How Magnetic Positioning is used in Indoor Navigation Systems?

Over the years we had acquainted ourselves well with GPS that is, Global Positioning System which certainly turned out to be a revolution in technology. It has become very popular for tracking locations. But it fails to work indoors because the roofs, walls, and floors tend to shield satellite signals.

And so, the prime stumbling block of GPS laid foundation for the development of IPS. 

An indoor positioning system (IPS) or indoor navigation system is a system that is used to track down people or objects inside a building by adopting radiowaves, magnetic fields or other sensory information assembled by mobile devices. They either locate mobile devices or provide location for devices to get sensed. 

In short IPS works where GPS fails off!

So, how is magnetic positioning used in indoor navigation systems? 

Magnetic fields have been our radar since ages in the form of compasses. In order to use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation purpose, a compass aligns with the horizontal component. In the same way animals are able to detect the direction of Earth's magnetic field, they can also sense their position corresponding to their destination. 

This means that these special animals elicit positional information from local cues that arise from local anomalies of the Earth's magnetic field. The very same principle was studied and transformed into an efficient technology by Professor Jane Haverinen and Anssi Kemppainen. 

So, magnetic positioning is an IPS solution formulated on magnetic sensor data from a smartphone used to locate objects or people inside a building wirelessly. It is like a technology touched compass. But even a compass fails to work inside buildings because of metallic structures but this technology can make use of these fluctuations to create a peculiar map within each building. 

The magnetic positioning system navigates its path via hints that emanate from local fluctuations of Earth's magnetic field. A smartphone application is also developed that makes use of Earth's magnetic field to help people in knowing their exact location. The modern buildings like reinforced concrete and vast steel structures have exclusive ambient magnetic fields that can be used for positioning. Each part of the building like floors or corridors create a well defined magnetic field that can be used to locate or generate a map of the location. 

In the principle of indoor positioning system, a non uniform ambient magnetic field generates different magnetic estimations depending on the path taken through it. The deviations produced by ambient magnetic fields are utilized in indoor positioning. Magnetic positioning measures the fluctuations in Earth's magnetic field in a building ranging from 0.1 m to 2 m. 

For example, if you are stuck in a shopping mall trying to locate the shop you want to head in, your device's compass takes note of the magnetic field around you. The signals received are then generated into a map database based on the readings of your phone as well as the map of the mall that was previously created. 

So this technology stays with you like a shadow or a ministering angel that guides you the path and never leaving you in a lurch.


Magnetic positioning is just one of the available methods that navigation technology uses to determine your location indoors. Mapping engines like JibeStream also uses BLE beacons, wi-fi, and other emerging methods.

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