Indoor/outdoor location and asset management through open geodata – i-locate!

Contributed by: 
Giuseppe Conti

i-locate, a project of Europe’s ICT-PSP program, provides the first reference implementation of IndoorGML. The i-locate portal provides an indoor counterpart to OpenStreetMap (OSM).

Studies have shown that on average we spend about 90% of our time indoors, often in unfamiliar environments. Location Based Services (LBS), however, are  limited to outdoor scenarios because they are based almost entirely on GPS location, which doesn’t work well indoors. The potential social and economic value of indoor LBS applications to people and businesses is obviously very great. Applications include navigation but also activities such as asset management and hospital patient management.

The i-locate portal provides means to enter, select and view in-building data encoded using the OGC IndoorGML Encoding Standard.

The indoor LBS market is set to grow in the next 4 years to a multi-billion dollar market. Over the past few years, increasingly accurate indoor location determination technologies based on technologies such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi and optical ranging have expanded the scope of LBS to include indoor spaces. Players such as Google, Apple, Nokia and a multitude of SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises) are investing significant resources to create indoor mapping databases and services. Nevertheless, the development of seamless indoor/outdoor location services still must overcome three major barriers:

1)   Lack of indoor spatial data. While much outdoor map data can be easily accessed as open data – a notable example being OpenStreetMap (OSM) – openly accessible indoor spatial data is not available except in isolated cases. In the case of publicly-accessible buildings, such as hospitals, stations, airports, shopping malls, and public offices, having open access to indoor spatial data would support new business activities and bring a number of social and economic benefits.

2)   Isolated technological ecosystems. Technological fragmentation binds location based services to specific vendor-native technologies and limits the services to particular functions.

3)   Lack of standards-based indoor/outdoor LBS integration. Standards exist that support seamless indoor/outdoor navigation, but no effort to date has successfully integrated these standards.

i-locate means to overcome these barriers by providing an open platform for innovation in integrated indoor and outdoor localisation of people and objects. i-locate has been engineered to address these market requirements provided by a core of specialised European SMEs:

·   Create a public geoportal, the so-called “virtual hub”, that collects, makes discoverable, and provides access to indoor geographic information as open data: an indoor counterpart to OpenStreetMap.

·   Adopt and extend open standards in the field of indoor/outdoor LBS.

·   Create a open source software developer “toolkit” (technically middleware) that allows integrated indoor-outdoor LBS based on the aforementioned open standards.

·   Ensure that such a toolkit is built on sound privacy and security policies, for the highest protection of personal/critical data.

·   Develop a template for standards-based client software (apps) for mobile devices, addressing real world scenarios.

·   Test – for more than one year – the virtual hub, the developer toolkit, and the final applications in real operational scenarios with real users and stakeholders within 14 pilot sites in 8 EU countries.

·   Engage large industrial players and also SMEs to ensure i-locate’s viability.

i-locate began with a comprehensive analysis and design phase, undertaken by a consortium of Spanish organizations that provided in-depth analysis of many use cases. The use cases were developed in pilots – demonstration projects – involving real downstream users (e.g. technicians, doctors, public officials, etc.). The pilots included analysis of international, national, and local regulatory constraints, with particular attention to privacy, ethical, and security issues.

Concurrently, the consortium identified technical requirements. This phase benefitted from the involvement of a few key experts from the industrial and standardisation world, in particular experts employed by organizations and businesses involved in the OGC. These experts were formally engaged as members of the consortium’s advisory board.

At that time, IndoorGML was a candidate OGC standard, specifically designed for indoor navigation services (IndoorGML was officially voted as OGC standard in September 2014). The results of the pilots indicated that the current modular core of the standard needs to be extended with an additional module to address asset management in addition to navigation. This asset management extension of IndoorGML was proposed as a result of i-locate. The extension is currently under development in the OGC IndoorGML Standards Working Group. The extension is designed to follow the principles of the recent (2014) ISO 55000 abstract standard specifications on asset management. Other standards selected for some of the core features included the ISO/IEC 24730-1:2014 standard on “Information technology — Real-time locating systems (RTLS)”. This attention to open standards was essential to ensure widespread industrial uptake of i-locate.

The standards platform provided a necessary foundation for the definition of a comprehensive system architecture comprising a number of complex services such as localisation, geofencing, and spatial analytics. At this phase it become clear that i-locate would become the first reference implementation of IndoorGML, a new and innovative standard within the LBS market.

Other early activities included a detailed survey of the data available to the various pilot sites. Work included documenting the adjustments necessary before loading the data into the central database that was being deployed as part of on-going development of the core virtual hub indoor geoportal.

The portal has been progressively extended with connectors that provide real-time access to other open data repositories, such as repositories of 3D city models that implement the OGC CityGML standard. Additionally, a service needed to be developed that allowed geometrical and topological validation of data against the requirements specified in IndoorGML. The hub provides graphical user interface capabilities that allow ingestion of indoor mapping data as well as interactive drawing of indoor graphs encoded as IndoorGML. A result has been the early public deployment of a first version of the i-locate portal, which is already being used in pilot preparation activities.

After the first release of the system architecture, software development started. This led to the successful public release, at the end of i-locate’s first year, of the first version of the open source toolkit.

During the first year, the consortium has also defined a detailed deployment and validation plan and created an infrastructure for online training (available from the project website) and related interactive training material. The deployment and validation plan and the training infrastructure will be important to ensure widespread implementation and uptake of i-locate.

For more information about i-locate, see www.i-locate.eu. You can also download the promotional video from: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6d9c9vud22qhobe/i-locate%20promo.mp4?dl=0 .

 

The i-locate project, coordinated by Trilogis Srl based in Rovereto, Italy, is co-funded by the European Commission in the framework of the ICT-PSP (Information and Communication Technology Program).

Giuseppe Conti is CTO at Trilogis and chair of the OGC Domain Working Group for Mobile Location Services. Co-authors include Nicola Dorigatti, Senior Software Analyst & Developer at Trilogis, and Stefano Piffer, Technical Manager at Trilogis.