by Carol Politi
TRX has been working for some time to adapt and extend its sensor fusion and mapping algorithms to support indoor location using only embedded cellular device sensors.
Using sensor fusion, ranging, and mapping to deliver indoor location limits power consumption, allows delivery of location where no infrastructure or mapping exists, enables delivery of more seamless location (extending into parking garages, for example), and enables provision of dynamic updates to maps (structural changes, which happen with only limited frequency, but also changes to heat maps regarding typical user routes, and changes to WiFi or Bluetooth node locations).
The following is an example of tracking within a mall using the Nexus 5. Niether Wi-Fi mapping or floor plans are used to constrain location results.
As this path is being taken, NEON is collecting map data - structural information such as stairwells and elevators, as well as magnetic features, Bluetooth features, and Wi-Fi features. This information can be used to improve the location for others that revisit these same points in the future.
by Carol Politi
Dr. Kamiar Kordari was recently interviewed by the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People (CCVIP) about TRX Systems indoor location developments supporting navigation for the visually impaired. Current navigation technologies are limited because they can't provide the accuracy required in dense urban and indoor environments to provide valuable information to assist with such a critical application. Many indoor location systems depend upon pre-installed infrastructure - and are targeted for retail, conference, or other known venues to support enhanced navigation and marketing in such environments. Support for navigation applications for the visually impaired require the ability to deliver such "GPS-denied" location in unknown buildings.
TRX initially began its indoor location developments using purpose-built hardware with embedded sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, compasses, light, and other sensors. However, mobile devices now have these sensors, and in support of the visually impaired navigation application, TRX is using standard cellular devices to deliver location services. To mitigate the errors in these lower cost sensors, TRX is using crowdsourced, collaborative mapping along with available RF (GPS, Bluetooth). The dynamically created maps include structural features (stairwells, elevators) as well as magnetic, WiFi, and other RF signatures. Augmenting the location algorithms is the use of other elements - sounds, smells, number of steps, for example - that can prompt and assist in the navigation.
More detail on TRX's continuing work in support of the visually impaired is in the CCVIP interview. TRX is receiving invaluable support from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in the development of this application.
by Carol Politi
TRX NEON indoor location products are being deployed for a broad range of applications, including event/VIP security, test and measurement applications, and urban operations training for public safety and defense personnel. One of the most challenging applications is the tracking of firefighters to improve safety in the event a firefighter goes down or becomes disoriented or trapped during an incident. This application is challenging because it is a critical life-safety application, in challenging environmental conditions (extreme heat/water), and firefighters activities are inherently extreme.
TRX has received significant support from firefighters in the development of the NEON location solution. The Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) has been involved in supporting early requirements definition as well as system testing and validation. Partners including Motorola Solutions and Globe Manufacturing have also both worked closely with TRX, supporting operational integration into key customer communications and turnout gear.
TRX recently partnered with the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Center (MECC) that performs fire and EMS dispatching for 6 fire departments in the greater Columbus, Ohio area, supporting more than 30,000 runs per year with 13 fire stations. MECC is supporting TRX with operational integration, life fire testing, and operational feedback. During this phase of deployment, TRX is being used by MECC in live burns to test and validate system performance, understand issues associated with operational integration, and perform after action review of training exercises. TRX recently participated in live burn exercises with MECC in a small single family home to evaluate performance during live burns and to determine the utility and concept of operation for tracking personnel in such a structure.
The intent of the training exercises were to:
a. Validate initialization approaches. One of the specific items to validate was the mechanisms for initialization - how do you get a global location before entering a building? GPS is one mechanism, however, GPS is often not sufficiently accurate to provide a precise position. TRX has developed ranging anchors that can be installed in high profile locations on vehicles, allowing high accuracy GPS tracking of the anchors which then range to the users tracking devices as they step out of the vehicle. This gives the users a high quality start location - much higher than GPS on their tracking unit alone. In this test, we validated the use of ranging anchors for initialization when placed on the fireground. In a future test we will validate vehicle integration.
