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What About Wi-Fi Indoor Positioning Technology?

Does a Wi-Fi positioning system have the capability to provide accurate indoor positioning?

The Truth About Wi-Fi Indoor Positioning Systems

Wi-Fi positioning, also known as Wi-Fi-based localization or indoor positioning, is used to determine the location of a device or person within an indoor environment using Wi-Fi signals. A wireless indoor positioning system using Wi-Fi relies on the presence of access points (APs) or routers emitting wireless signals.

Each Wi-Fi access point relays data allowing internet access. Wi-Fi positioning can take advantage of signals emitted from Wi-Fi routers to gain some insights into a user's location.

How Does Wi-Fi Positioning Work?

When a Wi-Fi router sends a wireless signal, Wi-Fi receivers, such as smartphones and tablets, can accept those signals. Each signal contains some metadata which can be processed and used to determine a user’s location. Wi-Fi metadata:

  • MAC address (unique ID for the router)
  • Received Signal Strength (RSS)

The MAC address is unique for each Wi-Fi router and the RSS provides a rough measurement of how far away the device is. A strong RSS would show the user is close to that Wi-Fi router, while a weak RSS would indicate the user is far from the Wi-Fi router.

What Are Wi-Fi Trilateration and Wi-Fi Fingerprinting?

There are two main ways Wi-Fi MAC address and RSS can be used for positioning: trilateration and fingerprinting.

Wi-Fi trilateration uses the location of each Wi-Fi router. Then, based on the RSS, it estimates a distance between a user and each visible Wi-Fi router to calculate its position based on those distances.

Wi-Fi fingerprinting does not need to know Wi-Fi router locations, but instead creates a large fingerprint map of what the RSS of each MAC address looks like at various locations and then in real-time compares the measured RSS to the fingerprint map to determine a user's position.

Wi-Fi-Based Positioning System Challenges

While Wi-Fi is one of the most popular technologies ever, there are still many challenges users face when using it for indoor positioning.

Here are some challenges with Wi-Fi-based indoor positioning:

  • iOS devices have restricted access to scan for Wi-Fi
  • Android data through the Wi-Fi network can be limited for scanning
  • Accuracy alone is not sufficient for indoor positioning (10-15 metres)
  • Wi-Fi signals propagate through various walls and obstacles leading to high signal variance and ambiguity making it difficult to calculate distance

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Mapsted’s Indoor Positioning System Needs No External Hardware

  • Technical limitations of other indoor navigation technologies can't deliver what Mapsted's patented core technology does – a highly accurate and cost-effective stand-alone indoor positioning system. A VLC positioning system doesn’t even come close.
  • Other indoor positioning systems require expensive external hardware and costly maintenance.
  • Instead of relying on external hardware for location-based needs, Mapsted technology pulls from a huge variety of data sources creating an accurately powerful indoor positioning system.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Wi-Fi positioning, also known as Wi-Fi-based localization or indoor positioning, determines the location of a device or person within an indoor environment using Wi-Fi signals. It leverages the presence of Wi-Fi access points (APs) or routers emitting wireless signals to estimate the position of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

Wi-Fi signals determine the location of a device or person within an indoor environment. Wi-Fi access points (APs) are strategically installed throughout the indoor space. Signal strength measurements are taken from Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. To determine the device's location, a technique called signal fingerprinting is employed. Once the device has identified the access points with the strongest signal strengths, it can calculate its position using trilateration. Various localization algorithms are employed to refine the position estimation and improve accuracy. These algorithms take into account signal strength, signal quality, multipath interference and other environmental variables to enhance the accuracy of the Wi-Fi positioning system.

The accuracy of Wi-Fi positioning can vary depending on several factors, including the density and placement of Wi-Fi APs, signal interference, environmental conditions, and the specific algorithms and techniques used. Generally, Wi-Fi positioning systems can achieve varying levels of accuracy, ranging from a few metres to tens of metres in indoor environments.

Indoor positioning using Wi-Fi can determine the location of a device or person within an indoor environment. Some common uses of Wi-Fi positioning systems include indoor navigation, location-based services, asset tracking, emergency response, smart home automation and geofencing.

There are several alternative technologies for indoor positioning that can complement or serve as alternatives to Wi-Fi-based positioning. The best alternative depends on factors such as the specific use case, desired accuracy, infrastructure availability, and cost considerations. A few notable alternatives include Bluetooth low energy beacons, ultra-wideband, infrared beacons and sensor fusion. Mapsted’s innovative location-based technology delivers seamless, scalable indoor navigation for a wide variety of industries and all without using beacons, Wi-Fi, or additional external hardware.

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