeThere.

Connexient has been offering location-based content for about two years, Halstead says, and its BLE-enabled Navigator version of MediNav since 2015. The company partners with Google Maps to offer location-based data on a virtual map that users can utilize to identify where they are in proximity to other places or objects. In that way, for instance, a person can employ an app using the MediNav content-management system to identify not only when he has arrived at a particular building, such as a health-care center, but also which door he should use and where he is located in proximity to that doorway.

The TakeMeThere app also provides assistance before a visitor parks his car. The Parking Planner function within the app enables that individual to identify the best parking spots even before he begins his trip there. He can also plan his visit based on what he will be doing at the facility, and use the app's "My Places" function to add and store staff and location "favorites."

Once the user arrives on site, MediNav "sensor fusion software" on the phone positions that person on the app's indoor map by detecting beacons installed at the parking lot with other readings, such as the phone's Wi-Fi signals and the building's microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) signatures. If the user is running the app, the software can provide him with appropriate location-based content, such as a welcome screen reminding him to save his parking spot. The app will show the visitor his location on a map of the parking lot, along with where the best parking spaces are, and enable him to use the "My Car" function to save that spot's location once he has parked.

The MediNav sensor fusion software in the app can then continue to detect other beacons installed in the facility as the visitor enters the building and navigates his way toward his appointment location. The system's Staff Filter enables patients to locate the office locations of employees working on campus or around the country.

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