Blog series Pt 2: What is Indoor Wayfinding?

Part 2: What is Indoor Wayfinding?

In part 1 of our blogseries, we answered the question: What is Indoor Positioning? Indoor Positioning can determine a user’s location in a complex building, allowing personalized features. From context-based push notifications to a personalized shopping experience. Indoor Positioning can be realized through different techniques. When choosing a specific technique — such as WiFi or beacons — a distinction must be made between location accuracy and budget.

In this second part of our three-part blogseries, we take a look at Indoor Wayfinding. What is Indoor Wayfinding? How does it work? And what factors play a part when choosing for this functionality? You read it below.

Indoor Wayfinding

Indoor Wayfinding is a much broader concept than Indoor Positioning. You can already tell from the name itself: Indoor Wayfinding helps users find their way in a building. When talking about Indoor Wayfinding, many people think of a blue line on a map. Yet, Indoor Wayfinding can be shown to users in many different ways. An arrow indicating the right direction is also considered as Indoor Wayfinding. As well as a list of steps how to get from point A to B. Is Indoor Wayfinding the same as Indoor Positioning? No, Indoor Wayfinding can be used with or without Indoor Positioning.

Indoor Wayfinding at the World Fashion Centre in Amsterdam

Indoor Wayfinding without Positioning

It is possible to implement Indoor Wayfinding without using Indoor Positioning. In this case, you can think of the traditional paper maps. You are able to draw a line from point to point, but you still have to select your own starting point. This has both advantages and disadvantages. Implementing Indoor Wayfinding without Positioning requires a smaller budget, as you don’t have to invest in the techniques we discussed in our first blog. However, these techniques offer many features. A frequently named disadvantage of Wayfinding without Positioning is that the app has no insight into a user’s location. In this way, the user can not be warned when he is heading into the wrong direction. Also, the app won’t be able to give a real-time indication of the time to destination. Are you choosing for Indoor Wayfinding without Positioning? Then you should tackle these issues through a good visual support of the app.

Indoor Wayfinding can be displayed in several ways. For Dubai Airports we’ve implemented a classic example: a blue line on a map. Users of the Dubai Airports app can manually select a starting and endpoint. Next, the app will show a route that is displayed on an interactive 3D-map. In order to work properly, it is important that the user can easily see where he is in the building. Therefore, physicals tools such as signs and meeting points should be easily found in the app as well. Only then, you can enrich the traveler’s experience.

We’ve implemented another example of Indoor Wayfinding at the AMC Hospital and the World Fashion Centre in Amsterdam. Not by using a blue line on a map, but through photo navigation. Also in this example, users of the app can select a starting and endpoint. Next, the app shows them step-by-step photos of the direction they need to go — such as a staircase or a door. The use of photo navigation for Wayfinding is experienced as very user-friendly, as the user has a good visual recognition of his environment. This makes it a good solution when there is no Indoor Positioning implemented. If you want to maintain the pros of this method, it’s necessary to keep the photos up-to-date. If something changes in the building — like the opening of a new store — a new photo must be taken and uploaded to the app. For this reason you should take into account the maintenance costs.

A third example of Indoor Wayfinding displays a list of steps that explain how to get from one point to another. Users get a clear view of the route, but can hardly place themselves in the context of the building. This sounds like a basic solution, but is also the cheapest solution.

Different types of Indoor Wayfinding without Positioning

How does Indoor Wayfinding without Indoor Positioning?

A first step when implementing Indoor Wayfinding without Positioning is mapping out the building. This includes all possible hallways and floors where users of the app can come. From this point on, the implementation will vary by method.

When using maps as Wayfinding solution, a smart system will calculate all possible routes and then translate them to a digital map. Next, a user’s device can retrieve this information and provide the user with his route.

When using photos, a photo must be taken of all relevant doors, stairs and hallways. Unlike the use of maps, the photos are often downloaded with the app. This method can thus be used without an internet connection. The same goes for the use of lists.

Is one Indoor Wayfinding method better than the other?

We gave multiple examples of Indoor Wayfinding (without Positioning), each with their own pros and cons. Is one method better than the other? No, each case is unique. It will depend on the end user and the building itself. Is a building very complex, with many different hallways and doors? Then the use of photos may be a good outcome. Yet, the budget and end user’s wishes play a big part.

The examples in this blog do not use Indoor Positioning. The possibilities are thereby limited. In our third blog, we look at the possibilities of Indoor Wayfinding when Indoor Positioning has been implemented.

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