What you need to know about indoor maps

April 16th, 2019

Looking for indoor maps? Here are five good questions to ask indoor mapping vendors to ensure you get the best platform for your needs.

This is a guest post by our partner Jibestream. Jibestream offers the world’s most scalable platform for combining mapping with business rules and location awareness to improve efficiency, productivity and engagement.

When we think about IoT technology as it relates to large complex buildings, especially in the context of connected offices and corporate campuses, it’s easy to focus on the ‘things’ that make up the Internet of Things. While important, beacons and sensors are only part of the equation. Location-awareness is key to making a space ‘smart,’ which means having a digital representation of the location to provide meaningful geospatial context. Put simply, without digitized indoor maps, you can have an indoor positioning system, but your end users will only see a blue dot floating on a blank screen. Context is the key here.

That’s why we like to say that indoor maps and indoor positioning systems go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are complementary solutions that when leveraged together unlock a world of possibilities.

What many organizations find surprising in their smart building journey is that not all indoor mapping providers are created equally. When building out any IoT stack, it’s important to select vendors and technologies that not only help you achieve your immediate goals, but also won’t limit you down the line. Here are five questions to keep in mind when selecting an indoor mapping provider to lay the foundation for your smart building.

1. “Is this a point solution or a platform solution?”

In your industry, there are likely vendors who tout themselves as plug and play solutions. The promise of a quickly implemented and operating solution sounds all well and good, but there are often many inherent limitations to these kinds of ‘pain point’ solutions. Your needs are likely going to evolve and change over time, and after a year or two, you may find that the solution that seemed to address all of your industry specific pain points initially, no longer hits the mark for your organization.

It’s usually at this point that an organization will have to pay more over time to replace that vendor’s maps with another more extensive platform, inevitably paying more over the long run than they would have if they had just chosen a platform solution earlier in their IoT journey. Working with a versatile mapping platform solution can mitigate a lot of stress and disappointment down the road for both users and organizations.

2. “Does this vendor play nicely with others?”

Interoperability should be a non-negotiable for every vendor in the smart building space. As with any tech stack, it’s always beneficial to work with technology- and vendor-agnostic solutions. There are a few reasons for this, but most importantly, a key component to IoT is the understanding that it is an ecosystem.

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Image courtesy of Jibestream

In an IoT-enabled smart building, no one vendor is going to be able to deliver on all of an enterprise’s current and future use case needs. Therefore, it is imperative that the vendors being selected have open architectures to support easy integration with third-party solutions. The keys to interoperability lie in Rest APIs, robust SDKs, and a commitment to interoperability, and you should always ask indoor mapping providers how they integrate with others.

3. “How much control will we have over our maps?”

Your maps should be exactly that – yours. You should be able to make them look and feel like a part of your brand with custom styling for map colors and animations. You should also be able to make changes to your maps efficiently and effectively within your indoor mapping content management system (CMS). If you can’t export your maps to the file formats that you need – whether that’s CAD, IMDF or GeoJSON, then you don’t really have full control of your map assets.

4. “How does this solution handle multiple user profiles?”

Part of the magic of smart buildings and intelligent spaces is the element of personalization – the ability to provide different people with a customized experience of place. A point of differentiation between many mapping providers is the ability to create customized experiences using a single set of maps.

Within an office for example, there are several different types of users interacting with your facility and your maps. There will be employees, visitors, maintenance and facilities management staff, and building security staff among others. Visitors to the office should not have the same level of visibility of building maps as employees. Similarly, employees don’t need the same access as building maintenance or security staff. This is important for keeping map interactions relevant, and also for general building security requirements. It goes without saying that sensitive areas should be restricted from view for certain user types.

Image courtesy of Jibestream

Image courtesy of Jibestream

The important thing to look out for at the solution level is that you shouldn’t need to have a different map for each user profile using the same space. For example, if you have a building with ten floors, and five different user profiles, you should have a set of ten maps – not fifty unique maps that require manual updating with every change. Your mapping CMS should empower you to cater to different users by serving customized visualizations of your space based on a user’s profile with a single map instance.

With map profile control, you can hide or reveal parts of a map, create different wayfinding paths, and restrict access to various map elements. Protect your space, create better personalized experiences, and save yourself time and resources by only having to update a single set of maps, rather than a set for each potential profile.

5. “What level of experience do they have that we can leverage?”

Part of the power of working with a provider who is industry-agnostic is the ability to leverage their learnings from different industries and apply them to your own. Consider how long the solution has been in the space, and the variety of successful deployments to determine whether or not they will be able to solution for your unique needs. Vendors with a track record for implementing successful maps within complex buildings, regardless of industry, will be better able to support your needs than a younger industry-specific solution that hasn’t had the same experience with nuanced facility needs.

Location-awareness and IoT technologies are taking us towards a future where we not only make better use of space, but we also have better experiences of place. However, to achieve these outcomes, we need to have accurate digital representations of these places and spaces. That’s why indoor maps matter, and why selecting an indoor mapping provider is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly.


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