Big in Japan! Geomagnetic indoor positioning

March 02, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Leveraging smartphones' built-in magnetometers, Finnish startup IndoorAtlas promises meter-accurate indoor positioning through its cloud-based geomagnetic mapping services.

The company was founded in 2012 but is already gaining traction in Asia, most notably with a $10 million A investment from China's top search company Baidu (back in 2014) for exclusive access to their technology in China, but also in 2015 by signing a $3 million partnership with Korean commerce service platforms provider SK Planet, and now signing a brand new contract with Japan's leading internet portal, Yahoo! Japan.

EETimes Europe caught up with Daniel Patton, IndoorAtlas' Chief Commercial Officer to learn more about the company's technology and strategy for Europe.

"The technology is simple", explains Patton, "modern buildings all have a unique magnetic signature". The building's structure and materials interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and that yields a unique magnetic map for each floor, which once recorded and stored in the cloud, can be used to accurately pinpoint and track a person’s location indoors. Today's magnetometers are sensitive enough to make this work.


A building's magnetic fingerprint as exploited by IndoorAtlas' tools.

Patton is keen to emphasize that the data is very stable over time (unlike RF signals from WiFi hotspots or Bluetooth beacons), and that no other indoor positioning technology can scale so easily, simply because it is a software-only solution, with no hardware infrastructure to deploy and maintain. It is also easy to scale across millions of users.

For a subscription fee, IndoorAtlas' Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) delivers all what developers need to design in-building geolocation mapping services and to map new locations, if need be.

Say you want to map a large train station with multiple levels and hundreds of corridors, it may take two days for a person to walk through its mazes, starting from a known anchor point and validating the collected geomagnetic data at key anchor points.