Schiphol Airport Releases Indoor Wayfinding
We recently launched an update of the Schiphol Airport App (iOS and Android). The most important changes include a new map, location detection and indoor navigation functionalities. The app uses of beacon technology to make Indoor Wayfinding possible.
Because GPS does not work inside buildings, more than 2,000 beacons have been placed throughout the Schiphol airport building. This means that users of the mobile app can now make use of location detection technology within Schiphol. With an accuracy range of five metres, passengers are able to easily find their way to their gate via the navigation functionality of the map. Indoor Wayfinding technology has rarely been used in such large and complex buildings as Schiphol, which is one of the first major airports to have integrated Indoor Wayfinding into its own mobile application.
Michiel Munneke: ‘We are proud of our innovation partnership with Schiphol. Outdoor, mobile navigation has become a commodity, but indoor navigation is still in its infancy. It’s great to see that we can work so successfully with Schiphol to explore the boundaries of what is possible in this area.’
Development of Schiphol App
M2mobi has been working on the Schiphol Airport App for more than six years, during which time the team has launched multiple updates. In addition to M2mobi's focus on usability, speed, parking and shopping information, the focus is now also on indoor navigation.
Since 2013, the team from M2mobi has been working at the Schiphol offices to further develop the Schiphol App. Because Schiphol Indoor Wayfinding is such a complex project with so many stakeholders, it was important that the entire team could work together from the start. The project was run according to the Scrum methodology, with initial training from BlinkLane. They supported the multi-disciplinary team in establishing a suitable format for collaboration and helped it to draw up clear agreements that covered all-important issues such as the ‘definition of done’.
The recently released update of the mobile app is greatly advanced due to the integration of Indoor Wayfinding, and is under constant development. Project manager Mike Smolders (M2mobi): ‘We have been working very hard with Schiphol on indoor location detection and are extremely pleased with having developed such a user-friendly solution with an accuracy range of approximately five metres!’
Start of Indoor Wayfinding Project
The two most important components of the project were the new map and the software for location detection within Schiphol. For the location detection component, Schiphol has opted to use the technology of Polestar. Indoor positioning technology is also known as ‘blue-dot’ technology because it means nothing more than putting a blue dot on the map to indicate where you are. Eventually the team chose a red dot for the app as this corresponds to the maps already used in the terminal.
Indoor navigation works best if you can determine where you are within a range of five meters. If the error range gets bigger, it becomes hard to interpret a direction and you might take a wrong turn. Therefore, we have set the maximum error of the location detection at 5 meters.
Tests of the indoor location detection functionality have been conducted using the Wi-Fi network in Schiphol. In collaboration with Schiphol Telematics, all Wi-Fi access points for the relevant areas were measured. Unfortunately, the initial results based on Wi-Fi position detection were not very promising.
It became clear that improving accuracy would only be possible by adding bluethooth beacons. This resulted in 2,000 beacons being individually mounted and measured. This was a considerable task and a complex process, but tests demonstrated that these beacons had considerably improved location detection functionality, with an accuracy range of five to seven meters achieved in most areas.
In addition to a new design, the map's data was also connected to a different source system. The team therefore chose to use ESRI’s mobile map module. The module works based on the company's ArcGIS-online platform, which has been home to all of the map source-files for the Schiphol building for some time. Schiphol already used this source for its maintenance of the building, and preferred to manage the app’s map data from the same source.
A number of iterations of the map have been done, the first and last are displayed below. In the first iteration, no zoom level was defined, making the map quite abstract. This was improved in subsequent iterations, along with its design and colour scheme.
The input and implementation of the source data in SGIS is a full-time job, one done by developer René Bootsman, who joined the team specifically for this purpose. Thanks to his tremendous efforts in inputting the data into SGIS, René quickly became our SGIS King.
After several iterations, the map’s design became clearer. Challenges along the way included defining and implementing the zoom levels correctly and designing suitable icons. Another challenge we faced was designing and making the changing of floors technically possible. This is important at Schiphol because arrivals is downstairs and departures upstairs. In addition to these issues, much attention was given to clearly displaying the routes.
It quickly became clear that the only suitable solution for Indoor Wayfinding was to display the routes on the map itself and not, as first intended, by using 3D arrows (see illustration). Given the error range of five metres, this was not realistic. The last thing we would want is a user to continually have to look at his telephone in order to find his way.
Besides the graphic design of the map and the wayfinding component, the flight details screen was also restructured. The new design makes a clear distinction between flight information, navigation, and the Schiphol suggestions element. As we did with the design for the map and the routes, the new design of the flight overview was tested with users in the terminal (see illustration). Users’ findings were analyzed and taken in consideration in the design process.
Way of Working
The team working on the Indoor Wayfinding project used the Scrum way of working. The M2mobi team works at Schiphol from Monday to Thursday. René Bootsman (a.k.a. the SGIS king) has since been incorporated into the team along with a dedicated Product Owner (Joyce Gardner) appointed by Schiphol. The Indoor Wayfinding release was iterated in two-week sprints.
After the delivery of the beta release, we started developing in sprints of three weeks. This was to keep to the same ‘drum beat’ as the other development teams in the digital solutions department at Schiphol. This also gave us the opportunity to actually bring the apps to the store during every sprint. At a later point in the project we managed to deliver a release candidate to the store for both iOS and Android each sprint.
Joyce Gardner: 'Since we started working on the Indoor Wayfinding project, collaboration with M2mobi has become much more intensive. Because the team works largely in-house, you can see almost every day how their knowledge of the business, and the relationship between the two organisations, has grown substantially. The fixed points of contact within the Parking, Commerce and Passenger Services departments (the ‘Business Owners’) know where they can find the different team members and have complete confidence in the expertise of the designers and developers. Vice versa, my colleagues now have more understanding and expertise about app development and everything involved. By giving a demo to the stakeholders at the end of every sprint, there is a better understanding of what we are doing. A wonderful, positive interaction has been developed with the M2mobi team!'
The successful Indoor Wayfinding component has been in beta for several months. The map component in the flight overview is consulted by more than 15% of users. Given the fact that the Schiphol Airport App is used by approximately 16,000 people a day, this is a great result. We’re not quite there yet, but results like these provide us with a good basis for many new, exciting developments in the Digital Passenger Experience. And, more importantly, we've had a lot of fun working on this project. In a few weeks we will deliver an improved version of the search functionality. Who knows what other great things 2016 will bring!