What to Consider Before Implementing an Indoor Positioning System

What are some key performance indicators that must be taken into account?
Published: August 4, 2019

In today’s world, the real-time location systems (RTLS) market is expected to reach $8.79 billion by 2023. This implies that indoor positioning systems (IPS) are not a luxurious feature for indoor venues anymore—they have become a prerequisite for the success of innovative enterprises. This article discusses some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) venue operators have to take into account when evaluating an IPS platform. The factors here are by no means complete but are technology-agnostic and intended to highlight some of the challenges which may even appear after the initial deployment.

Technical Evaluation Metrics for a Successful Indoor Positioning System
While KPIs’ characteristics are driven by the specific use case, there are some criteria an operator’s selected solution should meet.

• Real-Time Accuracy: This is defined as the accuracy of a user’s location estimation when the device reaches a specific point. In addition to average accuracy, worse-case accuracy should also be considered and should be tied to the type of venue and physical scale. Sub-1-meter (3.3-foot) average accuracy may be meaningless if the worse 5 percent is at 50 meters (164 feet). For example, in a shopping center with typical store frontage of 6 meters (19.7 feet), 10-meter (33-foot) worse-case accuracy may be enough.

• Accuracy After Stabilization: This indicates the accuracy of a user’s location after that user has stopped moving around. The presented blue dot might continue to fluctuate within a small range of 1 to 2 meters (3.3 to 6.6 feet), but in order to ensure a good user experience, it should not be frantic.

• Location Update Frequency: The location should be updated, at minimum, each 500ms in order to deliver a smooth user experience and sufficient granularity to generate accurate analytics.

• Time to First Fix: This refers to the number of seconds the solution needs to reach a stable blue dot after launching the app. The mobile application is supposed to detect a user’s location without a noticeable delay (within a few seconds) for best navigation experience.

• Accuracy Standard Deviation: This indicates how consistent the solution is in its location estimations. The smaller the accuracy standard deviation, the more reliable the solution.

• Setup Time: This is defined as the amount of time the provider needs to install and configure the solution—most of the time, it does not include preparation time before the actual setup (e.g. the definition of routes on an indoor map). In some cases, deployment of additional hardware is required to enhance real-time accuracy.

• Floor Change Detection: The solution is supposed to detect when a user changes the floor by an elevator or escalator and should change the indoor map accordingly.

Beyond Technical
This section debates metrics that may be difficult to quantify but have a direct impact on the overall platform utility, success and return on investment of the IPS.

• Existing Infrastructure: The IPS ought to make use of the existing infrastructure. It opportunistically leverages inputs from multiple technologies, such as common consumer standards like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), but also solutions based on mobile network signals, magnetic fields and data from various embedded sensors within the smartphone. Areas with spotty coverage can be augmented with the radio technology that makes the most sense, including Wi-Fi and/or BLE beacons.

• Sustainable Solution: If operators do not want to concern themselves with the reliability of the solution after initial deployment, a managed service solution with zero IT overhead is the best choice for the fast-paced venues nowadays. For example, this should encompass periodic site surveys in order to ensure best-in-class accuracy with an accurate and stable blue dot over time—even long after initial system deployment.

• User Experience: A mobile app with an indoor wayfinding solution is based on a user-friendly, interactive map. Features such as multi-language support and turn-by-turn instructions with natural language (e.g. “Turn right at the shop XY”) enhance indoor navigation experience. Furthermore, automatic map rotation allows users to view the map that is adjusted with his rotation.

• Data Ownership: As awareness arises regarding data ownership, venue operators should take the responsibility for all users and select a solution by which they own all collected data and can determine how it is used.

• Monetization: Some providers offer location-based advertising and notifications by leveraging geo-fencing in order to monetize the IPS solution. With proximity detection, a notification is issued when a user’s device reaches a predefined area. Venue operators and other stakeholders are enabled to set up campaigns for personalized, targeted marketing, which is a new revenue opportunity.

• Feature Richness: With tracking solutions, operators have access to valuable location data. They can accurately define the whereabouts of both assets and personnel, as well as the duration and paths traversed in a particular area. In addition, indoor tracking allows operators to ensure utilization, and to prevent the misplacement of luxurious or critical tools or the wasting of time and resources looking for them. Above that, features such as Family & Friends Finder, Car Finder, Automated Attendance, Location-based Gaming and more are also available for higher engagement of end users.

Flora Kawohl is the product analyst at PenguinIN. She and her team focus on state-of-the-art trends and technologies in the indoor positioning and navigation market. They scrutinize how to leverage the impact of the Location of Things (LoT) to enhance overall indoor experiences and operational efficiency. Flora also advocates the R&D team regarding UX/UI. PenguinIN, with its headquarters in Irvine, offers indoor positioning system applications for various industries (e.g. health care, education, hospitality, transportation and entertainment). With its managed service, the company supports enterprises with digitally transforming their indoor venues into smarter buildings. Flora is open to discussions about the applications and impact of the LoT. For more information, contact her on LinkedIn or at f.kawohl@penguinin.com.