Indoor Positioning Using Camera And Image Recognition


20110708_2Story_pointCloud1Positioning technologies for outdoor location-based services are pretty straight forward. Cell-ID, WiFI, GPS. But this is not that easy when it comes to finding your way indoors. Although the topic has been around for a while and every university and larger tech-company is working on it there are no common standards yet. Google has been using WiFi. Apple focused on Bluetooth 4.0. Nokia together with In-location Alliance has been developing some kind of hybrid solution. And many other companies are proposing different kinds solutions mostly based on proximity or triangulation.

rick_backpack_hallBut it seems that there is another possibility… Researchers at the University California, Berkeley has developed a new method which uses a photo from a device’s camera to find the location and orientation of the device. The matching of the photo is performed against a database of panoramic imagery of a building’s interior, similar to Google’s Street View. So in fact the device recognizes the image in a database and the image has known location due to the capturing technology. The researchers are using technology similar to Google’s Trekker backpack to capture panoramic images and create a model of the building. Researchers says that during tests at the mall, they successfully matched more than 96 percent of images taken by a smartphone camera. When the matches were turned into location fixes, most came out with an error of less than a meter from the device’s true location.

ibeaconsThis method is clearly designed for solutions like Google Glass which lacks of GPS and WiFi sensors but it could be also used for augmented reality and indoor image geo-tagging for example by Facebook. The researchers claim that big advantage of the method is that it doesn’t require changing the environment in any way (placing Bluetooth iBeacons of WiFi routers). But from the other hand it requires the location to be Street Viewed which might be actually more expensive than setting up a few Bluetooth sensors. One thing is sure… The fact that recently Google started to capture indoor Street View suggests that the technology will find its way to mobile devices sooner than later.

Aleks Buczkowski
I'm a professional always thinking outside the box and a self-confessed gadget addict. As a son of a professor of cartography I was surrounded by maps all my life and as a result spatial way of thinking and seeing reality is naturally embedded in who I am.