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How does an Indoor Positioning System Work?

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The working principles of indoor positioning systems are nearly the same as GPS. While the latter measures distance between outdoor objects, the former is ideal for indoor positioning and tracking. To answer your question ‘how does an indoor positioning system work’, it’s important to know what an indoor positioning system tracks.

Indoor positioning systems are aware of people and objects in a local area. It achieves incredible accuracy in real-time positioning and tracking by communicating with smartphone sensors. The sensor data is then distilled through mathematical algorithms to show an estimated position no more than a few centimeters away from the actual.

Being synonymous with outdoor positioning, even the GPS is only accurate up to a few meters. Before we discuss the best indoor positioning system companies, let’s go over how an indoor positioning system works.

5 Communication Technologies that Make Indoor Positioning Possible

A traditional indoor positioning system leverages a host of short-range signal protocols to enhance performance while indoors. They include:


A previously known technology operates at frequencies of 2.5GHz and 5GHz. When Wi-Fi is used for tracking, the distance is calculated based on the received signal strength. The disadvantage of this technology is that it is susceptible to signal interference and signal loss when obstacles obstruct the line of sight. The Wi-Fi device will transmit data to a wireless access point in a complex environment.

Visible Light Communication

It is a subset of optical wireless communication technology that employs visible light in the wavelength range of 380 to 50 nm. It has a data rate of 500 Mbit/s over short distances. When used in conjunction with other technologies, visible light communication improves indoor positioning accuracy.


Bluetooth low energy, also known as BLE, is another popular short-range communication protocol in which Bluetooth devices locate beacon signals to estimate distance and orientation. BLE is once again hampered by obstacles in indoor spaces, and signals weaken over time.


Tracking devices (typically puck-sized tags) describe the devices to which they are attached using a radiofrequency electromagnetic field. They’re accurate enough in small enclosures but highly susceptible to attenuation when distance doubles. When smartly configured, they use nearby devices to send location information to a tracking app while using very little power and data.

Magnetic Positioning

Most newer smartphones have built-in magnetic sensors to detect changes in the magnetic field. Metals around buildings interact with the device’s magnetic field, causing variations. These small changes hold answers to how far a device is from a fixed reference point. Magnetic positioning provides information about how people use facilities by tracking their movements through areas where GPS reception is poor.

Benefits of Indoor Positioning System

The indoor positioning system is the cornerstone to umpteen possibilities in which you can transform the retail, hospitality, and industrial operations. Here are some of the advantages that will make you want to choose IPS over all other alternatives:

More than Dots on Screen

IPS may seem similar to GPS, but they’re never entirely alike. For instance, an indoor positioning system doesn’t require inputting location information to locate users on an indoor map. By algorithmically resolving spatial signal data, the real-time location is automatically determined, so users will only see an option whether they need assistance in getting there. If it’s a yes, a wayfinding path will light their way to a point of interest without detours.

Create a Familiar UX

Other technologies have the disadvantage of forcing users to relearn UX features, which can be difficult. This problem is solved by IPS UX, which is more similar to Google Maps. As a result, the transition from outdoor to indoor maps will be more self-guided rather than requiring a mental handrail.

No More Insights Under the Cloche

The heatmap is an important feature of a powerful indoor positioning system. It provides invaluable insight into what people are doing and where they are going at the venue. It identifies the most popular areas of the floor so that more brand messaging can be placed in high-traffic areas to increase visibility. It does so much such as boosting kiosk sales, and reducing wait times at food vending stalls. IPS increases the transparency and accessibility of information.

Laser-Targeted Marketing with Location Data

Location-based marketing is a buzzword thanks to indoor positioning and indoor navigation. It uses the user’s device’s location data to personalize catalogs and discounts that instill fear of missing out. Marketers’ top priority isn’t just to improve customer experiences. While recommending products and providing directions to those lost in a sea of options are common use cases, location data can also help brands send thank you messages to loyal customers.

Steps to Get an Indoor Positioning System to Work

As to how an indoor positioning system works, a facility survey is required for IPS to track mobile indoor targets. The survey data is then documented using mobile apps along with points of interest. Finally, the positioning file is generated at the backend by a reputable IPS partner. This would allow indoor positioning to function predictably.

To summarise, the IPS requires only sensor data from smartphones to perform trilateration. The smart algorithm searches for granular details that describe the target by performing spatial resolution on the signal data. When this information is filtered, it produces zero-latency positional data, which improves the user experience.

For enhanced data resolution, the IPS relies on three key factors.

  • An IPS platform to accept the floor and table data
  • Signal beacons that smartphones can recognize
  • IPS-compatible app that coalesces map and point-of-interest data to provide a smooth visual wayfinding experience.

With that, we hope to have answered your question – “how does an indoor positioning system work?”. If you’re scouting for the best IPS solution in today’s market, they’re within your reach.

Mapsted is rated as the Best Indoor Navigation System in 2022

Mapsted is an award-winning indoor positioning expert with the right experience and technology. Mapsted’s system is completely hardware-free and relies on existing infrastructure. As a result, you don’t have to have a jumpstart budget or settle for features irrelevant to your indoor positioning requirements. A quick consultation with experts will bring more clarity on what best features to include in your IPS so you join hundreds of other happy customers who have used Mapsted.


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