How Indoor Navigation Works in 2020

How Indoor Navigation Works in 2020


Wondering how indoor navigation works in 2020?

Today, you learn how indoor spaces can be effectively navigated with indoor navigation apps. You also get real-life use cases and understand how indoor navigation technology works.

Ready to learn more? Read on!

What is indoor navigation?

Indoor navigation helps people navigate indoor spaces.
With indoor navigation apps, a user sees a map of the space that the user wants to navigate. The user can then use this map in real-time to find a specific destination.

How indoor navigation works

Indoor navigation can also be used to show relevant and timely information to users. For example, this type of information might be a store’s opening hours or a promotional offer.

Most indoor navigation apps work with a map like the one you would use when navigating outdoors. At the same time, wayfinding apps are becoming easier and more effective to use as the industry evolves.

For example, at NEARMOTION, we recently developed an Augmented Reality (AR) navigation solution. This short video shows you how it works:

To learn more about what indoor navigation is, read our guide here.

How indoor navigation works in larger spaces

Indoor navigation is mainly used in big spaces, like hospitals, malls, and airports. In these types of buildings, navigation is hard and frustrating. That’s why the user experience can be vastly improved with an effective indoor navigation tool.

But indoor navigation systems also provide benefits to building owners, operators, and businesses. For example, they can offer new revenue streams for businesses and improve the management of a building.

Here are a few use cases of how indoor navigation works in these spaces:


In hospitals, indoor navigation systems can be used to show facility maps to visitors. Users can get directions and find the services they need faster. Indoor navigation can also be used to find doctors.

How indoor navigation works

For example, one of our clients is Dallah Hospital. Some of the ways in which NEARMOTION helps improve patients’ and visitors’ experience at the hospital include:

Step-by-step indoor navigation to appointments.

  • Navigation of parking location.
  • Locating friends and family.
  • Receiving location-based notifications.
  • Sharing location with others.


Mall visitors can easily get information about stores and services and navigate and locate themselves.

Store owners and mall operators get tools to engage customers and visitors and customer behavior data. This information can be used to optimize shops and indoor spaces.

How indoor navigation works


Indoor navigation can be used to improve airport visitors’ experience. For example, an indoor navigation app can be used to show the trip schedule, navigate check-in desks, gates, shops, and restaurants, and keep waiting times down.

Visitors can also get useful information, such as offers and arrival or departure information.

How indoor navigation works

What technology is used for indoor navigation?

Indoor navigation is based on different technologies, such as Bluetooth beacons, WiFi, and infrared systems.

That information is then fed into an application to make it useful for wayfinding. This is why the actual technology isn’t the only concern you should have when you choose an indoor navigation system. The software that powers your indoor navigation is another key consideration.

How does indoor navigation work without GPS?

The technology that powers GPS, which is the most commonly used outdoor navigation technology, doesn’t work indoors. That’s because GPS is based on satellite signals and these will easily get blocked out by walls or ceilings.
Now, GPS was already developed in the 1980s and has been the standard technology for outdoor navigation since the 1990s.

In contrast, indoor navigation is a new and evolving area. It relies on several different types of technologies and there is no clear standard technology for indoor navigation apps.

What’s the best indoor positioning system?

There are a lot of alternative indoor navigation technologies. All of them have different pros and cons.

So, which technology works best? Here are the top indoor positioning systems right now.

Magnetic positioning

Magnetic positioning is a new technology that’s still being developed, so it’s not yet used on a larger scale. At NEARMOTION we’re currently working on a magnetic positioning system.

Magnetic positioning is powerful because it will make it far easier to use indoor navigation systems.

The way it works is similar to how animals find their way in nature. Animals rely on magnetic fields to locate themselves.

In the same way, smartphones can detect and respond to magnetic field variations in indoor spaces. This data is then used to locate people inside a building with an accuracy of 1-2 meters.

Magnetic positioning is the most cost-effective technology because it’s extremely accurate without requiring any hardware. But it will still take a bit of time for magnetic positioning to become the standard indoor navigation system.

Proximity-based indoor navigation systems

Right now, proximity-based indoor navigation systems are the most user-friendly and cost-effective indoor navigation technologies. The most commonly used proximity-based systems are tags and beacons.

Tags, a reader-based system, work as WiFi transmitters and they send simple packers to WiFi access points in the building. A user’s location can be determined based on the time and strength of that reading.

Beacons are a reference point-based system. They work with the help of small beacons that are installed in a building. These beacons transmit a continuous radio signal that is detected by smartphones.

This is also the technology we use at NEARMOTION. Our positioning algorithm measures the Bluetooth signal’s strength with Bluetooth low energy beacons to locate and navigate a user.

The main difference between tags and beacons is that a tag-based system requires many access points. That’s why this solution is more expensive and less power-efficient.

Other indoor navigation systems

Other technologies include Ultra Wide-Band systems, acoustic systems, and infrared systems. Ultra Wide-Band systems use bursts from ultra wide-band readers to locate users. Acoustic systems work like UWB systems but they use sound instead of radio signals. And infrared systems use infrared light pulses.

The challenges with these technologies are that they are relatively expensive, niche technologies, and don’t work well in all spaces.

Over to you!

That’s it! Now you know how indoor navigation works.

Indoor navigation is based on several different technologies. They all have pros and cons, but beacons are currently the best technology. That said, new and more effective technologies, primarily magnetic positioning, are being developed.

The information from indoor navigation systems is used in indoor navigation apps to navigate indoor spaces, such as hospitals and malls.

Want to learn more?

Get in touch today to see how we can help!

By: Camilla Hallstrom

Camilla Hallstrom

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