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'Indoor GPS' Could Make It Harder Than Ever to Get Lost

Ever had to use the restroom while at the shopping mall, but had no idea where to begin looking? Or, how about that time you were half an hour late to meet your date at the municipal art museum because you couldn't figure out how to find the American contemporary painting room?

Traditional GPS is useless in these situations because walls and ceilings block signals. However, according to New Scientist, a new indoor positioning system, being developed by Nokia -- it's being tested at a mall in Finland -- could make it nearly impossible to get lost in large public spaces.

Here's how it works: Since the walls block satellite signals, a cell phone uses nearby Wi-Fi network instead to determine its location and then display it on a map. New Scientist reports that the system would work with current devices and infrastructure.

For the system to work, there must be access to a map, though. This means many private places would probably not be supported, but most places that open themselves to the public -- airports, museums, shopping malls -- would more than likely provide maps. Project leader Christian Prehofer told New Scientist that, if the test at the Kamppi shopping center in Helsinki goes well, the system could become available to the masses.

It will be interesting to see if cell phone service providers charge for this system or offer it for free. If it costs extra, we wonder if there are enough folks with a bad enough sense of direction to warrant paying for it. And really, even if it were free, how many people would admit to needing a positioning system to tell them how to find the food court? [From: New Scientist, via Textually.org]

Tags: gps, mall, maps, shopping, study, wifi

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