Indoor GPS app

iOS and iPadOS
Hello, I've been working on a way to do accurate indoor "GPS" on the iPhone and iPad, just for the challenge of it really. However, since releasing the app I've begun to wonder if I could make it useful for vision impaired users. The app, which is called "Indoor GPS", is not suitable for vision impaired users at the moment (it doesn't even do VoiceOver properly) so I'm not suggesting anyone tries it yet. But I'd be really interested to hear whether people think it has potential. The underlying technology can track the device's movement in 2D (not up or down) to an accuracy of a couple of centimetres. Although the effect is like GPS, technically it is completely different - it uses the device's gyroscope and accelerometer. The idea is that a vision impaired user could select a pre-recorded route from a list such as "Kitchen sink to front door". The device would then issue audio instructions such as "Right 90" meaning turn right 90 degrees, and "Forward 3" meaning take three steps forward. These instructions would be created on-the-fly depending on where the user has actually ended up, just like a car GPS does. So, for example, it's not dependent on the user turning exactly 90 degrees as it would ask them to turn a bit more or a bit less if necessary to keep them close to the pre-recorded route. I know next-to-nothing about the needs of vision impaired users, so this may be of no use at all, but would welcome any feedback on the idea negative or positive. Thank you, Max



Submitted by blindgator on Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thanks for reaching out to us here at the blind community. There has been a lot of chatter about indoor GPS systems for the blind recently, as yeah it is quite annoying to bump in to objects. I think if the app is properly designed and tested by blind and visually impaired individuals that it could be quite beneficial and successful. Keep us posted should you look to get the app functioning with Voiceover. Thanks

Submitted by Dean on Thursday, June 7, 2012

this could be very useful for people with a variety of travel abilities. I wonder if directions could be phrased in the user's choice of feet or meters instead of or along with steps. Otherwise, I hope you work on it. How would the rougte be created? Ideally, a user could mark a starting point, probably identifying it with a label, then walk, perhaps with human guidance, to the ending point, which she would again label, and the route would be created. Is this accurate? I'm sure a plethora of users here would be happy to test it.

I would love to see this one! Initially I would like to be able to set a destination like the front desk, and know if I'm going the right way or not, am I at least getting closer? I would love to test this when the time is right.

Submitted by Bill Freeman on Thursday, June 7, 2012

In reply to by blindgator

This could also be quite useful in the building where I work, which is a huge, complicated office complex. It is full of rows of cubicles and unmarked meeting rooms.

Submitted by xenacat3 on Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hi: There has also been some work on indoor navigation devices for seniors with moderate alzheimers or senile dementia. Awhile back, I watched a presentation for the Navbelt, which was supposed to guide seniors by making a motor vibrate on the side toward which they should turn. The device was originally being explored for people with low vision but I think the developer found more funding available for R&D for seniors. I have read about other projects which use the accelerometer and compass in smart phones in this way but I don't remember who was working on them. I think your device might come in handy when teaching kids orientation and mobility, as it could be programmed by the instructor to let the user know if he/she is veering off course into a parking lot or road. The device could be reprogrammed by the instructor as the user's mobility skills improve to offer less information. Of course, I'm getting more into the outdoor uses now, but it might also help during guide dog training to provide additional information and guidance. Just some random thoughts, I appologize if I've gone too far off topic.

Submitted by mehgcap on Thursday, June 7, 2012

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In reply to by xenacat3

Hello, First, thank you for thinking of the VO community and actually putting in the time to see if your idea is useful and asking forf feedback on how it should be done. That says a lot for you as a developer and a person. As to the app, I have one word: absolutely! GPS has opened doors for blind people for years, yet using it indoors is next to impossible. If we had a way to use a navigation aid in buildings, I see no end to the possibilities: hotels, office buildings, schools, campus buildings, town/city halls... anyone who wants to could submit a "map" for their building (I imagine your app would need waypoints and points of reference to go off, so you can't walk into any building and have it get you places). With no map available, the app could still record your movements, letting you find your own way out or mark only areas you will need to know about. Anyway, I'm rambling, so I'll stop. Bottom line: I think this could be a game-changing app in the blind community, and, if you decide to go forward with it, I doubt you will have trouble finding beta testers. Needless to say, I would be happy to help test this, assuming it works on iPods as well (I don't yet have an iPhone).

Submitted by Victor Tsaran on Thursday, June 7, 2012

I wanted to concur with the previous poster: the indoor GPS would be really useful in buildings with a lot of conference rooms, cubes and other objects. I am sure there are plenty of things we could do to make this app sparkle but I suggest to make it VoiceOver-compatible first so that we can actually drive test the existing version. Thanks a lot for reaching out and for being a conscientious developer.

