GigaOm has reported that Finnish company WalkBase is looking to bring Indoor Positioning System (IPS) to the masses with smarter algorithms that don’t drain battery of smart devices.
First of all, what is IPS? It’s a system whereby your smartphone (or tablet) works out where you are based on wi-fi signals nearby. It’s like GPS, but instead of using satellite signals which could be unreliable inside buildings or in areas with high-rise buildings, one’s location could be determined using wi-fi signals instead. This would also explain why Google was collecting (private) wi-fi signals with its streetview cars so that it could potentially “locate” users based on wi-fi signals.
There are lots of big and small companies trying to crack into the IPS market, including Nokia and Microsoft. The potential applications are wide; as GigaOM puts it:
[M]erchants and restaurant owner can use this technology to push relevant content to [smartphone] owners based on their location inside. So a restaurant could deliver its menu to a user who has checked in. Or a retailer could push out very specific advertising when a person walks into an area within store. The check-in data could also provide useful analytics about customer flow in a location.
People love convenience. Consumers love convenience but there is a potential trade off of personal data. What if a smartphone-toting consumer is automatically checked in to places they would rather not disclose? Even if the app or web service does not lodge your check-in, the “footprint” could be there for someone else to discover.
Would you want your boss to know you are found at your competitor’s office during lunch hour? How could companies offering these wonderful services ensure that our data are safe?