While the homing pigeon is known for navigating back home over long distances, some other animals, such as the spiny lobster, are able to do the same on a more local level. Research has given some idea that these animals are able to derive positional information from cues that arise from the local anomalies of the Earth's magnetic field. With an accurate compass in every iPhone and Android device, a team of Engineers from the University of Oulu in Finland have created a new breed of indoor positioning technology that does not require WiFi or other beacons, but instead provides a major update to one of Man's oldest navigating technologies.
Using signal processing technology, the university team discovered that steel masses inside buildings twist the Earth's magnetic field such that every spot produces a unique pattern. “Each building, floor and corridor creates a distinct magnetic field disturbance that can be measured to identify a location and generate a map,” explains Dr. Janne Haverinen, the head of the project.
The team realized the practical potential of their findings. To provide a practical solution to be used by smartphone application developers, Dr. Haverinen’s research team has founded IndoorAtlas Ltd to commercialize the innovation. Along with the launch, the company also announces a seed capital investment from the Helsinki-based Vigo accelerator, KoppiCatch.