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Get Ready for IPS – Indoor Positioning Systems

May 7, 2012

Our work in the mobile app space has introduced us to an emerging technology that will do for indoor navigation experiences what GPS has done to help us get around outdoors.

Who would not be fired up about the prospect of an indoor GPS to help you get around malls, large retail stores, airports, museums, or trade shows?   We thought we’d pass along the very latest on what’s right around the corner.  Consumers and savvy New Market Entrepreneurs will find reason to celebrate…

For help in defining IPS we turn to Wikipedia,

“An indoor positioning system (IPS) is a term used for a network of devices used to wirelessly locate objects or people inside a building. Instead of using satellites, an IPS relies on nearby anchors (nodes with a known position), which either actively locate tags or provide environmental context for devices to sense.”

In our opinion, IPS is well-positioned to be a next hot space for mobile.  No surprise the world’s tech powerhouses are going after it.  And  the patent wars have followed suit. Google is out front, integrating IPS into  Google Maps  for Android.  Microsoft and Nokia are also in the game.   Here’s are some helpful excerpts from a recent piece on IPS, and in particular some G2 on an interesting independent that’s making progress:

From hospital management, to navigating foreign airports and university campuses, the variety of potential applications for this type of technology is vast, which is exactly why large companies like Google and different startups are jumping into the space. Unlike GPS however, each competitor in the space uses different technologies to set an IPS network up, some using Bluetooth, while others go with hardware installations within venues.

Wifarer, a Victoria, B.C.-born and San Jose-based startup is looking to become the de facto IPS provider to indoor venues and spaces. One of its key competitive advantages is ease of installation, which leverages the existing Wi-Fi networks in venues to determine a person’s location within them. The process requires no hardware setup, only a few employees with laptops walking around the building mapping it out using their proprietary technology. For consumers, the company provides an app to help navigate venues. Bootstrapped since its debut in 2010, the company has signed up 13 airports in North America, two major mall shopping chains and the Royal British Columbia Museum, with the goal of increasing this customer count to over 100 by year-end.

Wifarer believes it holds one key advantage that none of the tech giants offer.

“Wifarer is essentially a private version of Google for a venue that is customized for the venue and controlled by the venue. In a nutshell, the difference between Wifarer and Google is that we let venues control the content, monetization and branding of their digital space, while Google does not.” said Lise Murphy, VP of Marketing at Wifarer. This competitive edge will allow venues to generate revenue from their IPS systems by controlling the content that a user sees when they look at the map. Think about digital signage, and the creation of a new stream of advertising revenue for venues.

While control over the content is a better value proposition for venues, Wifarer’s challenge will be in the distribution of the app to consumers. With Google maps preloaded onto every iPhone and Android sold, every consumer with these smartphones will already have access to Google’s IPS service. Wifarer must convince consumers that their application is more useful, and to do this they will have to scale very quickly, as the app may only be useful in a limited amount of venues for some time.   -read more-

Imagine the prospect of not having to hunt down the elusive store clerk in Home Depot on a busy Saturday morning to find that needle-in-the-haystack item on your honey-do list!   It will be interesting to see how this shakes out over the next year.  LaunchPad is in active development of an app that has the opportunity to leverage IPS, so we’ll keep you posted.   Let us know if you know of any other independents worth checking out.

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