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In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about how indoor positioning infrastructure and solutions will converge over time. Today, we will talk about how navigation and navigation quality mapping are fundamentally different than and complementary to indoor positioning and location tracking.
The quick summary is that navigation quality mapping and navigation itself is hard, and requires a complex mastery and synchronization of many different technologies, skills and processes.
These are the things that we wrestle with every day:
1. Navigation-quality maps. This it the most overlooked requirement. Our mantra is The Map Really Matters - because it does. Apple found that out the hard way. There are an entire set of processes, technology enabled services and tools that are required to implement and then maintain navigation quality maps at the required level of accuracy, reliability and currency.
2. Location-related Data. The map and navigation could be perfect, but, if it takes you down a half mile of hallways to a doctor (or department, or whatever) that is no longer there, it is worse than useless. This data is scattered around the Enterprise in general today, and coalescing and then maintaining it is a critical task.
3. Navigation UX. Again often overlooked but critical. There is a synchronized, complex dance of all the above - along with the user interface itself - that all must come together for a navigation user experience to be intuitive and useful. If it is not, it will fail. There is only one standard the user will measure us against: Google (or Apple). So a fanatical focus on that is one of our key drivers.
4. QA. Each and every one of these components - and the system as a whole - must have QA embedded throughout in monitoring, tools and processes. With navigation, the user expectation of reliability is extremely high - and as we move toward the high value use cases in safety & security, the bar gets even higher.
So, we believe that indoor navigation and navigation-based services requires laser focus and constant effort to be successful.
Navigation-Enabling the Enterprise: the Connexient SDK
When it comes to integrating navigation and navigation-based services into other Enterprise applications - whether a Patient Engagement application, RTLS application or otherwise - there is a different but equally large set of tasks and requirements that the application developer and integrator must address.
That’s why the Connexient Mobile Application SDK has been so well received. It eliminates all of the complex issues and effort required to deliver indoor navigation from the task list of a developer or integrator and replaces this with a few simple calls to add maps, navigation and navigation-based services wherever they are needed in the application.
All Screens, Multi-modal Support
It is also important to remember all of the other uses and needs for navigation-quality maps without “blue dot” navigation. That’s why Connexient has always provided All Screens Support. Whether patient, visitor, staff, security or otherwise, there is a universal need for high quality maps, routing and visualization that can be accessed on any screen at any time.
That's what we at Connexient do, and can justify that effort and cost because navigation services and navigation quality maps are then consumed in many different ways across the Enterprise. We have plenty to chew on in solving that problem!
We definitely do not have any plans in our roadmap to be an asset tracking solution. What we are focused on what our clients need: integration and collaboration.
Indoor Navigation + RTLS: The Low Hanging Fruit
Based on our discussions over the last year with clients and partner alike, these are the client-driven use cases that stand out when we look at how Indoor Navigation and RTLS can be integrated.
1. The ability to show the location of assets on navigation quality maps within our app, and navigate that user to them.
2. The ability for an RTLS system to call our maps via an API and get directions or maps back to their own application (i.e. without blue dot).
Over the longer term, as Enterprises standardize on their location services and navigation mapping and services solutions, in many cases the RTLS mobile or other applications might also use our indoor maps and navigation with our mobile application SDK and Web APIs.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that these technologies and solutions are complimentary today, and will become more so over time.
At Connexient, we will stay focused Navigation-enabling the Enterprise:
1. Delivering and maintaining Enterprise grade navigation quality maps, navigation and navigation-based services; and
2. Making those easy to consume in any way that benefits the Enterprise and the end users.
This will fit together in different ways with different RTLS vendors depending on their own strategies, but we definitely see these to be two complementary disciplines and solutions that can and should be integrated to maximize the benefits and value of each.
At Connexient, we often talk to our clients about how Patient Experience is just the first “killer application” of indoor navigation and navigation-based services in large, complex facilities. Indeed, our vision for MediNav is about Navigation-enabling the Enterprise: where these services can bring compelling value to users and increasing ROI to the organization as they are integrated to address high value use cases across operations, safety & security, facility management and more.
It has been exciting and gratifying to see that this vision is shared with many of our clients. Over the last several quarters, as we have moved forward in our strategic planning with several of them, some recurring questions frequently comes up, such as::
The good news is that these are indeed very complimentary solutions today, and in the future will only become more so. The key to achieving this is a spirit of collaboration and focus on integration.
First and foremost, when it comes to "Location Services", it is important to understand that we are agnostic to the indoor positioning / location services solution - so long as it is navigation quality. We have always expected over time that this will become part of the infrastructure of every large facility, and our experience in the market thus far has reinforced that conviction.
