Startup Switches from GPS tracking to Smartphone Compass

By: Fatema Fatakdawala 

Think of an underground subway or your nearest Costco where GPS signals do not reach; for that matter, any large department store that may use an indoor-tracker for targeted marketing of their products to customers that are standing in front of them.

Indoor Atlas, a startup based in Finland, is using the concept of an old-school navigation tool – a magnetic compass which, ironically, has been used for decades outdoors – to track people indoors.

This technology is positioned as a mobile app in the growing market for indoor-trackers. Google Maps first launched an indoor “My Location” feature last November, partnering with airports, large retail stores and even museums to upload floor plans. Other competitors, such as Nokia and chip maker Broadcom, are in the process of developing their own technologies while Apple and Microsoft are following Google’s approach.

Essentially, the startup’s software works by analyzing the magnetic field inside a building and mapping any disturbances – i.e. people – within them through a  smartphone magnetometer. The company claims that this method pinpoints more accurately than current Wi-Fi or radio signals and does not require any special equipment. The difference was described as knowing a shopper is standing in front of the milk isle versus knowing they are in the cold foods section.

The startup has raised seed funding from the business accelerator KoppiCatch and are now reaching out to developers to help attract early customers. However, only time will tell whether they will stand up to or get acquired by giants such as Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Read more on Technology Review

Fatema joins the RIC team as the Communications Officer responsible for marketing, social media, event and web management. She is a graduate student pursuing her final year in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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