Designing for Seamless Indoor-to-Outdoor Wayfinding

Designing for Seamless Indoor-to-Outdoor Wayfinding

Meridian maps are intended to be used for indoor wayfinding, however there may be occasions where outdoor wayfinding is so integral to the user experience that it must be included.  Such an example is a college campus where students need to have the indoor wayfinding in the student union building but will also need wayfinding to a classroom in another part of the campus.  Supporting this use case will require indoor-to-outdoor wayfinding and eventually outdoor-to-indoor wayfinding with location awareness.  Meridian Location Awareness supports both indoor and outdoor wayfinding. For this to work, all wayfinding must be done on a Meridian map. Meridian does not have any integration to third party outdoor maps such as Google maps.   

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) signal degrades drastically when a user is indoor, therefore, it cannot be used reliably for indoor wayfinding.  However, Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons can be used for both indoor and outdoor wayfinding.  To differentiate when the system is using BLE for wayfinding, a blue dot is shown on the Meridian map.  When it is using GPS, a green dot is shown.  As a rule of thumb, blue dot indicates BLE and green dot indicates GPS.  

NOTE: When beacons are deployed at the recommended density of 900 sq. ft. the blue dot appears when the mobile device hears a beacon and will provide 3-5 meters of accuracy.   Third party GPS based outdoor mapping apps typically support up to 10 meters of accuracy, but Meridian is architected to only show a green dot when the mobile device receives a 5 meters of accuracy confidence.  That means if the mobile device is in an area where the GPS confidence is weaker than 5 meters, no green dot will be shown on the Meridian map.  This may cause a delay in the appearance of a green dot on the Meridian map when using GPS.

Just like wayfinding with blue dot, if a route is defined from starting point to destination, the green dot will behave like the blue dot:

  • the green dot will be used as the starting point for the defined route
  • the green dot will snap to the route as the user is moving
  • if the green dot is off course the system will re-route

By default, Meridian Location Awareness uses BLE for blue dot wayfinding, but it also provides for two ways to change over from BLE to GPS:  floor setting and outdoor area placemark polygon. 

With the two different options available, choosing one option over the other really depends on the use case.  Meridian is very good at showing the blue dot on the Meridian map when it hears a beacon, however, when it comes to GPS, showing the green dot has its challenges.  Consider the following:

  • If the user is outside a building and the mobile device hears a beacon signal it will show the blue dot and place the user on the map of the beacon it heard.
  • If the user was inside the building and has walked outdoors, the blue dot will continue to show on the indoor map until it stops hearing the beacon, at which point it turns to a gray dot, then change to a green dot when it receives a good GPS signal.  For the green dot to appear on the map, the mobile device must hear a GPS signal that is has a confidence of 5 meters or better. The process of getting a good GPS signal and loading the map may cause an un-acceptable delay in the transition from blue dot to green dot transition.

Configuring a Map to Use GPS in Floor Setting Menu 

An outdoor map can be uploaded as a floor map into the Meridian account the same way floors are uploaded for a building.  To change the map settings using floor editor, navigate to the list of floors and click on the name of the floor.  In the floor editor window, configure the floor with the following settings:

  1. Leave the BUILDING text window blank, or create a building as Outdoor Map and select that as the building.
  1. Check the box for USE GPS (INSTEAD OF BLUDOT)

Image 1. Floor Setting Menu Option

NOTE: Beacons heard on a map with this setting will be ignored.  Use this option if there are NO location beacons placed on the Meridian map. 

Adding an Outdoor Area Placemark Polygon on a Map

Alternatively, you can create a placemark polygon and select the type Outdoor Area.  Since we are designating an area of the map with this type, it is more appropriate to use the placemark polygon and not a regular placemark.  Selecting the type as Outdoor Area for this placemark polygon will use GPS for location awareness instead of BLE when the user is inside this area.  

Image 2. Outdoor Area Placemark Polygon Option

NOTE: Use a placemark polygon to designate an outdoor area vs. a normal placemark.  Beacon signals will be ignored in the placemark polygon when it is configured as Outdoor Area.  DO NOT USE this placemark type if the maps is already configured to use GPS.  It is redundant and not neccessary.

Image 3.  Placemark Polygon configured as Outdoor Area

Image 4. Location beacons place on outdoor map to assist with map load.

Optimal Method for Indoor-to-Outdoor Wayfinding

Using location beacons in conjunction with the outdoor area placemark on a map that is NOT configured to use GPS is the preferred technique for providing a seamless transition from blue dot to green dot, and vice versa, for wayfinding.  When the user is outdoors, the presence of the location beacon will enable the app to load the expected map and show a blue dot to indicate the user position.  Once the user is beyond the range of the beacon, and into the outdoor area, it will then scan for and switch over to GPS.  While it is scanning and switching to a green dot, the expected map is already loaded, so the app just has to acquire an acceptable GPS signal and show a green dot on the map.

HINT:  For best map transitions, use location beacons to enable the app to quickly load the expected map.