Research

Funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research Guiding people through buildings European research team developing standardized platform for indoor navigation

  • FIONA research project to create open software platform with standardized interfaces
  • Basis for location-based services
  • Two demonstrators in the pipeline: a navigation assistant for the visually impaired and a guide on the smart phone
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  • April 07, 2015
  • Research
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press release

Stuttgart – Navigation systems have long since established themselves as a valuable tool for outdoor use, with many drivers relying on their in-car devices to guide them on the roads. Such systems draw on GPS signals, and thus work only outdoors. For indoor environments, we have yet to see fully viable navigation solutions. This is a barrier to the development of location-based services (LBS), which have the potential to help people in a variety of ways. Possible applications include a service that would function like an electronic white cane to aid the visually impaired in navigating through indoor spaces, and a smart phone app that would help people to get their bearings in public buildings.

An open, independent platform
Though location-based services are an extremely attractive business proposition, their potential has so far remained virtually unexploited. What is missing is a uniform underlying structure – an open and independent platform upon which LBS providers can build their services. It is this platform that the FIONA (Framework for Indoor and Outdoor Navigation Assistance) research project is seeking to create. Ten partners from industry and research in five states have joined together to develop a software framework that will facilitate the development of location-based services. Though there are a number of indoor positioning technologies already available, they are limited either by their technology or their cost. This relatively new market is heavily fragmented. There are hardly any firmly established standards, and small and large companies manufacture components that are not compatible with one another.

Defining interfaces
Project partners will agree on an architecture and implement it so that components from different manufacturers can be combined in a single system. It is at the interfaces between components that the need for standardization is greatest. How does a localization system communicate with a navigation system? What information is necessary and what is optional? How often must data be transmitted and at what level of detail? What happens when there is a malfunction? These are but a few of the many questions that need to be addressed.

Demonstrator prototypes
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the framework, the project team intends to showcase two applications. The first is a navigation assistant, which will accurately guide the blind and visually impaired from building to building (as on shopping trips, for instance), as well as from room to room, and will alert them to any obstacles. In an aging society, where the number of people with visual impairments is on the rise, this kind of service will certainly be in demand. The second demonstrator will be a virtual tour guide for places such as museums, shopping malls, airports, and factory floors. In the form of a smartphone app, the virtual guide will direct users through buildings and provide relevant information according to the type of building and their current location within it. This might be information about works of art, items on a shopping list, flight details or machines in need of repair.

Promoting innovation
Both applications show how results from FIONA can be used in practice. FIONA will offer LBS providers a reliable framework for their services, making it quicker and cheaper to develop new products and stimulating competition among suppliers. As a transnational project, FIONA can also strengthen Europe’s position on the LBS market, which is expected to see rapid growth over the coming years.

A transnational project
FIONA brings together large and small companies as well as research institutions from several EU member states: Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. The project team includes specialist developers from the fields of positioning, obstacle recognition, navigation, security, and human-computer interaction as well as system integration experts. Robert Bosch GmbH in Stuttgart is heading up the project, and is working with three partners in Germany: the Fraunhofer Institute for Embedded Systems and Communication Technologies ESK in Munich, Infineon Technologies AG in Neubiberg, and the University of Applied Sciences in Ulm. FIONA is part of the ITEA 2 (Information Technology for European Advancement) cluster program under the umbrella of Europe’s EUREKA research initiative, and is receiving funding of 1.9 million euros from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project is scheduled to run until February 2016.

Background information online:
FIONA research project website
ITEA cluster program
European EUREKA research initiative

Project partners in Germany:
Robert Bosch GmbH
Fraunhofer Institute for Embedded Systems and Communication Technologies ESK
Infineon Technologies AG
Ulm University of Applied Sciences

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com and www.bosch-press.com, http://twitter.com/BoschPresse.

PI8872 - April 07, 2015

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