Apple's interest in the field of indoor mapping began to surface when we learned of their acquisition of WiFiSLAM back in early 2013. In 2014 we reported on Apple inventing a seamless outdoor to indoor mapping transition app. In 2015 we reported on at least three indoor mapping inventions (one, two and three). Apple was granted a patent in August relating to indoor mapping based on inertial navigation and last week we reported that Apple acquired yet another indoor mapping company. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple relating to indoor mapping titled "Floor Level Determination."
Apple notes that "People often carry mobile devices to a venue (e.g., a building) where a pedestrian can access. The venue can have multiple floors. People may want to use their mobile devices to determine on which floor they are located. People may want their mobile devices to display a floor plan of that floor, without having to enter a floor number. Inside the building, determining a floor using global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signals may be impractical due to signal weakness or signal obstruction. An altitude determined using barometer readings may also be insufficiently accurate or certain to determine a floor level, due to measurement uncertainties and atmospheric instabilities.
Apple's invention relates to techniques for determining a building floor level. Apple notes that a mobile device can use wireless signal sources and location fingerprint data to determine a level of a building floor on which the mobile device is located. The location fingerprint data can include or be associated with a list and a count of wireless signal sources previously detected on each floor. The mobile device can compare the list and count with wireless signal sources detected by the mobile device, and use results of the comparison to configure a statistical filter that determines a location of the mobile device. The mobile device can then determine the location, including a building floor level, using the statistical filter.
The features described in Apple's patent application can be implemented to achieve various advantages. For example, compared to conventional location determination that outputs two-dimensional coordinates, the techniques described can provide a third dimension. This dimension can correspond to building floors rather than mere altitudes.
The techniques described in Apple's patent filing can therefore generate a more practical and intuitive estimate of a location inside a venue. As a result, the techniques may provide better user experience when the user navigates inside a venue using the mobile device. For example, the mobile device can automatically display a floor plan for a user without having to request the user to input a floor level. The mobile device can display contextually relevant information to the user based on not only a latitude and longitude position but also a floor level. The mobile device can provide route guidance to a location on a different floor, using the floor determination to provide the routing information.
Apple's patent FIG 1 is a diagram illustrating example floor level determination techniques: FIG. 2 illustrates example techniques for generating floor survey data for floor level determination.
Apple's patent FIGS. 4A to 4F illustrate example models for configuring a particle filter used in floor level determination.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating components of an example location estimation subsystem of a mobile device.
Apple notes that the state space estimator #504 noted above can receive, from a storage device of a location server or of a mobile device, venue map #505 including data on structural constraints (e.g., walls, doors) in the venue. Using the venue map data, the state space estimator can determine whether or not a pedestrian can transition through a structural constraint. The state space estimator can determine a likelihood where the pedestrian may move within a given time interval, given limited motion speed of the pedestrian.
The state space estimator can receive or determine, from sensors #514, a motion context. The motion context can include readings of sensors which can include a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) of mobile device. For example, the sensors can include a magnetometer #507 configured to determine a direction of a pedestrian's heading; an accelerometer #508 can be configured to determine whether a pedestrian's movement is walking or running, a pace of the movement, and a stride of the movement. The sensors can also include a barometer #510 to be configured to determine whether a pedestrian is moving vertically (e.g., in an elevator or on stairs) based on air pressure. The sensors can also include a gyroscope #512 to be configured to determine whether a pedestrian is turning.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 is an example user interface for displaying a floor map on a mobile device. For example, if mobile device #102 determines that mobile device has moved in an elevator from floor L2 to L3, the mobile device can update the map #702 to display a floor plan of floor level L3. Updating the map can include updating label #708 to indicate that the map has changed to a new floor plan. The updating can be automatic and without user input.
Apple patent application 20160356593 was filed back in Q3 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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