b. Determine if there are ways to improve accuracy in small structures with aiding devices. One challenge with a small structure is that small amounts of error have big impacts. Four meters in a 400 meters square foot house has a much bigger impact than four meters in a 9000 meters square foot structure. The question for this test was whether it was possible and operationally feasible to drop anchors around the structure, and whether this had an impact on indoor tracking accuracy. I.e., Is this the type of activity a RIT team would implement proactively or at the time of an emergency? In this test, we validated that deployment of anchors can help in a small structure and tested penetration within the structure in various deployment scenarios.
c. Validate the ability to calculate 3D location when firefighters climb ladders onto the roof, outside of a small structure. During this test we were able to validate that the elevation algorithms accurately deliver 3D location as users climb the ladder and operate on the structure's roof.
d. Communications. Tracking units were paired with Motorola APX radios which were used to carry data back to incident command. TRX validated that the radio communications penetrated the structure and effectively carried the data back to the command software deployed in a personal computer outside the building. Conventional, point to point services were used, along with data and Bluetooth on the radio.
Thanks to MECC for providing continued support for the TRX development efforts. After an already long shift and a long day of training, they performed extra testing runs to help us validate the elevation engine. This type of feedback, testing, and validation requires immense investment and support. MECC representatives supporting this program include Ass. Chief Jack Rupp, Captain Robert Scott, and Asst. Chief Mike Little.
by Carol Politi
Elevation is a essential component of delivering accurate, indoor location. While pressure sensors exist in the TRX NEON Mission Critical Tracking Unit, and in the standard smartphones on which NEON Mobile runs, pressure alone is not the answer. Normal fluctuations in atmospheric pressure commonly result in errors that amount to more than a floor (far more when major storm systems come through). Additionally, pressure sensors have an offset which varies over time (and from sensor to sensor) that must be compensated.
As a result, TRX NEON Navigation algorithms have been designed to take advantage of many other sensors to deliver accurate elevation:
1) Building features. NEON creates maps of building structural features and building signatures as users move about a building. While the algorithms are building maps, features are identified (and compared with "known" features if a priori information is available). These features provide valuable elevation information. It is helpful to know that a user is in a stairwell, or in an elevator, for example, when evaluating elevation changes.
2) Other sensors. Sensors such as the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass can be used to validate information. If you are experience some characteristic vertical acceleration signature, you are not moving a lot in 2D, your pressure is changing and there may also be an a priori known magnetic signature around you - you now have really valuable data which indicates that you are in an elevator and you may even have enough information to pinpoint which one.
3) Other nodes. Correlating pressure information to known references, mobile and fixed, helps net out disturbances that are impacting all nodes in a certain area. Fixed nodes are certainly a solution, and embedding fixed nodes in high density infrastructure (Wi-Fi, DAS, even active signs) is reasonable. Mobile nodes are also sources of pressure reference data - crowdsourced information about fluctuations provide valuable information on pressure.
4)Terrain Data. Terrain elevation databases can be used to eliminate offsets when users are not near reference nodes. Terrain data is extremely useful when dealing with buildings with entrances on multiple floors.
3D Location Calculations in a Multi-Floor Office Building
TRX approached calculating elevation from the perspective of public safety and military applications, where there are even more issues driven by fire, venting of buildings, and extreme conditions. In these environments, having algorithms that can combine information to eliminate environmental disturbances is essential. These same algorithms enable robust elevation determination in a broad spectrum of mission critical, industrial, and consumer environments.
by Carol Politi
"Status of the MEMS Industry 2013", a new market report available from ReportsNReports, estimates that the overall MEMS market will be worth US$22.5B in 2018 (compared with US$11B in 2012), and the MEMS market for cell devices and tables alone will be worth $US6.4B in 2018.
This demand is, in part, driven by the demand for indoor location using embedded cell device sensors. TRX leverages accelerometer, gyroscope, pressure, compass and other embedded sensors to augment RF positioning, and in combination with higher level agorithms, deliver extended indoor location information when GPS is not reliable or unavailable (within buildings, dense urban areas, parking garages, metros, etc.). The MEMS market growth is particularly large for compact, combination sensors.
