Chinese web giant Baidu is rolling out indoor navigation services, hoping to tap in to location-based advertising and enable location-aware mobile search in shopping malls.
The service will be available to users of Baidu Maps - the local equivalent to Google Maps - and relies on measurements of the magnetic field and doesn’t require any additional infrastructure.
The system, developed by California-based IndoorAtlas, works on Android and iOS phones and takes advantage of magnetometers that are inside most modern smartphones.
By detecting anomalies in the magnetic field, the system can navigate users indoors with one-metre accuracy.
"Being able to pinpoint indoor locations at this level of accuracy is a game changer for mobile search, way-finding and other indoor location-based applications," said Professor Janne Haverinen, the founder of IndoorAtlas. "Being able to do all this anywhere on the globe, and without undertaking expensive infrastructure installations in buildings, is what sets our technology apart."
Baidu first released indoor maps in 2011 including data from a large number of shopping malls. In 2014, the search engine invested $10m in IndoorAtlas in exchange for exclusive rights to us the technology in China.
Integrating the IndoorAtlas solution will increase the accuracy of the maps application at existing locations and allow Baidu to make indoor maps and location aware searches available at a much wider scale. IndoorAtlas is globally available over the Internet in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model.
"IndoorAtlas's accuracy to the last-metre level and scalability sets it apart and complements Baidu's existing mobile Location Based Services and maps offering," said Liu Jun, Vice President of Baidu Maps. "IndoorAtlas's intellectual property portfolio and global geographical coverage will be instrumental in helping us at Baidu build out our LBS platform indoors in China and abroad. And it will allow us to implement new use cases at scale that are not possible with other technologies."