Indoor location-based tracking tech could be next big thing

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I was invited down to the Singapore office of Wi-Fi specialist Ruckus Wireless recently, where company representatives demonstrated to me its new indoor location-based service. Touted as the industry's first cloud-based Wi-Fi location service, the Ruckus Smart Positioning Technology, or SPoT, technology is built on top of the company's Wi-Fi access points (AP) to track the location of users by their Wi-Fi enabled smartphones and tablets.

The technology does not require Wi-Fi devices to be connected to the Wi-Fi networks; it works as long as Wi-Fi is enabled. In a still nascent field, the company's claim to fame would probably be the remarkable accuracy of 5 to 8 meters offered by SPoT, which is significantly down from the average of 10 or more meters by similar offerings on the market.

The superior accuracy is made possible in part by technology recently acquired from Singapore YFind Technologies, which will be available in an upcoming firmware update available for most APs sold by Ruckus. David Callisch, who is the vice president of corporate marketing at Ruckus Wireless (We previously did a Q&A with him on FierceCIO:TechWatch), says that the company's SPoT technology is the only to incorporate support for different location technologies to more accurately determine client location.

"Most competitive systems use only signal strength trilateration," he told me over email. "Our system does triangulate station location based on signal strength but adds other technologies such as TDoA (time difference of arrival of packets) as well as RTT (round trip time of packets)."

So what use is there for indoor location-based technology? Admittedly, I went to the product demonstration somewhat skeptical, and left convinced that indoor location-based tracking could be the next big thing. Indeed, there are more real-life uses to it than you would have imagined.

Some scenarios that were discussed would be the ability to track the number of visitors at an exhibition, the flow of the crowd at a mall, or even to automatically update presence information around the office. It would also help a hotel, for example, if it can know if a guest has left his or her room, and send the housekeeping team to get the room tidied up.

I could go on, but I'm curious about your thoughts on indoor location-based tracking. What other usage scenarios do you see for indoor location-based tracking? Feel free to drop me an email, tweet or leave a note in the comments section below. - Paul Mah  (Twitter @paulmah)