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Smart spaces: developing indoor geolocation technology

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The UOC will co-organize the world's leading conference in this field next October 2021 (Foto: Victor Xok / unsplash.com)

08/01/2021
Agustn Lpez
The researchers say that there are apps that offer positioning with margins of error of just a few centimetres

An app that can guide us through a hospital until we find the doctor's office, show us personalized information when we are looking at a particular painting in a museum, or help us find the best exit from a burning building. These are just some of the solutions that indoor positioning and navigation systems can offer our society. Even so, there is still no technology that is cheap and accurate enough for the consumer market. To drive research forward in this field and address the challenges in developing the technology, the Internet Computing & Systems Optimization (ICSO) group, affiliated with the UOC's Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), has joined the Delimited Indoor and Outdoor Positioning and Navigation Network (REPNIN+). This network of excellence's goal is to integrate the research and transfer work carried out in Spain in the field of so-called smart spaces. One of the results of this collaboration has been the publication of the first white paper on the state of the art of this technology. In addition, in partnership with Universitat Jaume I, the UOC's ICSO group will organize the 11th International Conference on Indoor Positioning and Indoor Navigation (IPIN) from 4 to 7 October 2021 in Barcelona.

During the last decade, there has been significant growth in the availability of technological solutions for indoor positioning, which have become increasingly accurate. "The primary goal of this discipline is to apply indoors a technology that we have become used to using outdoors. In fact, there are apps that can pinpoint positions to the nearest metre or less, or even to a few centimetres," explained Antoni Prez-Navarro, professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications and the ICSO group researcher who is coordinating the UOC's participation in REPNIN+.

In spite of this progress, there are still no complete solutions that are capable of meeting society's challenges in different areas such as tourism, rescue searches, congresses or medicine. "The high-accuracy apps require a purpose-made installation that demands a significant initial capital investment. Other systems offer accuracies to several metres or they only tell you which room you are in inside a building. However, these differences show where the problem lies: unlike the GNSS systems (the global positioning satellite systems such as GPS, GLONASS or GALILEO), there is no indoor positioning standard," Prez-Navarro highlighted. 

 

Entry point for indoor positioning systems

Given the challenges in researching and implementing this technology, the REPNIN+ network has drafted the "White Paper on Smart Spaces and Indoor Positioning and Navigation Technologies". "This document explains the state of the art of this discipline in general, and in Spain in particular: the technologies currently existing, the technologies that offer the best future potential, the technological developments that are needed, possible obstacles for effective implementation, and their potential socioeconomic impact," said Prez-Navarro.

The document provides a gateway to these technologies for the different profiles that may be interested in them: companies and services that may need them, organizations that want to foster policies for their use, researchers or potential developers who looking for ways to integrate this type of solution for indoor environments, and even ordinary people who are interested in finding out more about this field of knowledge.

 

IPIN Conference: research and competition 

From 4 to 7 October 2021 there will be a unique opportunity to discover the latest developments in indoor positioning and navigation research, as Barcelona will be hosting the leading international event in this field. "The IPIN conference will not only showcase the current state of the art of this type of technology through lectures and posters. It will also include a competition to highlight the best progress made by different research groups around the world," explained Prez-Navarro. The research is co-chairing the conference, organized by the UOC in partnership with Universitat Jaume I and which includes two Spanish chapters of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) among its sponsors.

Within this initiative, the different proposals will be evaluated empirically to establish a systematic assessment methodology. Thus, there will be competitions in different areas: on-vehicle smart sensors (which may be a robot, an industrial vehicle or even a car), in which the performance of different navigation solutions will be assessed; different positioning solutions based on smartphone signals while a person walks around a building; or even in industrial environments, where competitors are asked to project worker and forklift truck routes, for example. Anyone interested in taking part should send their contributions by 31 March 2021.

 

REPNIN+ network

In addition to the white paper, the REPNIN+ network has undertaken a number of initiatives such as sponsoring the prize for the best final project or doctoral thesis in indoor positioning, organizing workshops and supporting research stays. REPNIN+, the continuation of REPNIN, is led by the University of Alcal de Henares' GEINTRA group and, in addition to the UOC's ICSO group, it also includes the Spanish Scientific Research Council's LOPSI group, the Galician Research and Development Center in Advanced Telecommunications (GRADIANT), the DeustoTech research institute, the Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona's SPCOMNAV group, the University of Extremadura's GISS group, the University of Granada, the Universitat Jaume I's GIANT and GEOTECH groups, and the University of Murcia's MOVI group.

This UOC research supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 on sustainable cities and communities.

 

References

Renaudin, V., Ortiz, M., Perul, J., Torres-Sospedra, J., Jimenez, A. R., Perez-Navarro, A., … Park, Y. (2019). Evaluating Indoor Positioning Systems in a Shopping Mall: The Lessons Learned from the IPIN 2018 Competition. IEEE Access, 1–1. https://doi.org/10.1109/ACCESS.2019.2944389

Conesa, J., Prez-Navarro, A., Torres-Sospedra, J., & Montoliu, R. (2019). Geographical and Fingerprinting Data to Create Systems for Indoor Positioning and Indoor/Outdoor Navigation. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2016-0-04606-5

 

UOC R&I

The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) are helping 21st-century global societies to overcome pressing challenges by studying the interactions between ICT and human activity, with a specific focus on e-learning and e-health. Over 400 researchers and 50 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information:research.uoc.edu#UOC25years

#UOCexperts

Photograph of Antoni Prez Navarro

Antoni Prez Navarro

Expert in: Physics, physics and science fiction, e-learning, geographic information systems, context-aware recommender systems, and location-based systems.

Knowledge area: Physics, electromagnetism, geographic information systems and indoor positioning.

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Photograph of Jordi Conesa Caralt

Jordi Conesa Caralt

Expert in: E-learning, business intelligence, conceptual modelling and NoSQL databases.

Knowledge area: Databases, business intelligence and conceptual modelling.

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