Home Technology Explore the Great Indoors – The New York Times

Explore the Great Indoors – The New York Times

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Map apps and websites have compiled quite a bit of outdoor cartography, but floor plans and diagrams for interior spaces are also available at certain locations.

From left, Apple Maps, Google Maps and Bing Maps all offer interior diagrams of popular public places you can use to find your way around.CreditThe New York Times
J. D. Biersdorfer

Q. How do “indoor” maps work? I thought GPS had a hard time getting signals if your phone wasn’t outdoors in a clear area.

A. The United States Global Positioning System (GPS) currently uses a system of 31 operational satellites transmitting radio signals to receivers on the ground. Once the GPS device on the ground receives signals from four or more satellites, it can use geometry to calculate its three-dimensional position on the earth’s surface.

According to the federal GPS.gov website, GPS-enabled smartphones are typically accurate within a 16-foot radius under open skies — but that precision falls off if the phone is near bridges, tall structures and trees. Signal blockage from being inside a building or underground (in a subterranean parking garage, for instance) can also prevent a map app from pinpointing your location.

Some indoor maps are simply static floor plans of the building for easy reference, much like a directory map at a shopping mall; flight tracker apps, for example, often include airport guides for travelers. For maps that do provide fairly accurate positioning indoors, information from your phone’s Wi-Fi network data, special Bluetooth beacons and radio-frequency identification systems — or even dedicated hardware installed by the place you are visiting — can help mark your spot.

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