Scottish Startup Sensewhere Promises Accurate Indoor Location-Tracking

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As location gradually becomes more important to the on-the-go consumer, what with daily deals, check-in coupons, and local promotions, so that consumer’s fine location becomes more important to merchants. GPS and wi-fi can only get you so far, though, and inside a mall or airport it’s much more difficult and inefficient to narrow down a user’s location to anything approaching usability.

There are systems for tracking people and devices indoors, but Scottish startup Sensewhere (formerly Satsis) says they’ve leapfrogged existing solutions. Their new “self-correcting” location-sensing network will allow for quick and low-power situation of devices to within 5m by forming a sort of constantly updated mesh of self-aware devices.

The company, which split off from research at the University of Edinburgh and got its launch money through awards and loans, received £1.2 million in funding from private equity firms just this last August. They’re making their public launch nowish (there have been a few news items over the last week or so) and have made an app available on iOS and Android.

Their technology is similar to existing indoor-tracking systems, but the company says theirs is superior due to its self-updating nature:

By cross-referencing this information from different sources, at different times, sensewhere improves the accuracy of indoor location over time, autonomously mapping RF reference points in a way that is self-correcting, updated by every device that determines its own position, reliable, and more accurate than other solutions.

If you cut through the marketing there, what you basically have is a self-updating network with devices pinging a central server with the networks they see (wi-fi, Bluetooth, RF, etc.) and their position as best they can determine, and that central server continually collates this data and updates the map, using mobile nodes as reference as well as stationary ones.

Assuming the system works, it could be a great add-on for megastructures like department stores and airports, with tons of device traffic and square footage. While I’m sure it falls short of the idea right now, one imagines the endpoint: get a promo deal when you walk into a store that expires when you walk out – that sort of thing.

Right now it’s available as an app, but it seems unlikely that they’ll see uptake in that form. They’ll have to go white-label and market themselves as a customizable solution for individual locations – that or talk with mapping or deal companies and get themselves integrated at a lower level. No hardware is required for setup at your local mall, but places will still have to tie in and do setup – there’s a lot of low-level work to be done there interfacing with small stores, corporate offices, and so on. Retail is a nightmare but they are always up for new marketing opportunities.

The Sensewhere site is pretty spartan at the moment, but you can get more info on the apps into which the service is integrated through them. The system is described in more detail in their press release and at Crowdsourcing.