Indoor Location Based Services (LBS): Bigger than GPS

4 July 2017

Aamir Cheema

Dr Muhammad Aamir Cheema, Senior Lecturer, Clayton School of Information Technology, Monash University, Melbourne has been working on indoor Location Based Services (LBS) that can enable advertisers, retailers, event organisers and emergency services determine how long we spend doing things indoors, in shopping centres, workplaces and other indoor venues and target their products and services accordingly. Dr Cheema says LBS is going to be bigger than GPS.

Indoor Location Based Services (LBSs) are expected to have a bigger impact on our society than GPS or outdoor maps because indoors is where we spend our time and money, conduct business and meet friends.  Some example of indoor LBSs include indoor navigation, emergency services, in-store advertising, shopping assistance, guided tours, indoor asset tracking, event management and foot traffic monitoring.

Realising the potential of indoor LBSs, major technology companies, government and research organizations and start-ups are investing heavily in indoor technology.

For example, the US Federal Communications Commission is exploring indoor positioning for more timely and effective emergency services.

In October 2014, Apple allowed businesses to use its indoor location capabilities – but the service was soon completely overwhelmed by pent-up demand, forcing Apple to limit it to venues with over 1 million visitors a year. Based on such reports of its immense popularity, Forbes reported that indoor venues are the next frontier for LBSs and indoor LBSs are expected to have an even bigger impact than their outdoor counterparts.

Dr Cheema’s research focuses on enabling indoor LBS for any indoor venue. This consists of two major aspects: 1) the techniques to accurately identify a user’s location within an indoor venue with minimum manual overheads and without the need to install specialized hardware (i.e., relying on already existing WiFi access points in almost all buildings) and 2) the techniques to represent and efficiently manage the indoor data.

Dr Cheema helped an industry partner to monitor foot traffic in indoor venues. Just as a user’s web browsing history (e.g., clickstream) in an online world provides insights about the user, footsteps (e.g., trajectory) give insights about them in the physical world which may be very valuable for users, advertisers and venue owners.

For example, a supermarket may use the indoor trajectories to analyse how customers flow through the indoor venues and its effect on the business. Or a store owner may send promotions to a user who frequently passes by (or visits) the store.

Google reports that 84% of smartphone-equipped shoppers use their mobiles to assist them in-store. Another survey indicates that 73% of the shoppers reported that offers sent to their smartphones when they were in-store increased their likelihood to purchase and 30% of shoppers redeemed such offers. Hence, it is important to provide users with personalized information when they are in or close to a relevant indoor venue/product.

Dr. Cheema is a Senior Lecturer at Monash University. He is the recipient of 2012 Malcolm Chaikin Prize for Research Excellence in Engineering, 2013 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, and 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research by an Early Career Researcher. His research has won many awards including best paper awards at ADC 2010 and WISE 2014, one-of-the-best papers at ICDE 2010 and ICDE 2012 (top-tier conference), and CiSRA Best Research Paper of the year awards for years 2009 and 2010. He chaired the 8th ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on Indoor Spatial Awareness 2016 in California and gave a tutorial on indoor data management at ICDE 2016.

This research into LBS is sure to be the next frontier for customer focused organisations seeking to target and capture their buying audience adding to the indoor buying experience.

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Information Technology; Research