World's first university with indoor navigation app
(31.08.2011) Imagine a navigation system that works where GPS signals don't. With its new "Campus Guide", the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is now the first university in the world where you can navigate from inside a building using a mobile phone.
Both students and visitors often get lost on the university's Gløshaugen campus, which at 350,000 m2 is the size of a small town. But now, a beta version of the university's innovative "Campus Guide" will show people where to go and how to get there. The service will go live on 31 August and will be available free for iPhone and Android users, and on the Web.
These types of indoor location-based services are expected to command a large market globally, because of the rapid spread of smart phones and wireless networks.
Find your way indoors, too
What's special about this new advanced app is that it serves as a guide both outside and in. The system can locate your indoor position with an accuracy of up to 5-10 metres using NTNU's well-developed Wi-Fi network, which has more than 1,800 wireless routers. The system uses standard GPS positioning when the user is outdoors, which provides approximately the same precision as the indoor system.
Both visitors and regulars at NTNU need help now and then to find their way on the Gloshaugen campus, which consists of nearly 60 buildings and a total of 13,000 rooms, and covers an area of about 350,000 m2. That's more than twice the size of the terminal building at Gardermoen, the Oslo Airport.
Began as a student project
With a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop, you can use the Campus Guide to find auditoriums, meeting rooms, cafeterias - or the nearest toilet. The service shows you the way to the right building, floor and room inside the building. You also have the opportunity to add your own locations or content that you think should be included.
The Campus Guide is the result of a research and development project conducted by Wireless Trondheim AS and NTNU. It began as a student project at the Department of Computer and Information Science in 2008. The application has been further developed by Wireless Trondheim AS and NTNU since then.
Puts the user in the driver's seat
"We have been working systematically with user testing of the Campus Guide in all phases of the project right from the start. This process is called ‘user-driven innovation'," says NTNU Professor John Krogstie, who is also head of the Wireless Trondheim Living Lab.
The app is still under development, but the service is now good enough that it is being released for users to try out. This means in essence that everyone who wants to can use the app.
Will commercialize the approach
GPS services sell on the global marketplace for billions. However, GPS signals do not penetrate ceiling and walls, which creates a bottleneck, since 70-80 per cent of all mobile phone use takes place indoors. Indoor navigation is thus predicted to have great potential, but so far, these kinds of services have only been tested in a few places.
"In recent years, the sales of smart phones have gone through the roof, and NTNU is not the only university with large and complex building structures. With the Campus Guide, you have the key to the campus in your pocket. We are convinced that users will use smart phones to find locations at other universities, major shopping centres, hospitals and exhibition halls," says Thomas Jelle, who is managing director of Wireless Trondheim.
The creation of Wireless Trondheim in 2006 ensured that Trondheim was one of the first cities in Europe with widely available high-speed wireless broadband. Now wireless and mobile broadband services are becoming widely available everywhere. The next step in this evolution is to offer services such as the Campus Guide, Jelle says