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How Indoor mapping is going to change lives in 2019

Take a moment to think about everything that we’ve come to expect from our experiences outdoors. Our base expectations include things like efficient, intelligent navigation to our destinations and real-time location information about those journeys using apps like Waze. We expect to be able to order food at any time of day or night, then watch it travel from the restaurant to our house on our phones using various delivery apps with asset tracking.

people pointing at a screen and locating things on a map

Indoor mapping is going to get away better in 2019

With that in mind, it’s hard to believe the discrepancy in our expectations and experiences between the outdoor world and the interiors of the buildings where we spend the vast majority of our time. Our experiences inside of buildings barely scratch the surface of delivering on the expectations we have for the outside world. Location-aware technologies have gradually, yet drastically, removed friction from our experiences when moving from building to building, but as soon as you enter a large, complex building, the friction increases like moving from a water slide to a patch of sandpaper.

This experience is beginning to change though. In 2019, we’ll increasingly see the at-scale removal of friction from the indoor world as more large and complex buildings begin to incorporate location-aware technologies. Existing buildings are gradually being retrofitted and digitized in order to deliver on the Internet of Things (IoT) use cases that businesses are seeking, and yet more new buildings are being constructed with location-aware technologies and digital indoor maps from the initial ground-breaking to improve job site safety.

Smart buildings are already here!

Smart buildings are already here!

The rate at which buildings are becoming smarter varies dramatically depending on the industry you’re considering, and its own state of digital transformation and disruption. However, over the last few years I’ve seen industries such as healthcare, hospitality, retail, corporate campuses and transportation hubs take the first steps by implementing their use cases at proof of concept (POC) facilities. The key to implementing these IoT use cases that deliver significant business outcomes is having geospatially accurate digitized indoor maps. Organizations are now ready to move beyond their initial test sites and begin to digitize their indoor spaces enterprise-wide. For example, instead of the occasional hotel providing mobile indoor wayfinding apps, larger hoteliers will begin to roll out these solutions across thousands of facilities.

This will begin the process of fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and play indoors. The friction that we experience while journeying throughout indoor spaces will be increasingly removed from our daily lives, in the spaces where it matters.

Healthcare delivery at hospitals will be more efficient, with queue management and a seamless mobile journey from our home to our appointments which we have booked and checked into using our phones. Travel will become a more enjoyable experience as transportation hubs reduce congestion, streamlining passenger flow and improving wayfinding experiences throughout their facilities. Our trips to the mall with be less stressful as our parking is recorded and we are navigated along the most efficient paths to our destinations, and back to our cars, then home, seamlessly. Corporate campuses will reallocate resources to occupied sections of offices, and HVAC systems will be integrated to decrease energy consumption.

As we move through 2019, indoor mapping will increasingly become part of the norm of our daily lives, and the digital experiences it affords will become expected. You won’t necessarily know when you’re in a building with digitized indoor maps, but you will certainly begin to notice when you’re not. Indoor maps are instrumental to reshaping our experience of place.

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Here’s why 2019 is poised to be an exciting year for Geospatial analytics

In the last five years, we’ve witnessed many incredible advances in the geospatial analytics industry. With the ability to launch dozens of small satellites on a single rocket, the number of Earth-observing cameras in orbit has increased dramatically. At the same time, cloud computing and deep learning technologies have advanced such that it’s now practical to analyze petabytes of data in a timely fashion. This has given rise to numerous new applications for geospatial analytics, from flood detection to tracking oil inventories.
SAR image of Lake Houston during Tropical Storm Harvey

SAR image of Lake Houston during Tropical Storm Harvey

Yet even with all of these new developments, the ceiling for our industry remains high. We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the relevant use cases. For instance, outside of the typical finance and government sectors, we’re beginning to see increased interest in geospatial intelligence from other industries, such as insurance.

One of the factors powering this increase in use cases is the advent of data sources that utilize more of the electromagnetic spectrum than traditional visual imagery. For instance, we’re seeing satellites launch now that image using synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and satellites that can detect radio waves. These types of data present new challenges in analysis, as they require different kinds of algorithms to detect change and patterns. However, it’s also been interesting to see how many of the techniques we’ve developed for analyzing traditional EO imagery, such as deep learning, are also applicable to these new data sources. This is an area where we’ll continue to see development in the coming year.

Another trend that will gain momentum in 2019 is the use of GPUs to analyze non-imagery datasets. Historically, CPUs have been used for most computing needs, while GPUs have been reserved for tasks that require greater processing power, such as imagery analysis. But today, even non-imagery geospatial datasets are becoming quite massive, which means that you’ll start to see GPUs being used more and more outside of traditional computer vision tasks.

Overall, 2019 is poised to be an exciting year for geospatial analytics, with new applications being developed and advances being made in existing areas. In fact, this is a field with so much innovation on the horizon that it’s impossible to predict for certain what new technologies will evolve in the next twelve months—but it will undoubtedly be exciting to watch!

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