UK-Based Pathfindr is Blazing a Trail for More Accurate Event Wayfinding

UK-Based Pathfindr is Blazing a Trail for More Accurate Event Wayfinding

“Wayfinding” is the art and science of ensuring that visitors to any location can easily and quickly get around. It’s particularly important at large, heavily-trafficked locations, like stadiums, shopping malls and airports. Pathfindr is a new patent-pending technology that could help event planners make navigating large-scale events an interactive mobile affair.

You’d think that indoor wayfinding would be – after all, we’ve all got smartphones and those smartphones come with GPS; but there are issues with GPS technology over small distances, notably that GPS is unreliable across small distances.

According to OpenStreetMap, “The accuracy of GPS data depends on many factors. For example, the quality of the GPS receiver, the position of the GPS satellites at the time the data was recorded, the characteristics of the surroundings (buildings, tree cover, valleys, etc) and even the weather.” And according to developers on Stackexchange, “The United States government currently claims 4 meter RMS (7.8 meter 95% Confidence Interval) horizontal accuracy for civilian (SPS) GPS. Vertical accuracy is worse. Mind you, that’s the minimum. ” In reality, best case scenario is usually accuracy within 15 meters or so.

In other words, GPS wouldn’t be able to easily track which floor of a tall building your attendees are on, and it doesn’t know exactly, to the foot, where attendees are standing – it could only give an approximation. GPS is also influenced by air clarity, weather, and connection strength, so if your event was underground or if the sky was cloudy, the accuracy of GPS would decrease even further.

Event Production Blog: Event Wayfinding Technology

The alternative to GPS was the use of Bluetooth, WiFi, and other close-distance technologies, but these were equally problematic for a variety of reasons, specifically that loss of signal could result in inaccurate readings. Enter indoor wayfinding tools like Pathfindr, whose solution is best described by the company themselves:

“Using the front or rear facing camera on your smart device, Pathfindr constantly scans for signature images (markers) on the ceiling or floor. These markers can be read incredibly quickly, and the user’s exact position and orientation is then triangulated from this view. When a marker is not in view, the device’s array of sensors are used to estimate and track movement. This position is then refined as soon as another marker becomes available.

“From the markers we can also determine the user’s orientation, unlike other platforms which rely on the unreliable indoor performance of compasses, offering an important advantage to wayfinding. No data is required to operate, meaning GSM deadzones provide reduced barriers to operation.”

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We think one of Pathfinder’s most interesting features is intelligent waypoints, which could allow event managers to send mobile alerts to attendees when they were within a certain proximity of trade show booths, points of interest or activations. The tech can also be tricked out to provide guided mobile tours and customized directions.

This is much-needed stuff for large-scale events, and we hope to see it in wider implementation very soon.

David Sonntag
david@decibelmanagement.com
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