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Incrediscope – a smart indoor navigation system

 

I'm sure that it happened to you many times. You are in a big building, like a hospital, university, or office, looking for that one room with number X. Finding your way from the entrance to your destination requires a lot of skill, asking around, and simply …getting lost.

The most common indoor navigation method uses static plans, boards, or signs, which are often poorly visible and challenging to find. Furthermore, they don't take into account that our destination or route may just change. This problem becomes exponentially large with the size of the building and its diverse use. That is why we created Incrediscope – a navigation system that will solve all these problems.

 

The most modern method of indoor navigation is using interactive maps in smartphones. Such solutions will position the person using a GSM signal, triangulation of Wi-Fi/Bluetooth signal, or a dedicated beacon. The undeniable advantage of this method is interactivity and the ease of modification of presented information. However, there are also some drawbacks. The main disadvantage is the accuracy of user positioning. Another inconvenience may be that when using a smartphone, we have to carry it in one hand, and we have to look at its screen frequently to make sure that we are still on the right track. That is why we decided to eliminate the nuisance and create a system that will fully meet users' needs.

The partnership that will make a change

In 2018, we decided to join forces to create Incrediscope. The aim was to develop a worldwide innovative indoor navigation system.  In cooperation with Visionect, a leading designer and creator of energy-saving solutions with e-paper displays, we have created a prototype of a system that will change the way of delivering information in public spaces.  Everything in line with the idea of Place&Play – products with a unique design that are easy to install and use. The Incrediscope project is co-financed by the National Center of Research and Development under the EUREKA program.

Your personal guide

The Incrediscope is an energy-saving, wireless, intuitive indoor navigation system that meets each user's individual expectations.  Thanks to autonomous e-paper displays installed at the intersections of communication routes and in strategic points of the building, it is possible. Elements of the system recognize people approaching them and provide individual instructions of further movement. Moreover, installing Incrediscope does not require any additional investments – the administrator needs to provide only a simplified map of the building.

 

Technology

Incrediscope consists of a certain number of devices that present personalized navigation instructions from the user's perspective. They should be shown on the display when the user gets the crucial point with the navigation display. The main task of the system is to detect the proximity and to identify the user.

Among the technologies available on the market, we decided to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It is available in every modern smartphone, so quite common, and thanks to its small range, it is ideal for proximity detection.

Main assumptions

While working on the Incrediscope project, we have made several key assumptions. The navigation system operates following the 7 seconds' rule. During this time, the user – thanks to the appropriate information – should quickly orientate in the space. Otherwise, due to prolonged disorientation, the person may feel stress and discomfort.

When designing the mobile application, the focus was on making it as simple as possible—the symbols used on e-paper displays needed to be legible and easy to understand. The characters we decided to use are in line with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and are common in public spaces. This makes them easily recognizable and user-friendly.

Another adopted assumption was that the change of movement direction should take place at an angle of 90 degrees because it makes orientation in space easier.

However, to quickly move around the building, the user must see the display's symbols well from a certain distance. When designing the system, it was assumed that instructions should be visible from a distance of 10m and be understandable and interpretable from a distance of 5m, which corresponds to 3-5 seconds of walking towards the display.

It is also worth adding that each user is assigned a number associated with the "first meeting" with the system. This approach ensures the complete security of personal data.

BEFORE

AFTER

Software

During the project, we have prepared three different prototype software components:

  • An application designed for mobile devices (for system users; versions for Android and iOS);
  • Software for e-paper displays that are parts of the system;
  • An application for the system administrator.

From the administrator's point of view, indoor navigation has been described using a map of relations between displays and destinations presented in the graphical administrator interface. It also allows you to create connections between displays and goals in each building.

Development possibilities

The realizes project has developmental nature. The adopted assumptions and the prototype concept and software solutions are the starting points for further research and development of indoor navigation systems. Conducting tests in more extensive facilities, with the participation of a bigger number of users and modules, may show the necessity to improve the system's functionality and its reliability.

 Case Study