We take turn-by-turn navigation on our smartphones for granted. Whether we’re walking, cycling or driving, our smartphones allow us to get to our destination, or at least, they tend to get us through the main part of our journey.
While current navigation apps get you pretty close to your destination (and generally start you outside the building you’re currently in), the future of mobile maps will pick up your exact location and navigate you all the way to your exact desk in the office, airport gate or hotel check-in.
During CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada, we sat down with Here Technologies CEO, Edzard Overbeek to talk about how the firm is helping to bring this complex, indoor and outdoor, multi-trip navigation to reality.
What if your turn-by-turn navigation can start at your desk? It will be possible soon, starting with an update coming to the Here WeGo map app later this year.
Here claims it’s bringing nav indoors. It’s own map app – WeGo – along with Google Maps and Apple Maps, all currently offer various indoor layouts for popular locations such as shopping malls, airports and other large transport hubs but you can’t get turn-by-turn navigation inside these floor plans.
However, soon you’ll be able to navigate directly to your airport gate, train platform or favorite shop with turn-by-turn walking instructions available on your smartphone.
We were shown a demo of how the new app will function, and it started on the fifth floor of an office block in Berlin. The layout was fully mapped, with various offices and corridors, and the imaginary person’s location accurately pinpointed within the environment.
The pinpoint technology doesn’t solely rely on GPS though – which struggles to penetrate buildings and thus can lead to unreliable indoor location data. The app also uses other radio technology on the device including Wi-Fi and, if beacons are installed around the office, Bluetooth as well.
It’s something other mapping solutions and mobile devices will be able to take advantage of in the future – bringing even better location data to everyone.
With this accurate location, the app is able to draw a path to the elevator, follow you down the floors, through the foyer, out onto the street and the parking lot to your car.
This indoor navigation can work anywhere Here has mapped. It already has a number of transport hubs, shopping malls and Las Vegas hotels on the books, and it’s looking to continuously expand its database in the future.
With you the whole way, across all transport
Back to that demo, and now we’re outside the app knows where you’ve parked and seamlessly provides directions to your vehicle. Once inside, we’re told that it will recognize you’re in the car and will adapt the navigation for the next part of journey.
You’ll be able to import various bookings such as flights and hotel stays, so entering your destination when you’re sitting at the desk in the office will see WeGo pull all this information together to give you a complete navigation experience in one place, across all modes of transport.
It may also be able to help you find a parking spot when you get to the airport, navigate you to the gate, and once you’ve landed it could potentially link with ride-sharing services to provide you a way to get from the airport to the hotel. All without having to leave the app.
We’d be surprised if the initial offering is as seamless as the demo we were shown though, as the complexities and unpredictable nature of real life can throw up problems that the system will struggle with.
A long road ahead
The technology has to start somewhere though, and there’s the potential for it to develop into a powerful offering in the coming years.
Another issue Here will face will be encouraging users to actually download the WeGo app in the first place. With Apple Maps and Google Maps coming pre-installed on iPhones and Android phones by default (plus the latter is also available on iPhone) – there’s little need for consumers to hunt for an alternative mapping solution.
While the advancements shown are intriguing and potentially a unique selling point for the app in its early days, if Here is doing it, it’s probably only a matter of time before Google and Apple begin to offer similar features in their apps.
It’s also not clear how much of this new service will be available from launch, how well it will work, when the launch date is outside of “this year”, or how many locations will be fully mapped indoors.
What’s exciting though is the fact mapping on our smartphones and directions to get places is going to become even more detailed and useful very soon.