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Inside: Indoor Positioning Solution Uses Six Technologies, But Some are a Secret

Monday, March 31st 2014
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Shopcloud’s new indoor positioning system, Inside, uses “amazing new technology [that] will blow your mind.” The smartphone solution is “easy to implement, doesn’t require any hardware, is free for end users, and most critically is far more accurate than other solutions.”

On February 4 of this year Shopcloud announced its new indoor positioning system, Inside, had moved into beta. The solution uses “amazing new technology [that] will blow your mind.” The smartphone solution is “easy to implement, doesn’t require any hardware, is free for end users, and most critically is far more accurate than other solutions.” Directions Magazine interviewed Gil Devora, the CEO and one of the co-founders of Shopcloud, to attempt to learn how it works.

Directions Magazine(DM): Inside uses six existing technologies already inside cell phones to perform positioning. Apparently, you only publicly discuss two of them. Tell us about the two you can talk about. What are they and how do they work?

Gil Devora (GD): Initially, when the app is turned on or brought back from background mode, we use the mobile device cameras, with patent-pending computer vision algorithms, to position the user precisely. Once this has been completed, the gyro, accelerometer, and magnetometer are employed using proprietary algorithms to track the user’s movement. We do not use the algorithms that come built-in with current generation smartphones.

As mentioned, we employ four other methods and algorithms, which are defined as trade secrets and are not revealed at this point. We can only say that everything happens on the device itself - once the local map and data have been downloaded from our servers, navigation works perfectly, even in flight mode.

Figure 1: Using a prototype of Inside in a mall

DM: Do all phones currently have the needed sensors for this solution to work? Or is this only available for high-end smartphones?

GD: It’ll work with most modern smartphones. This technology will work on iPhone 4 and above and all Android smartphones that support Jelly Bean and above.

DM: The solution, as you note above, uses a camera and computer vision algorithms for location determination. Doesn’t using a camera, even every few seconds, eat up battery life?

GD: In terms of battery consumption, all the sensors we use in the process are already in use by the operating system. What we do is use our algorithms to process the sensors’ outputs in a more efficient way, thus lowering the processing power and taking much less battery life than other applications normally use.

For example, the camera is turned on only when the repositioning is necessary. The repositioning process is less resource-consuming since we can limit the search criteria using our highly accurate tracking system that is already in the process.

DM: We understand the solution, at least in part, as a kind of a visual version of sensing local electromagnetic fields. So, if you can map the visual version in 3D very well, you could use that as a reference map. Then, when the user turns on the app and the camera takes a “snapshot” of the local visual situation, analytics can find that place on the map and thus know where the person is. Are we on the right track? Mike Liebhold talked about this sort of ideain 2010 for use outdoors.

GD: You are on the right track.

DM: You talk about a personal fingerprint of how people move through space and how the system “learns” about their movements. How does that help with navigation?

GD: This is one of our trade secrets and we prefer not to discuss further details for now.

DM: The solution is free for end users and for the venues that use it. It sounds like the business model is evolving. Might venues (malls) or their tenants (stores) pay to do the location-based marketing possible with such a system?

GD: Our vision is enabling indoor navigation to people wherever they go. This is why we offer our solution to the venue owners (including malls) and the end users for free. In the future, we will enable retailers to upload content that can benefit the user when navigating indoors. Some of the advanced content features in our hyper location-based services suite will be available to retailers via payment plans.

DM: Per your marketing materials, mapping of venues can be done in hours. That might be done using a series of sensors (the same ones the phone will use) AND some other locating information or technology (perhaps the floor plan). But the plan is not to update these, rather to have users crowdsource changes. How far along are plans for that aspect of the solution?

GD: This is one of our trade secrets and we prefer not to discuss further details for now.

Figure 2: Conceptualization of the Inside User Interface


DM: What’s the big green dot in the user interface graphic above?

GD: First, we would like to emphasize that the UI in these pictures is just a concept we created for the demo. The big green dot is our “Power Button” - which enables quick, one-click shortcuts for navigating to key POIs. We strive to offer our users the most friendly and intuitive experience. We will unveil the first official version of our UI when our beta app goes public inMarch.

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