Recently, indoor location technologies have received a lot of attention in the mobile world, especially with Apple's acquisition of WiFiSLAM, Google's increasing support for indoor locations in Google Maps, and Microsoft's expansion of indoor maps in Bing and Ruckus Wireless' acquisition of Singapore-based indoor positioning specialist, YFind Technologies. A report by ABI Research notes that by 2018, over a billion new smartphones will use indoor location technology. In another study by MarketsandMarkets, it is estimated that the indoor location market will grow from about US$450 million this year to US$2.6 billion in 2018.
With location intelligence, companies are able to help customers go wherever they need to, make the network experience better, use location data to optimise their experience, and offer or provide information along the way.
Using Wi-Fi to determine location
Businesses from retail and hospitality to healthcare and education are increasingly looking to capitalise on the BYOD trend. New techniques to improve location accuracy are emerging, and new location service models are being built.
Today, Wi-Fi supports several location approaches, with signal strength localisation based on signal strength (using multiple received signal measurements to calculate the source's location) and RF fingerprinting (collecting on-site RF data to map signal measurements to locations) being the most common. Focus on location was initially concentrated on asset tracking or locating clients and rogue APs.
With mobile devices as the catalyst, a more user- and consumer-centric approach to location is taking form, where businesses seek to benefit indirectly by adding value to their customers, guests, or end-users. The breadth of appeal for mobile and the increasing use of Wi-Fi also enable businesses to justify the cost of application development (and the Wi-Fi network itself), because suddenly Wi-Fi is tied to revenue instead of expenses.
Beyond the infrastructure: data is king
Naturally, a lot of focus has been on retail, where location and analytics are wed. As we're already seeing, many solutions focus on higher-level analytics to evaluate customer traffic trends, capture rates, return rates, etc. But with more information, retail centres can optimise stores based on typical customer traffic paths, or venue owners can charge more for premium storefront or high-view ad spots.
Verticals such as hospitality also have elements of retail (bar, restaurant, spa/massage services). They have navigation challenges (where is the conference room, bar, my child, pool, fitness area, etc.), where a site mapping/navigation app could be helpful.
Then there's the huge premium on customer service, where location services could be tied to customer service systems-personalised greetings for loyalty members, quicker in-app check-in on arrival, and many other ways to pamper guests with location-specific customer service enhancements.
And the wheels are spinning in other industries, like transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, stadiums, and other venues. Expect Wi-Fi to provide much more than Internet access; as the trend matures, users will begin looking for site/venue-specific apps on arrival.
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