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By John Biggs
April 8, 2019
The expression “everything old is new again” can be aptly applied to The Global Positioning System (GPS). The first satellite-based navigation technology was launched by the U.S. Department of Defense way back in 1973 for military applications. In the 1980s, first civilians gained access, and commercialization of the technology quickly followed. The tech has since become a construction industry mainstay; it is used for everything from enhancing worker safety to autonomous vehicle control, to fleet management.
Typically, as a technology finds a home in a particular industry, its new and better uses are inevitably discovered over time. In recent years we’ve seen that natural progression with GPS technology. From simple location tracking, GPS has developed to something that could actually change the way we navigate our world.
GPS Goes Indoors
Historically, GPS mapping has been predominantly used in construction to give an overhead view of a jobsite or the exterior of a building in progress. However, the technology is being refined and purposed for indoor use as well. The resulting indoor positioning systems offer a number of benefits, like keeping track of the locations of objects or people inside a structure.
Indoor GPS solutions provider Redpoint Positioning says its system offers "the ability to accurately and dynamically locate people and assets in real time, from early jobsite operations through to post-construction services for building owners,” according to Business.com.
Such indoor solutions rely on technologies like RFID or Wi-Fi networks and beacons. Todd Ellsworth, director of professional services for BuildingPoint Midwest and Gulf Coast, told Business.com that up-and-coming indoor positioning technology can even formulate precise data points with the use of only images. This method is called photogrammetry.
Real-Time Tracking of Assets
Indoor positioning allows supervisors to pinpoint the precise location of any piece of equipment or worker on site at a single glance. The indoor map is kept up-to-date as the job progresses. Therefore, it can provide a holistic, real-time view of the project to help ensure everything runs smoothly.
It also provides a much-enhanced understanding of interior configurations and room layouts. It allows for better planning and more precise measurements, which thanks to GPS, don’t need to be taken manually—a simple walkthrough is sufficient.
"Typically, when you think of indoor positioning systems, most commonly you're referring to scanning or indoor mapping," Ellsworth told Business.com. "For example, I may want to create an indoor map of my facilities and confirm that my calculations for my office are correct. It's a quality assurance method—a very fast way to gather data."
Location Awareness Technology
It’s not just buildings in progress that will benefit from the next evolution of GPS. More projects are implementing “location awareness” technology. One day, navigating the interior of a high-rise or sprawling corporate campus could be as easy as finding the nearest coffee shop using GPS. We almost take for granted how easily we can find our way around city streets aided by GPS. If we could always know where we are and where we’re going—even indoors, it will not only change construction but our perception of the entire world.
According to Jibestream CEO and co-founder Chris Weigand, the industries among the early adopters of indoor mapping and location awareness technologies are healthcare, hospitality, and transportation.
“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,” Weigand wrote in an article for Geo Awesomeness.
“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.”
In a few short decades, GPS has transformed how we find our way in the outdoor world. It’s not difficult to imagine how dramatic a change it would be if our indoor world was equally navigable. It will be interesting to watch how the technology continues to evolve in our space.
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