While restricted to higher end cell devices today, you can expect lower cost cell devices to increasingly incorporate sensors that are valuable for positioning. This proliferation of sensors is extending to other wearable accessories - smart watches, glasses, personal fitness devices & more. A recent Invensense developers conference showcased (in addition to the TRX NEON Indoor Location System) an array innovative sensor solutions, including devices from 3D Robotics, Variable Inc., Articulate Labs, Xensr, Makers with a Cause, GN Store Nord, Dysonics, ON Semiconductor, and zSpace.
by Carol Politi
TRX Systems is pleased to welcome Major General "JB" Burns to the TRX Advisory Board. General Burns will be an invaluable source of strategic council and guidance for TRX as the company deploys and further develops the NEON GPS-denied location technology in support of mission critical defense and public safety applications.
General Burns served for eight years as Vice President for Land and Armaments, BAE, for Marine, Army, Navy, and SOF ground and weapons systems. He previously devoted 35 years to active Army service in Europe, Korea, SWA and CONUS, including serving on active duty as Chief of Staff, Chief of Ops, and Deputy Commanding General for the 750,000 strong FORSCOM through 2004 and as Commanding General of a Joint Task Force in Israel.
General Burns is providing TRX with strategy, business development, and program support to guide development and deployment of the NEON indoor location system in support of warfighters training and operating in GPS-denied areas.
by Carol Politi
A new research report studying the indoor location market estimates that it will experience a 42% growth rate - growing from $448.56 million in 2013 to $2.6 billion in 2018 ("Indoor Location Market: Global Advancements, Market Forecasts and Analysis", by Research and Markets). This is a tremendous growth rate, and it will impact virtually every segment of the technology market including enterprise networking, mobile platform, mobile infrastructure, mapping, and application providers.
The indoor location market is not at all one dimensional. Every industry segment - from mission critical government to consumer retail - is reliant on location based services, and each will benefit from access to more accurate location data. However, the requirements in each industry segment vary a great deal and this is driving an array of different solutions into the market.
Retailers and museums delivering applications for their customers can rely upon installed infrastructure and accurate indoor maps. Other applications being used in these same venues may not have access to such enterprise data, but can count on "signals of opportunity" (e.g., Wi-Fi that happens to be installed in the area). Mission critical applications often can't count on any infrastructure as all of it could fail during an emergency.
Solutions are emerging in islands, with pockets of mapped WiiFi delivering general location inside high use venues such as malls, airports, and museums. These island solutions provide a big leap in capability - enabling proximity-based retail services and effective information and navigation services. However, the ideal user experience is far more seamless - allowing continuous navigation throughout the mall, into the parking garage or metro, and into less frequently used venues such as office and residential buildings.
This seamless user experience requires the ability to seamlessly link islands of "globally known" locations - from GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, or from the user themselves via their application - with locations for which there is no globally known location or mapping data. In some cases, this link is for only a short period (between well mapped enterprises). In other cases, location must be calculated for extended periods.
TRX started its location work for mission critical applications, with the premise that it was necessary to deliver location for extended periods without infrastructure assist. As a result, the navigation approach used by the TRX NEON software performs dynamic mapping of venues - identifying structural features and signatures, and crowdsourcing this feature information - to quickly establish a comprehensive map of features that can be used as an input to location calculations. Through this approach the NEON navigation engine allows navigation for extended periods without any global location updates - building bridges between the islands.
by Carol Politi
TRX has an immediate opening for a talented Software Developer that is enthusiastic about delivering seamless location for both mission critical and mobile applications. This job is right for you if you excel in team-oriented environments, are comfortable with agile development, have solid experience developing products using .NET and C#, have a BS in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering, and enjoy a fast-paced work environment. You will be involved in a diverse array of developments, from initial design through implementation, and will have the opportunity to contribute to fundamental new system capabilities.
The highest priority skillsets for success in this job are the following:
- Minimum four-year degree in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, or related field
- Three or more years of software development experience in Visual Studio, C# and .NET
- Relational database and object-relational mapping
- Experience with object oriented design and design patterns
- Experience with GIS/Mapping technologies such as ESRI GIS, WMS, WMTS, Google Maps, Bing Maps, Open Street Maps.
In addition, some combination of following capabilities would be very helpful:
- Experience with software development tools including JIRA and Subversion
- Experience with spatial databases (e.g. SpatiaLite)
- Experience with NoSQL databases
- Experience for cloud hosting and virtualization frameworks (IIS/VMWare/Amazon/Azure)
- User Interface development experience in WinForms, WPF, and DevExpress
- Experience developing asynchronous, multi-threaded applications
- Network programming using UDP, TCP, HTTP, REST, XML, JSON
- Experience developing distributed computing systems
- Experience developing and using application programming interfaces to third-parties
- Java/Android development experience.