But that time frame is likely to be quite long - a decade or more - and there will often be a need for us to supplement or compliment with our capabilities. There are several reasons for this.
First, BLE Beacons and other potential position data sources will often typically be deployed for the particular purpose of asset tracking, not navigation. A system that is deployed for RTLS - today at least - is almost always incomplete and inadequate to the needs of navigation. We then need to supplement with our own to fill those gaps. When there are RTLS or positioning infrastructure partners that do provide the comprehensive coverage, density and configuration of BLE beacons required, Connexient can and will leverage this to support indoor navigation.
Second, today - and for the foreseeable future in our view - only handset sensor fusion software on the phone can deliver dynamic, navigation quality positioning. So even in the cases where the RTLS or positioning infrastructure partner provides the beacon coverage and density that is needed, we will still need to bring handset sensor fusion - and all of our knowledge and experience of how to fine tune this - to deliver reliable, robust navigation at scale in large, complex facilities.
Third, the new emerging use cases for BLE - such as tags for asset tracking - rely on a different approach and configuration of infrastructure. Whether it be Cisco Hyperlocation or other solutions, these involve bluetooth radios and WiFi receivers and transmitters as part of a system to both locate BLE tags and provide their location back to a cloud server. The good news is that handset sensor fusion can take advantage of these transmitters as additional data inputs.
So, Connexient’s approach of using smartphone based handset sensor fusion software complements existing RTLS infrastructure, while being well aligned with the growing importance of BLE beacons in this mix.
After this transitional period of complementary deployments, Connexient expects that some day most or every major facility will have some existing unified infrastructure for indoor positioning, which is likely to be a mix of network-based and BLE-based approaches. The inexorable logic is there should only be one solution long term.
In most cases, we believe that the complementary expertise and capabilities of handset sensor fusion software will still be required in order to meet the stringent requirements for dynamic, accurate, reliable and robust indoor positioning to support a navigation user experience. That may in some cases come with infrastructure solution at a particular client, but in other cases the infrastructure will provide the hardware component and leave the rest up to the solution provider.
Connexient, as always, will be ready and able to configure and adapt to optimize our deployment for each client to leverage their infrastructure and ensure that navigation quality maps and navigation-based services can be integrated across Enterprise IT where it can deliver compelling value to users and ROI to the organization.
When that day comes, Connexient’s mission will remain unchanged: to deliver robust, reliable indoor navigation and navigation-based services. Just as we do with GPS for the outdoors, we will now leverage an existing positioning solution indoors. What is important to us is how indoor positioning is used to deliver value to end users and the organization.
In the same vein, however, we also see an inexorable logic to every Enterprise standardizing on one solution for navigation-quality mapping, navigation and navigation-based services. To understand why, it is important to understand that Indoor positioning is just one component of what is needed to successfully deliver indoor navigation.
In our next installment, we will discuss how navigation and navigation quality mapping are fundamentally different than and complementary to indoor positioning and location tracking.
This article from DHealthcare News is a great illustration of how the new on-demand logistics capabilities of a service like Uber and have a direct and meaningful impact on reducing no-shows and late appointments for hospitals, while simultaneously improving the Patient Experience.
Of particular interest to us, of course, is that our partner HackensackUMC is as usual leading the way in innovation in this area. Here's an excerpt.
As we go forward with Hackensack UMC with our deployment of MediNav connecting the dots with Uber will be a great area of opportunity to further improve efficiency for the hospital, drivers and arriving patients and visitors all at once. These are the kinds of integrations that we look forward to create value and ROI.
Our ability to add extra layers of data on the campus with our Google Maps for Work partnership - waypoints, markers, routes, points of interest, labels and more - and our knowledge of and ability to navigate users to the indoor locations that are their ultimate destinations are the final crucial pieces to this puzzle.
Google normally has incomplete information and at times is completely wrong. This is not because they are not good at mapping! They know the street networks and public places of our world better than anyone. But campuses are private facilities, often with restricted access. Google also knows nothing about the organization and buildings - what are the correct entrances to buildings, the correct parking garages in relation to each building, and other particulars that are critical to successful wayfinding.
That is where Connexient's Parking Planner feature comes into play - recommending and navigating the user to the correct parking garage based on the indoor location of their appointment. We can use this same capability to make this Uber drop-off service even more accurate and efficient. And as with our My Car Saver feature, we can also help the user get back from inside the building to the Uber pick-up location when they are done with their appointment.
So connecting the dots and closing the gaps like this are crucial to solving real world wayfinding challenges. More to come on that in a few months!