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Mall Navigator

Status: Proposal
March 19, 2013

How often have you wandered around searching for a shop in a new Mall you are visiting or a ward in a large hospital? With the aid of GPS we have no trouble locating the facility, but once we enter the building we soon lose the GPS signal. Wouldn't it be nice if you could simply search for your shop, ward, or airport gate on your smartphone, or perhaps a 'locator' device that you collect from reception (If you dont have a smartphone), and get instructions on how to reach your desired destination in a similar fashion to GPS navigation?

How about using the Elektor Membership card as a starting point for this project? if we place one of these at each entrance of the facilty, as well as one at each shop entrance, we could simply hold our smartphones in close proximity to determine our current location. A list of all shops are then presented on the device, and once you select the shop, a map could be displayed guiding you to your destination. Maps of Malls or other facilities such as hospitals and airports could be preloaded via the internet before you visit the facility.

The same principle can be used to store your parking location in your smartphone, if at each parking spot, you could load its bay number by touching the proximity card with your smartphone. To find your car back, you would simply select 'find car', tap your phone at the nearest proximity device, (of which there would also be one located at the parking paypoint) and you could be guided  to your parking bay from wherever you are currently located in the mall.


I noted with enthusiasm that there is interest in the Mall navigation system, and have been considering various possibilities. To me, it seems quite feasible to utilize RFID tags as a positioning device as these are fairly cheap and would not cost a great deal to implement. They are also durable and do not require any power. On top of that, the cards that contain the tag can be used for advertising, as every customer that utilizes the service, will continuously be reminded to ‘look for the Elektor guide for easy navigation!’ We would have to place them at strategic places, so that visitors can hold their smart phones or navigation devices in proximity to get an update if required. For instance at mall entrances, elevators, escalators and perhaps at each shop entrance as well. Ideally, every parking bay should have one, or they should be placed at the beginning and end of each row/block of vehicles. This would normally be the starting point of the shopper, and will be stored as ’My vehicle’. The position of the vehicle will remain stored until the memory is cleared when the visitor leaves the premises again.

Once a starting point has been scanned, the visitor is presented with a list of all the mall’s facilities, upon which a destination is selected.  Instructions will then be given how to proceed to reach the destination. This could have various formats: Written instructions, spoken instructions or a map could be displayed showing the route to follow. Each RFID tag will be programmed to produce a location code when scanned. The code will contain the floor number and its unique ID. The unique ID represents a position on the map. The software will then calculate the route by using your start and destination points.  The shopper must be able to refresh his route by scanning a new start-point at any time, and it must also be possible to select a new destination at any time.

At the end of the visit, the visitor will be guided back to his vehicle.

In the ‘Elektor Blockbuster’ available as a free download, Gerhard H Schalk presents an RFID reader, which we could use as starting point for a hand-held device if no smart phone is available. To this circuit we would have to add circuitry that can calculate routes and provide them in suggested formats. Also the ability to download and store Mall maps and RFID coordinates (perhaps use a MMC/SD card?) will be required.  As a user interface, touch panel TFT technology should be considered for our hand-held navigator as well…

A second thought, albeit more expensive, would be to place low cost, short range transmitters every 10 - 20 meters or so along routes to act as beacons. The visitor would then be able to track his/her progress in real-time (Similar to GPS) by receiving the beacon ID, which is programmed in a similar fashion to the RFID IDs. Of course, the transmitters would not replace the RFID’s, but simply enhance the experience. This would mean though that we also have to add a receiver to our Readers.

A project of this nature could certainly be of benefit and seems like a project with some interesting challenges. Does anyone have any other ideas how we could make this project a success story? Any comments or suggestions will be welcome!



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