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Arik Hesseldahl: IndoorAtlas Aims to Use Magnetic Fields to Map the Insides of Building - Arik Hesseldahl - News - Al - newsle

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Using these magnetic fields — which are caused, in part, by all the steel framing used in modern building techniques — to determine a position can give you a precision of about three meters or 10 feet. That’s close enough to get you into the correct room for a meeting, navigate you to within sight of an airport gate, or get you in front of the painting or sculpture you want to see in a museum. And there’s no need for any new infrastructure. No new Wi-Fi hotspots, no more anything. The infrastructure is already there, naturally.

It turns out that the next generation of compass chips is getting even more sensitive to these magnetic variations, which will only increase the precision. “The current ones aren’t as sensitive as we would like, but the new ones are getting better,” Haverinen told me.

There was a time when GPS technology wasn’t very accurate, either. In mid-2000, President Clinton ordered an end to the intentional degradation of GPS signals for civilians, a policy known as Selective Availability. Once that was gone, an industry sprang up around navigation technology, because it was then possible to build software that could give you turn-by-turn instructions. Better magnetic sensitivity will enable indoor precision to 10 feet or better, Haverinen told me.

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