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Indoor Mapping Takes a Big Step Towards Mass Adoption with IMDF Standardization

by Simran Klair

It takes time and patience for emerging technology to reach mass adoption, and it seems the time has come for indoor mapping software. When the world-recognized Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) named Apple’s Indoor Mapping Data Format (IMDF) a community standard, they unleashed potential widespread adoption of indoor mapping technology. IMDF is transforming what began as supplemental navigation tools into immersive, personal wayfinding resources that make the built environment more discoverable.

For travelers, this means viewing richer data and more interactive features on airport maps. And for airports, standardizing IMDF validates existing investments in the emerging technology shaping their passengers’ journeys.

Offering richer insights into how this milestone impacts the mapping industry, Lucas Verret, a Product Manager at LocusLabs, discussed the implications of OGC’s recognizing IMDF as a community standard.

Indoor mapping sounds self-explanatory, but what are the basics?

It’s natural these days to use our smartphones to guide us to a restaurant’s front door. Outdoor digital maps and voice directions are familiar, necessary tools for exploring our surroundings, planning trips, and navigating around traffic. Indoor mapping serves the same purpose, except it organizes information to help us find our way around built spaces. Now we have the option to navigate indoors–airports, concert venues,  sports stadiums– the same way we do outside. Displaying map data built with IMDF on smartphones and mobile devices will engage consumers with, and raise their awareness of, indoor spaces.

How does recognizing IMDF as a community standard impact the travel industry?

For the travel industry in general and airports specifically, IMDF breaks down the “walls” of the indoor space, making it easier to understand how and where we’re navigating. We’re putting robust data at our passengers’ fingertips so they can orient themselves to the whole airport environment. Digital, data-rich-based maps make it easier for them to see and follow the best route from a parking lot to their boarding gate. Our technology enriches pre-boarding time, enabling passengers to use the time enjoying any number of airport amenities like retail and dining. Overall,real-time maps have the potential to create a more pleasant traveler experience. And having the data that maps are built upon represented in a standard format is huge towards meeting this goal.

IMDF also frees up the airport’s organizational resources. Staff can redirect their time and energy toward passenger care instead of developing and updating proprietary software. This new standard exponentially simplifies building and maintaining maps that meet passenger priorities, such as discovering health and safety resources, airport concessions, and self-service or contactless service options.

And because IMDF is so new, how airport teams apply the standard will inform future uses. We’re learning with our customers; they’re learning with us.

How does IMDF address passengers’ COVID-19 travel needs and concerns?

The more useful, clear, and accurate data we put in front of passengers, the better their travel experience. Fluctuating COVID-19 regulations is a significant and timely example of how IMDF impacts travel. We have to deliver essential health and safety information across multiple channels to meet the passenger at every touchpoint along their travel journey. Whether it’s kiosks, the airport website, digital signage, or personal devices, IMDF enables accurate information distribution in multiple places, so we’ll see more airports initiate IMDF compliant mapping projects.

How does IMDF influence your work?

I work with our customers, enabling them to maximize their spatial data through our indoor maps. We build it, and they access and manage their data via our Locus Venue Management System (VMS). My work challenges me to create maps our partners can style to their facility and brand without compromising data accuracy or ease-of-use.

Equally important for our customers and their passengers, these maps flex to accommodate airport growth and changing current events. LocusVMS simplifies mapping new terminals, relocated concessions, temporary walkways, and navigational impacts of health and safety regulations. COVID-19 created multiple levels of uncertainty for airport operators and travelers, many of which are resolved with access to real-time, accurate information. For example, we help our customers highlight strategically located hand sanitizing stations and stores selling PPE. Or tell passengers when concessions are temporarily closed. Once airport staff updates LocusVMS, the changes instantly appear on every browser-based map and digital sign in the system. Then, as soon as all the airport maps reflect the changes, passengers have immediate access regardless of where the map is hosted. We’re giving our customers tremendous reach into day-of-travel workflows.

The more robust the maps inside the airport app, the richer the user experience. Higher customer expectations are driving better map building. LocusLabs, through our Venue Management System (LocusVMS), lets our customers deliver a single source of truth—accurate, curated data in one place—to their customers.

For me, IMDF introduces–and guarantees–two irreplaceable benefits: my team and I have a standard process for building device-agnostic maps, and this process boosts our customers’ efficiency. LocusLabs encourages our customers to shift time and money from creating and maintaining proprietary software–or even static maps– to elevating the passenger journey. The right maps give passengers the confidence to leave the gate and explore the airport without fear of missing their flight because they got lost or wandered too far. We want people to enjoy their airport time, not just wait for it to pass!

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