WWDC 2017: Apple invests more resources in Indoor Maps and AR. What does it mean for our industry?

Apple made some interesting announcements yesterday at their annual WWDC 2017 event.

Among those, we picked up on two particular topics:

  • Indoor maps (for malls and airports)
  • Augmented Reality kit (for developers to enhance their apps with AR)

We are very happy to hear this news as it bears benefits to the industry (and not so much for some companies who (unlike us) rely on using the corelocation tech provided by Apple – who could potentially eat into their business…)

So what does it mean for the industry?

Validation.

We see the adoption of indoor location technologies a little similar to where WiFi was about 15 years ago. Slow at first, people questioning the benefits and cons and eventually becoming an unavoidable must.

Indeed, the emergence of maps and technologies that rely on location, such as Uber, Google Maps, Tinder…. Have changed the way people live their lives. Hence we are excited that other companies are now taking it serious to bring this same benefit into the indoor experience like us.

Typically, you need maps to display content so that users can consume and interact with the environment of sorts. At Pointr we can work with numerous map providers, and Apple can be one of them. What we do differently thought is the core positioning engine, AKA “our signature indoor positioning engine”. That is what we have been focusing on since day one and in addition to that we’ve been growing our portfolio to include things such dynamic wayfinding, location based engagement and machine learning based location analytics. The difference in Apple investing in this space is they are still limited to only being a single platform (iOS) and have the potential to scare off customers with their closed environment/ownership structure of the maps. On the other hand, our delivery is multiplatform and the maps we design can collaborate with those of Apple’s to give each client exactly what they need.

Moreover, AR and VR have been super hot in the press recently. For example, our recent release with Gatwick Airport. With such toolkits (Facebook and Google also have similar products), we will see more and more applications emerge. It’s unclear whether we would use their kit (as we develop everything multiplatform for native mobile platforms in-house), we are still happy to see such developments
Overall, with Apple offering more indoor support (several years after Google, we have to note), we believe more and more applications will thrive and this space is about to change radically.

Increased Adoption.

So, why do good restaurants choose to place themselves closer to other good restaurants? Because that’s where the traffic is. It’s a snowball effect, two restaurants become three, four and the next thing you know it that place becomes the go-to location for dining.

We see Apple investing in this space as a great way of educating the retailers, airports and hundreds of other types of venues on the importance of indoor location. With this, more and more companies will be looking to adopt indoor maps and the benefits it brings. A definite plus for everyone.

A stressful day for some, but not for us.

Luckily we have been building our own location engine and that’s the core of our business. Hence, this announcement is actually quite positive as we can collaborate with their existing maps and even provide Apple with a superior positioning system and experience.

However, companies whose business were to deliver custom made maps and use Apple’s Core Location tech are now in a bit of a pickle as their USP won’t be that strong and eventually will cease to exist.

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Stay tuned for more of our blog posts and please do get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss indoor location opportunities with us.

Team Pointr

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Gatwick Airport is now Pointr Enabled

PRESS RELEASE

Gatwick installs 2000 indoor navigation beacons enabling augmented reality wayfinding – a world first for an airport.

4/05/2017

  • New technology forms part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion transformation programme
  • System to make it easier for passengers to find their way around the airport and avoid missing flights
  • Battery powered beacons reduced costs and complexity and were deployed in just three weeks

Around 2000 beacons have been installed across Gatwick Airport’s two terminals providing an indoor navigation system that is much more reliable than GPS and that enables augmented reality wayfinding for passengers – a world first for an airport.

The lack of satellite signals makes road-based navigation systems – such as Google or Apple maps – unreliable indoors, so Gatwick has deployed a beacon based positioning system to enable reliable ‘blue dot’ on indoor maps, which in time can be used within a range of mobile airport, airline or third party apps.

The beacon system also enables an augmented reality wayfinding tool – so passengers can be shown directions in the camera view of their mobile device – making it easier for passengers to locate check in areas, departure gates, baggage belts etc.

The new navigation technology is currently being integrated into some of the Gatwick apps and the airport is also in discussion with airlines to enable the indoor positioning and wayfinding tools to also feature on their app services.

No personal data will be collected by Gatwick although generic information on ‘people densities’ in different beacon zones may help to improve airport operations including  queue measurement, streamlining passenger flows and reducing congestion.

Airlines could go further – and with the consent of their passengers – may send reminders on their airline app to late running passengers, for example, or find out where they are and make an informed decision on whether to wait or offload their luggage so the aircraft can take off on time.

Retailers and other third parties may also use the beacon system to detect proximity and send relevant offers or promotional messages, if the passenger has chosen to receive them.

Battery powered beacons kept logistical complexity and costs low, with deployment taking just three weeks, followed by two months of testing and calibration.

The new technology is part of Gatwick’s £2.5 billion investment programme to transform the airport.

Abhi Chacko, Head of IT Commercial & Innovation, Gatwick Airport, said:

“By providing the infrastructure we’re opening the door for a wide range of tech savvy airport providers, including our airlines and retailers, to launch new real-time services that can help passengers find their way around the airport, avoid missing flights or receive timely offers that might save them money.

“We are proud to be the first airport to deploy augmented reality technology and we hope that our adoption of this facility influences other airports and transport providers so that it eventually becomes the norm.”  

The end to end “indoor blue dot” service is managed by PointrLabs.

Axel Katalan, CMO at PointrLabs said:

“As an ACI member advising on beacon installations around the world and as a company who have been involved in various airport projects from Asia to US, we are pleased to announce that Gatwick Airport will be the first airport with an end-to-end working system with incredible accuracy both in terms of blue-dot location and orientation.

“Our SDK enables battery-optimised, multiplatform and high performance positioning and other features such as 3D wayfinding through AR and on-screen translation, all of which are now available to be used by Gatwick and their partners as simple as drag & drop.”

Notes

The tech stack comes with an indoor map which shows up to date content, positioning with +/-3m accuracy, and navigation technology that is dynamic and recognises, for example, areas currently under construction, or multi floor navigation including when taking lifts, proximity to retailers etc. App developers have to just use the beacon registry or PointrLabs SDK in their app to enable these features.

About London Gatwick

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the most efficient single-runway airport in the world. It serves more than 228 destinations in 74 countries for 44 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services. It is also a major economic driver for the UK contributing £5.3 billion to national GDP and generating 85,000 jobs nationally, with around 24,000 on the wider airport campus alone. The airport is south of Central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network. Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.

 

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