GeoMagnetic Location Awareness – IndoorAtlas

by Fred Abler

I’ve long suspected I may have a kind of magnetic sixth sense. I seem to ‘feel space’ more acutely than others. And at the key moments in my life, I am overcome by a feeling I can only describe as ‘geomantic positioning’.

It’s as if I can feel the Earth’s magnetic field, the rotation of the planet beneath my feet, and my absolute coordinates on the planet. It’s a very cool feeling… knowing with certainty that you are connected to the Earth, that you are location aware.

Now this magnetic sixth sense is available for mobile app developers – courtesy of a new Finnish start-up called IndoorAtlas. Their ingenious software uses disturbances in the Earth’s ubiquitous geomagnetic force to tell you where you are indoors.

Fig 1 –  IndoorAtlas uses the unique geomagnetic field of every location on Earth to get (very) accurate positioning on mobile devices.  Breakfast Cereal? No Problem.. It’s on Aisle 3!

Developed by a team at Finland’s University of Oulu, their indoor positioning method exploits the unique magnetic ‘fingerprint’ of every place on Earth, and it’s accurate to less than two meters. It even works in caves more than a mile deep underground.

The way IndoorAtlas works is that using their software, you create a floorplan of your building, and then live-map the geomagnetic field by walking around inside the building. Think of yourself as an magnetic version of one of Google’s StreetView cars.

Fig 2 – IndoorAtlas – location awareness using the Earth’s geomagnetic field.

Your place-specific geomagnetic variations are recorded, and then uploaded to IndoorAtlas’s servers. Thereafter, they can be used by any location aware application you (or others) would like to develop for that building.

The full import of geomagnetic location awareness is hard to fathom, but consider this extreme example – If you called e911 from inside a burning building, your in-building coordinates could be automatically transmitted to firefighters.

IndoorAtlas’s geomagnetic location-finding is already available through an Android API, and more platforms will likely be available soon. If it proves popular, we’ll soon have a comprehensive 3D mag-map of most of the world, indoors and out.

In Short – Using mobile devices, we can now access the earth’s geomagnetic field as another reference layer. Who needs GPS Satellites when you can just read the force.



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