Submitted by Pat Pound on Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello Max, Definately useful, You might look at BlindSquare which identifies poi's and gives you clock-face directions and number of feet, then if you choose to go there you can have it track you and revise the output... similar approach for indoors would be useful like in airports... My twitter is @patpound1 and I've retweeted several posts in the last month re indoor nav. Congratulations and happy to help if I can.

Submitted by Mary Ward on Friday, June 8, 2012

Yes, thank you so much for reaching out to us. I think that sort of App could be very useful. It would be especially helpful to the newly blinded. For myself, though, I'm thinkin of big places, like shopping malls. I have one mall I get cheerfully lost in three or four times a year. I guess getting lost keeps me from spending even more money there. Anyway, if you could create your own points of interest in a large building and then get back to them, it would be so helpful. Big hotels and office buildings would also be good places to use this. But probably not the thing I needed the most two years ago, a cruise ship, which would have to ignore the cardinal directions altogether and orient to something internal. Like the pointy end of the ship. Those ships are nightmares to get around.

Submitted by John W. hess on Friday, June 8, 2012

Max, it's wonderful to have developers such as your self interested in developing this type of app. Yes, we need this! I'm sure many here have ideas and if you need testers I have no doubt the volunteers are just waiting in the wings. Again thanks so much and looking forward to hearing more and how this comes along.

Submitted by Max Christian on Monday, June 11, 2012

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It sounds like this would be most useful in big public buildings rather than in people's homes, which is a challenge as the greater distances involved make it much harder to keep the accuracy good enough. With the cooperation of building owners, it might be possible to split a long journey into several smaller ones with physical "waypoints" along the way to ensure the user is still on the right track. Lots to think about!

Submitted by Martin on Monday, June 11, 2012

I'd love to tinker with this. I could see so many great applications for it. People could share created maps with other app users.

Submitted by Young on Saturday, June 16, 2012

It is such a good idea. I work at Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, and we serve about almost 300 blind individuals including deaf-blind and blind with other disabilities. With indoor GPS app, orientation for new employees would be much easier. In addition, the app would be useful for many travelers including me to figure out new places without assistance from strangers. Many public facilities including airports, train-stations and bus terminals are the best palces for the app to be used.

Submitted by Fenelle on Monday, June 25, 2012

I think this is a totally wonderful idea. It could make our lives so much less stressful. Univerisities, hotels, large houses, apartment buildings! there are so many places that this would come in handy. Fantastic idea, keep us posted!

Submitted by Jose Lomeli on Monday, June 25, 2012

I think this is a good idea! I am a blind person and sometimes I am not familiar with some places and I think this will help us tremendusly! Now my questions! 1. Will it require Data usage? 2. Will it be free? 3. Will it work with an iPod Touch 4th generation? Please let us know more about this app when it is more Voiceover friendly!

Submitted by Ben Vercellone on Monday, June 25, 2012

In reply to by Jose Lomeli

Thank you Max for reaching out to the blind community. I was very recently talking to friends about being able to get help with indoor travel using an app like the one you are developing. I was very excited to see the forum entries on AppleVis about this app development. I believe that such an app would be extremely useful in many settings, but what stuck out in my mind are buildings for public transportation such as bus and train stops. I travel on buses and trains in New Jersey. I have only started doing this recently, but I believe it is a great method for blind people to use in addition to others. I believe that the app you are working on, as well as others like it, may provide much help when moving between vehicles on a journey with multiple legs. I am talking of scenarios with transfers for instance. I still find the need to ask sighted people around me for some guidance in such circumstances. I do not know the indoor areas of these buildings well and do not care to memorize them thoroughly. Perhaps if I travelled every day in this manner I would benefit by extensive memorization. But for the most part, I would like to be able to find my way as effectively and independently as a sighted person would by using an indoor map. I appreciate sighted people's help from time to time, and I try to be friendly while also trying to minimize dependence. I will continue to use whatever methods I must to travel. I do believe that your app project could provide much help in these and many other scenarios, many having already been discussed. Finally, do you think that you could use sensors in smart phones like the iPhone to allow vertical information to be known? I am writing about altitude. I know that satellites are not useful indoors, but perhaps a meter that measures air pressure may be of use if such a meter exists in smart phones. Perhaps there are other methods as well. I believe this would allow for enhanced assistance indoors. I am thinking of when I get off of one mass transit vehicle and need to transfer to another. Many times, changing from one vehicle to another requires going up or down stairs, elevators, or escalators. If this app could help with vertical knowledge as well, I believe that most of this indoor frontier can be accounted for once enough mapping exists. In any case, thank you very much for reaching out to blind iPhone users, and I would love to be one of the testers.

Submitted by Snow Bunny on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Yes, yes, yes, please, please develop this app! I have multiple disabilities and, if I decide to obtain an iPhone, this app would be of great help! Thanks for doing this. Keep us posted!

