Sooner than later, pretty much every mobile phone will have some degree of location capabilities, mostly likely in the form of GPS. Indeed, you’d already be hard-pressed to find a new smartphone without support for the Global Positioning System. But while it works well outdoors or for in-vehicle navigation, what about indoors where GPS signals can’t penetrate?
A number of indoor solutions based on cell-tower triangulation or Wi-Fi network databases (think SkyHook) have appeared in recent years, the newest being one from Point Inside. In December of 2009, the company announced its first product — an indoor navigation solution for Apple’s iPhone (s aapl) that guides consumers through shopping malls. Point Inside today follows up with support for more than 50 airports in the U.S.. By combining a proprietary location solution with indoor maps of major malls and airports, Point Inside offers guidance in places where Google Maps and others simply can’t.
I actually can use Google Maps — one of the hottest smartphone apps today — with the GPS on my Nexus One in the local mall, but without a venue map showing all of the retail stores, all I have is a blue dot blinking on a building. With Point Inside, I can get directions on my smartphone to easily navigate from the GameStop to Lenscrafters, for example. Point Inside says it now has maps covering over 100,000 stores, gates, kiosks, restrooms, elevators, and escalators in U.S. and Canadian malls and airports. And much like Foursquare, it offers retailers a geo-based way to provide promotions to a nearby consumer audience.
Google (s goog), Yahoo (s yhoo), Microsoft (s msft), Nokia (s nok) and a few standalone portable navigation device makers are well-entrenched with their efforts to dominate the navigation space, so startups have to be especially innovative here and find new ways to leverage navigation solutions. With that in mind, Point Inside and others like GloPos are going where the big boys don’t yet tread — in fact, Point Inside is actively soliciting for venues to use the Point Inside “Indoor Smart Map™” technology.
Malls and airports are just the lowest-hanging fruit for Point Inside. If the company can build up a large enough base of venue directories to mash up with its location solution — say, large office properties or sports venues — it could own the indoor navigation space.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):