Have you ever tried to find your way through the inside of a sprawling Las Vegas Strip hotel? The odds are good you got lost and stopped at a table to gamble. The casinos may like it that way, but Lighthouse Signal Systems figures that consumers don’t.
The company is launching its indoor positioning system as an open service for Android app developers. Once developers make use of this technology, you will be able to use their apps to find your way through the vast indoor terrain of Las Vegas’ hotels and casinos. Once developers adopt it, they can launch location apps in the Google Play store.
Indoor navigation is one of the last major tasks that smartphones have to conquer. Outdoor navigation works great thanks to satellite fixes via the global positioning system (GPS). But GPS doesn’t work indoors, and it’s hard to find consistent WiFi signals and other ways to navigate inside buildings.
But Cambridge, Mass.-based Lighthouse Signal Systems is now launching its service covering 20 million square feet of entertainment and retail space at leading casinos and hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. Among the early adopters is Caesars Entertainment, one of the major casino chains.
Lighthouse is making its service freely available to Android app developers, resort operators, retailers, and others seeking to enhance the visitor experience in Las Vegas. Indoor navigation is a Holy Grail for the mobile industry, and Lighthouse says it is the first to provide GPS-like indoor positioning on a wide scale in a major U.S. metro.
“We are excited to support app developer partners as they create new mobile experiences with indoor positioning in Las Vegas, where large resort interiors have traditionally presented a vexing challenge for visitors,” said Lighthouse co-founder Parviz Parvizi.
The theory goes that casinos want you to get lost so you spend more money. But Parvizi says that multi-resort holding companies expect to prosper from cross-property circulation, and navigation can help that happen. Even within individual properties, consumers want a better experience finding things.
“Providing location-based services does not really reduce how much time people spend at the resorts but instead has the potential to enhance the overall experience,” he said. “From a resort owner perspective, the time that a visitor spends wandering around being lost is a wasted opportunity that could be better and more profitably spent on gaming or entertainment.”
Lighthouse’s platform includes indoor geofencing: a hosting platform for location-based offers and user analytics. Caesars has conducted early trials with the service. Lighthouse plans to expand to malls and retailers at major top 20 metropolitan areas. With any apps using the service, users must provide an opt-in acknowledgement. And developers are not able to use the service to track mobile phone users without user consent.
Others trying to do this include Google, Cisco, Ekahau, Euclid, Shopkick, PointInside, Aisle411, Sensionlab, Indoor.rs, Yfind, and CSR. The company has five employees, including co-founder Mohammad Heidari, who studied the issue at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The tech has been in the works for several years. The first patent was granted this year.
The technology is in the market today. Lighthouse uses a combination of WiFi fingerprinting and sensor data. As long as there are WiFi networks in the area, Lighthouse can provide positioning info.
The service is free for developers who are experimenting. As volume picks up, Lighthouse will charge fees.