Submitted by Isaac Hebert (not verified) on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I am glad you decided to reach out to the community on applevis yes a indoor GPS sound's nice.

Submitted by Tree on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I think this app sounds interesting and perhaps could be useful in some circumstances. First off there is no need what so ever for this in the homes of blind people, I also wonder how much use there would be even in large buildings. It sounds like one has to create the root themselves. If this is the case then it would not be very beneficial in places like airports in which you only rarely find yourself in for a brief period of time. It is situations like that where this app would be most useful if you could use this app because other places like office buildings in which you spend a lot of time would normally just be learned by the individual. There for I think this app would only truly shine if roots could already be created and used by everyone, that way the buildings that individuals don't spend enough time in to bother learning could be easily traveled, which would be great 

Submitted by Snow Bunny on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I become easily physically disoriented due to sensorineural hearing loss, with no usable hearing on one side and I am totally blind. I know what room I'm in but I don't know where I am in the room and this can happen in an instant. It's like trying to get through impenetrable fog for a short time and it can lead to falls. I do not travel with a cane or dog due to these impairments and also due to nerve damage in both arms. Yes, some blind people do need such an app for use in the home and in familiar surroundings.

I'm a bit late to this thread but there is absolutely no question; an indoor GPS app would be absolutely fantastic for blind people. As others have said, shopping centres being a huge reason; It is so frustrating to try and navigate shopping centres, at least for me. Also yes, in office buildings; my level is set out much the same as someone else described. Oh the possibilities are endless! As others have said, thank you to the OP for reaching out to our small community. I hope we will have an accessible indoor GPS app soon. :)

I noticed this thread originated in June of 2012, so I'm just wondering if anything at all has been done in this area. I think it's a pretty awesome idea and hope something comes of it eventually.

Submitted by Jessica Brown on Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In reply to by blindgator

Hi. I think you should develope this app even if you can't get it to work in big buildings and it only works in small buildings. Being able to have gps for some buildings would be better then not having it for any buildings.

Submitted by Jessica Brown on Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In reply to by blindgator

Hi. I am a blind iOS user who has big problems getting around both inside and outside. I have lots of apps for getting around outside, but not found any for inside. I would love it if you developed this indoor app. I have some ideas for the app including how you could deal with up and down movements inside. However, my ideas are long and would need a long description and would take a long time to type. I do not even know if you are still watching this thread or developing the app or if I am just talking to dead air so I will not explain my ideas now. If you are still watching this thread, please email me at and I will explain my ideas.

Submitted by Snow Bunny on Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hi, Max, how are things coming with the app? Would use of RFID tags for places and objects help, could the I-device read those and voice the results? Thanks. Beth

Submitted by Kira McCall on Saturday, January 11, 2014

I think that this is a good idea that can be a game-changer for the blind community. If there was a map submitted for a particular building, a blind person could use this app to find places in the building that they need to know about and record the best route for them to take so that they can learn it. This would be very helpful when getting to know important locations in a building where someone hasn't been before. This would definitely make orientation a lot easier and would make it take less time to get to know where things are.

Submitted by Kira McCall on Saturday, January 11, 2014

I think that this is a good idea that can be a game-changer for the blind community. If there was a map submitted for a particular building, a blind person could use this app to find places in the building that they need to know about and record the best route for them to take so that they can learn it. This would be very helpful when getting to know important locations in a building where someone hasn't been before. This would definitely make orientation a lot easier and would make it take less time to get to know where things are. By the way, I would be happy to beta test this when the time is right. I could certainly use it to get to know different buildings at my college campus. :)

Hi all, This is an interesting subject area and as most people have said, it would certainly be a useful app if ever it sees the light of day. This thread reminds me of a navigation tool I tested in a large shopping centre about ten years ago. The shopping centre is called Bluewater, which is located in Kent in the UK. This is a very large (in UK standards) shopping centre with two floors and has approximately 150 stores, everything from Marks and Spencer to Hotel Chocolate and everything in between including a large number of eating places from Mcdonalds to Nandos. The shopping centre installed a number of roof beacons that acted as GPS locators and the users were given a receiver and micro headset. As you walked around the shopping centre, the receiver spoke the stores you passed and gave other pieces of information like where to turn to find doors, angles, where the stairs and lifts were and even the direction and type of toilets there were. A very interesting and useful piece of kit, which gave me complete control of where I was going and independently too. I don't know how Max is going to do something similar with an iPhone app but good luck if you are still working on the system. I can't see where RFID tags will help because they only work over short distances and GPS only works outdoors unless you have a system that allows GPS usage inside (it is possible because I have seen similar things in UK tunnels) but it is quite expensive to install. However, you have my full support if you manage to design something that works. Steve.