Welcome and next action points


in a discussion with Andreas Balzer I proposed a indoor mailinglist to improve communication, he said a forum would be better so I asked if we could get a subforum here, which we got now.

What’s missing in the OSM indoor world from your point of view?

I think the most importend things are level support for JOSM and “How to map an subway station”, “How to map a shopping center” manuals.
What’s your opinion?


As long as I can see, the most important missing element is a location (aka “positioning”) engine able to work with the high precision required by indoor applications.

These days I’m working at a commercial project aimed to develop an indoor navigation system for shopping centers and, with my great pleasure, I discovered that the OSM world is already able to supply most, if not all, of the elements required by this kind of applications. Most likely, we will not use OSM or other Open Source components because of our upstream legal/copyright constrains but I’m still impressed by the amount and the quality of the code produced by this community.

So far, I have seen a few good map editors (Potlach, Merkaartor, etc.), a few impressive server-side applications for serving tiles, maps and other things and even a couple of very impressive routing engine like OSRM (the Open Source Routing Machine) and OpenTripPlanner.

The only missing element is something like WiFiSlam, Navizon o Skyhook. That is: a working, actively-maintained, easy-to-deploy location engine able to locate the end user’s device indoor with an accuracy of 2 - 4 meters (“room-level accuracy”). As an alternative, this element could (or should?) be implemented as a public webservice (even a commercial one).

Of course, I’m aware of Redpin and FootPath. I have their source trees on my hard disk and I’m studying them. Unfortunately, both of these projects seems to be quite abandoned (last commit a year ago or more) and their Android clients are available only as source code (they both require a determined, well-prepared sysadmin/developer to be compiled and deployed). In their current incarnation, they can hardly be considered a working solution to this problem.

I wonder if this (apparent?) lack of interest is related to the imminent arrival of the Broadcom BCM4752 GPS chipset on the smartphone market. Is the community just waiting for a COTS, built-in, hardware solution to this problem? (Just asking, out of curiousity)

Hoping not having hurt anybody…

I agree that a broadly-available, high-precision indoor positioning system is a prerequisite to mass consumer usefulness of indoor maps. There are several strong consumer uses at this point, including what is available from Google Maps, Point Inside, and Aisle411. A list of several other indoor positioning and mapping providers is available here: http://bit.ly/indoornavigation

My Company provides tools for creating indoor maps, but our most active customers rely on the deployment of specialized hardware infrastructure to accomplish suitable indoor positioning capabilities. This is feasible for their privately-owned buildings, but not feasible for mapping the millions of buildings around the world. Additionally, obtaining the “satellite imagery” (floor plans) that enable the creation of vector-based indoor maps is not easily done in bulk.

We use OSM data for our basemaps, and the creation of a building footprint on OSM is a prerequisite for our maps. Glad to share anything we’ve learned, as it’s hopefully mutually beneficial to us and the broader OSM community!

Hi Nick (aerosuch),
frankly, I do not think that the indoor Google Maps service will ever be as successful as the outdoor one or OSM. Most building maps belong to strong commercial “entities”, like shopping center’s or civil airport’s admin offices. Often, these administrative offices are not willing to publish (or “share”) their blueprints under the Google’s ToS because of security and commercial concerns. In a few country, you cannot publish (or share) the blueprint of a building that belongs to someone else, not even if you created the blueprint yourself from scratch (no matter if the building is a public one). As a consequence, most likely we will never see a large, community-driven repository of floor plans that could be compared to the outdoor Google Maps and OSM.

On the other side, companies working in this market (like aisle411, pointinside, etc.) cannot yet offer a “standard”, widely-accepted solution that can reassure the customer and make this market grow (that is: the “facebook” of the indoor mapping). A part of the potential customers are still worried that the end user will have to have a specific kind of smartphone, with a specific application installed, just to use their (quite expensive) indoor navigation system. The ghosts of quick obsolescence and fragmentation are keeping these customers away from this market.

As long as I can see, what we would need is a MIT licensed solution: a standard software base (or a standard online service) that all of the “indoor mappers” can use freely while the “maps copyright holders” can still maintain a total control over their blueprints (even during the development phase). A solution like this could make the indoor mapping world grow quickly. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of solution that can make happy the many software houses that are currently trying to get a market share in this ecosystem.