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Navigating to a Better CX Via Inclusive Wayfinding Technology

WayMap Mobile App Provides an Indoor and Outdoor Navigation Solution Without Beacons or Wi-Fi

In public and commercial spaces, wayfinding tools are an essential part of delivering a great customer experience. As anyone who has tried to navigate an unfamiliar transit system, large public building, or shopping mall knows, challenges with identifying one’s current location, the location of a destination or point of interest, and the best route to take can quickly create a negative impression of the both the physical facility and the entities involved with managing it.

Generally, there are four types of wayfinding signs that are used in retail, commercial, and transit spaces. Informational signs provide customers with their current location, and may also include things like maps or directories, or other ways to get more information (such as a QR code that provides web access to additional resources). Directional signs help the user navigate from one place to another, and are found at entrances, exits, key points of interest, and junctions.

Landmark signs help users identify specific points of interest, including restroom locations, exits, and loading zones. In addition to highlighting these functional areas, they also aid in helping users find their current location. Finally, regulatory signs alert users to specific rules or limits, such as no-standing zones, dangerous areas, or areas with low clearance.

Executed properly, wayfinding signage can elevate the user experience, making it easy for customers to quickly know where they are, identify points of interest, and help them plot a route to get there. However, when a person has disabilities, such as vision impairments or blindness, being deaf or hard of hearing, or is mobility impaired, these visual signs may not be useful.

Waymap Ltd., a UK-based organization, is addressing the problem through the development of a phygital solution. The company’s eponymous mobile app uses a proprietary, device-sensor-based algorithm to provide inclusive location-based wayfinding technology, both indoors and outdoors within its partner locations. Tom Pey, the company’s CEO and founder, said Waymap emerged from experimentation in audio navigation in the UK by the Royal Society for Blind Children, to create a more accessible way for people with disabilities to navigate large transit systems.

The inclusive system is based around using geolocation data for a known space, such as a transit system, retail shopping center, or stadium, for example. Waymap leverages existing computer-aided design (CAD) drawings of a space, and then does a physical, 360-degree walkthrough using a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) scan of the facility, noting key points of interest, pathways and corridors, and any other physical features that need to be mapped, including grade changes, surface changes, and restricted areas. All the key features are then geolocated to specific coordinates, and new, inclusive maps are created that adhere to standards of the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United States’ Consumer Technology Association (CTA), specifically ITU-T F.921 and CTA-2076 standards, which cover audio-based wayfinding for blind and low-vision people.

Using the standard sensors embedded in smartphones (such as the internal compass, pedometer, and accelerometer), a proprietary algorithm that measures where a user is against their previous step, and then calculates the probability of where the next possible step would be, based on geolocation data within the environment (such as the presence of obstructions, or popular routes to points of interest).

“So, the app assigns 5,000 possible positions to your next step, every second, and we assess the probability of that happening,” Pey explains. “We call them particles, so it’s based around particle filtration. If the particle is predicted to go through a wall, it’s given the probability of being correct of zero.” As more people utilize the app, the algorithm will continue to learn the best paths, and get even better at predicting users’ likely paths and routes to specific points of interest.

Pey says a user’s location will be accurate to within 1 meter, and directionally, within a 10-degree range. Because the system is constantly receiving inputs from the user walking, and can also access other sensors on the phone (such as the camera), a user’s location can be verified without the use of Bluetooth beacons (which are costly to deploy) or Wi-Fi, which can suffer from outages due to high network traffic. The tight integration of a fully mapped building and the Waymap app also allows for planned or unplanned changes to be accounted for by building’s or transit system’s operations staff.

“We also code the escalators with the same code as the transit provider,” Pey says. “If you’re going through a station, and escalator L21 is out of order, that information will come through their [transit operations status feed], we will pick it up and you will know that that particular escalator is out of order and we can reroute you to a another escalator or to an elevator if that’s close by.”

Waymap was first launched in Washington, DC, in May 2022, with the app functioning across 110 Metro stations and 11,000 bus stops in the DC metro area. The company is also conducting proofs of concept at Los Angeles Union Station for the LA Metro, and in the transit systems in Singapore, Madrid, Spain, and Brisbane, Australia.

From a CX perspective, the technology is impressive because it is designed inclusively, providing critical functionality for those that need it, such as those with physical limitations, older adults, or those with special needs, while augmenting the experience for those who do not need it. And because the system is available via a free iOS or Android app to users, building and transit system operators do not need to issue a separate app; they simply need to contract with Waymap to handle the building scanning, mapping, and operation of the system.

Most importantly, these operators can provide a significantly better CX by providing enhanced navigation and wayfinding to all customers, through the same application, instead of separate mobile apps. This allows operators to service customers seamlessly, ensuring a consistent level of service, regardless of their physical ability to get around.

Author Information

Keith has over 25 years of experience in research, marketing, and consulting-based fields.

He has authored in-depth reports and market forecast studies covering artificial intelligence, biometrics, data analytics, robotics, high performance computing, and quantum computing, with a specific focus on the use of these technologies within large enterprise organizations and SMBs. He has also established strong working relationships with the international technology vendor community and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events.

In his career as a financial and technology journalist he has written for national and trade publications, including BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Investment Dealers’ Digest, The Red Herring, The Communications of the ACM, and Mobile Computing & Communications, among others.

He is a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP).

Keith holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Magazine Journalism and Sociology from Syracuse University.

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