Finnish company IndoorAtlas offers something that sounds almost too good to be true: accurate indoor mapping without the installation of hardware. In addition, its approach can be accomplished very quickly -- even crowdsourced.
The company, founded in Finland with offices in Mountain View, has been around for several years but has had some difficulty convincing people that its approach to indoor location and mapping actually works. One reason is that, unlike Bluetooth Beacons, nobody else is promoting this approach to indoor location.
People are thus largely unfamiliar with it and how it works. Some people who learn of IndoorAtlas' "magnetic positioning" argue that all the building materials (i.e., steel, concrete) must distort magnetic fields inside structures. However this is precisely what IndoorAtlas says it relies upon: structural elements that give each building or indoor area a unique "magnetic fingerprint."
This weekend the NY Times offered a brief overview of the company and its approach. We've been writing a report on the company's technology, which will be out shortly. IndoorAtlas will also be attending and presenting at our upcoming Place Conference in New York on July 22.
We are among a small handful of individuals who've actually seen the technology working live in a store environment. About a month ago we got an in-store demonstration in a major retail store. Throughout the demo and our tour of the store the IndoorAtlas app accurately maintained our real-time location (exactly or within a couple of feet) as we moved throughout the store.
It was consistently accurate. While this was an isolated situation -- though it wasn't controlled; it was a real "big box" retailer -- we have no reason to believe that it wouldn't perform the same way in other indoor environments.
As we've argued in the past no single indoor location technology is perfect or complete. Multiple technologies will need to be combined to do the different types of things that retailers and venue owners seek to accomplish with indoor location (analytics, marketing). For example, RetailNext combines video, Wi-Fi and increasingly beacons in its analytics solution.
But the impressive and relatively amazing thing (hence the skepticism) that IndoorAltlas does is deliver indoor-location accuracy without the installation of any hardware whatsoever.