In addition to the opportunity to have a key role in a growing company in the exciting indoor location market, TRX Systems offers a competitive base compensation (which varies based on experience) and an excellent benefits package including stock options, 401(k) plan, comprehensive medical insurance, as well as paid time off and holidays. Please submit resumes to email@example.com.
by Kamiar Kordari
TRX is developing dynamic indoor mapping to support delivery of seamless location to mobile phones. You can be part of this by mapping - and submitting the maps - of the indoor spaces of interest to you.
In recent years there has been an explosion of mobile and web location-based applications built on top of mapping platforms such as Google Maps. These maps typically stop at the building footprint level and don't provide information about the building interior. Indoor maps are the next frontier in mapping. Globally available indoor maps will enable accurate indoor location and will revolutionize location-based applications on mobile phones.
However, building indoor maps cost effectively is a challenge. Neither satellite imagery nor GPS traces for referencing the images are available for indoor spaces. Alternative methods are needed to create and maintain indoor maps in a large scale.
An array of mapping companies (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Micello) have begun to digitize maps of malls, airports, and museums. This will be one way maps get built, but typical approaches require labor intensive work to create maps from building blueprints. Accurate floor plans are required, and these must be digitized, processed, and annotated before they can be made available to applications. Imaging tools can also be used, but require manual traversal of a building by someone with that tool. And while creating maps is a challenge – it is even more challenging to maintain and update these maps as they change over time. Frequent changes to points on today’s roads drive millions of map changes each day by digital map providers.
Crowdsourced Indoor Maps
Crowd sourcing has proven to be an effective way to create and maintain maps at a large scale. The OpenStreetMap project is a very good example of a mapping site that utilizes crowd-sourcing. OpenStreetMap has focused on creating outdoor maps, and relies on GPS traces and satellite imagery.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a program at TRX Systems which uses our core sensor fusion and mapping technology to create crowdsourced indoor maps at a global scale using sensors embedded within smart phones. In this approach, each map maker has a mobile app on their smart phone. As they walk through indoor spaces, the application automatically detects building features such as hallways, stairways, exists, and elevators, as well as other signatures within the building - based on the users motions and sensor measurement. TRX map fusion algorithms merges data coming from many phones to incrementally update a global map of indoor spaces. The map accuracy increases as the number of users increases in the building. This tool is an efficient way for collaborative indoor mapping and to crowd-source creating indoor maps at a large scale.
Why are indoor maps important to TRX? Building features, signatures, and navigable passageways all provide valuable constraints which can be used to enhance location accuracy. If we can make it easy to generate map data, it will be easy for location providers (like us) to access map data that makes it possible to deliver highly accurate indoor location – in every building and in underground structures (not just high use bulidings such as malls and airports).
Launching Indoor Mapping Community for Map Makers
TRX is forming a community of mappers interested in contributing to and demonstrating the impact of this crowdsourced indoor map capability. If you are a leading map maker in your region and would like to be part of this state of the art mapping project, please join the TRX Indoor Mapping Community by clicking here.
TRX maps are built primarily for the purpose of delivering useful information to location-based applications. This information is easily merged with known floor plan data. Map providers interested in partnering to link the TRX discovered map features with known floor plan data should contact us at IndoorMaps@trxsystems.com.
by Carol Politi
TRX Systems was awarded the TEDCO ICE Award for Corporate Excellence at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation's ICE Award ceremony. Candidates for the Corporate Excellence category were chosen based on: growth in the number of employees, revenues and investments; history with TEDCO; community involvement; and company recognition.
TEDCO, which provides seed and early stage funding, had previously selected nine finalists out of its more than 300 portfolio companies for its Innovation, Corporate Excellence, and Entrepreneurship awards. In addition to TRX, the finalists in the Corporate Excellence category were Creatv MicroTech (specializing in technology that allows the rapid isolation of circulating tumor cells) and SemaConnect (who produces and supports charging stations for fleets, municipalities, parking lot operators and homeowners with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles).