Shopping malls need indoor navigation app development—for the sake of their visitors and their business success. Consider this:
Shopping malls are like mini cities—a mini city that goes up, not spreads out. A city under a dome, intersecting streets, “house” numbers for every business, etc.
And with maps.
With the development of retail as a part of the entertainment market, more and more indoor shopping malls exceed 2,150,000 ft2 (200,000 m2).
- myriad stores
- aqua parks
- restaurants and cafes
- bowling clubs
- karaoke bars
- multistorey car parks
All under one roof.
Consider Berjaya Times Square in Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia. Berjaya Times Square, two 48-level, 203 m (666 ft.) towers, contains over 1,000 retail shops, multiple business offices, pharmacies,
and even a police station. The facility claims it has 2.5 million monthly visitors.
It definitely needs an indoor navigation app to help visitors get to where they want to go.
Stationary maps within indoor shopping malls are usually placed in the center of every level. However, they tend to be rather inconvenient and incomprehensible.
contrast, an indoor navigation app lets users choose the desired destination, build an optimum route to it, and get directions to their destinations and back again!
Visitors don’t want to get lost trying to find their car, especially when carrying parcels. Both visual and audio directions are possible.
Check out features, costs, and technologies for indoor navigation app development.
IT Craft’s expertise in developing an indoor navigation solution
InNav helps visitors find their way inside large, multilevel facilities such as shopping malls, airports, hospitals, etc.
InNav’s feature list for visitors includes route building, 3D map support, advanced search, “find-the-car” feature, a child-tracking app, and more.
App administrators use a Web administration panel with several access levels. They can collect statistics on user behavior via heat maps. Also, administrators can send notifications and
emergency alerts. Store owners can manage products on shelves. InNav uses BLE beacons and geomagnetic positioning technologies to build the most precise route to a destination point. There and back again. Both native iOS and Android apps are available.
- Android SDK
- Swift OpenGL
- 3D Map
Why do users need indoor navigation apps?
An advanced indoor navigation app helps solve a large number of issues—issues both businesses and customers face. It provides a plausible mix of ecommerce and
physical shopping experience for three user groups:
Indoor navigation apps can be used for:
- navigation and mapping
- promotional and alert notifications
- tracking and analytics
- Use their mobile devices to navigate inside the mall.
- Search for points of sale.
- Find their cars in the multilevel car park.
- Locate friends in the shopping mall.
- Save different points of interest for future use.
- Receive notifications about all ongoing events (special offers and
- Wander but never get lost.
The challenge businesses face is how to best present themselves—how to make their services stand above many similar services. They can show visitors where they are and how to get to their store. Owners of stores, restaurants, and cafés can promote their goods and services from the app. Or they can use proximity-based marketing. Proximity-based marketing makes it possible to receive statistical information on customers’ movements inside the shopping space. This provides statistics about the most popular items and most visited places.
Facility owners can use promotional tools encouraging customers to reach less-well-known places in the shopping mall. They can also receive quick feedback on promotional activities via analytics tools and heat maps.
Plus, facility owners maintain an extra communication channel. They can use it in an emergency to send alert notifications with directions to escape exit.
Common approaches to indoor navigation app development
Challenges with indoor navigation: venues require different navigation approaches, based on, among others:
- number of inner walls
- location of exits
- possible shortcuts
To help overcome these challenges, the best shopping mall navigation happens when an indoor navigation app uses several data sources for building and tracking the route.
Indoor navigation app development needs the following methods:
- Geofencing – map building using magnetic fields.
- Fingerprinting – tracks visitors’ locations and/or guides users inside the facility and also triggers location-based events.
- Motion sensing – guarantees positional accuracy and high quality of users’ navigation.
Positioning technologies based on the geomagnetic field means that mall navigation apps work even in places where Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices can not. A unique geomagnetic field, influenced by all interior items, architectural forms, steel beams, etc., is formed inside every room.
Such systems can function on most mobile devices—those equipped with a magnetic field sensor. Geofencing systems have an accuracy from 1.5 ft. – 6.5 (0.5 m – 2 m).
The fingerprinting method is used most by retail stores using navigation apps. It measures radio signals every several meters inside the whole facility. All radio signals are stored in the mall navigation app then compared on the device.
Because data is gathered from several sources, this approach solves problems caused by distortions. The system eliminates interferences caused by signal discrepancies.
Fingerprinting makes it possible to calculate location relatively quickly and without any extra requirements to the infrastructure. However, it needs a large number of adjustments. The system must collect data at intervals of several yards along the entire facility.
Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons are compatible with both iOS and Android devices. They send notifications or trigger events depending on a user’s location inside the shopping mall.
On-board smartphone sensors help control the motion. The sensors include:
Their combination helps measure 3D motion both on one floor and between different floors in a mall.
Motion sensing is precise within approx. 3 ft. – 6.5 ft. (2 – 3 meters) for users moving inside the building. It maintains the accuracy level for a long period of time. The drawback is the necessity to determine the primary location of the other sources.
Required hardware for an indoor navigation system
Visitors only need their smartphone to use an indoor navigation app. Steps include:
- Launch the locale-specific smartphone app
- Turn on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)
- Turn on Internet connection/Wi-Fi
To provide visitors both precise indoor navigation apps and engaging location-based experiences, navigation app owners must install special hardware and indoor positioning platforms.
The most common technologies include:
BLE beacons (for fingerprinting)
There are various BLE beacons available. They differ in features, price, and shipment options.
For example, the Estimote indoor location solution is based on miniature beacons that have a processor, memory card, battery with a one-year shelf life, accelerometer, and temperature sensor.
A minimum of three beacons need to be installed inside a room to cover the entire space. The number of beacons is determined more precisely with this calculator.
Mobile devices read signals from the beacons and use them to determine the location. However, the reality is that when any reflecting surface or large shielding objects, including people, are situated near the beacons or a large number of beacons are gathered together in one place, positioning becomes difficult, thus calculation results might have an accuracy of up to appr. 10 – 20 ft. (3 – 6 meters.)
IndoorAtlas (for geofencing)
IndoorAtlas recognizes a magnetic field. It creates a map based on that information and displays the user’s location.
IndoorAtlas processes the magnetic field which is formed in every given room. This field varies with changes in the interior. For example, when using iron in construction—even for a short period of time—the magnetic field is impacted and leads to fluctuations on the map. App administrators must create the map afresh or make alterations focusing on all changes in the magnetic field.
Indoo.rs (mapping and positioning)
Indoo.rs developed a solution for indoor location positioning based on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies with an integrated motion detection sensor. This approach lets users work with the maps even off-line, so they can map a route to the desired point ahead of time. With the signals transmitted via compact BLE beacons, Indoo.rs algorithms allow users to estimate location with an accuracy of approx. 3 ft. (1 meter).
Both the software and hardware side must be switched on in every room.
Indoor navigation app development: Components, features, and costs
Developers need to integrate several technologies into one seamless indoor navigation solution. Indoor navigation software consists of the following parts:
- User smartphone app – receives and sends requests; displays results of user requests.
- Tracking hardware and engines – transmits signals and tracks devices.
- Software back end – stores maps and calculates user routes. Routing requires heavy calculations and quickly drains a smartphone battery.
- Administration panel – lets admin manage hardware and software.
User smartphone app
Lets users find the best way to their destination.
It includes the following core features:
- Positioning – find their exact location inside a shopping mall.
- Mapping – use the app map to orient in a shopping mall.
- Routing – receive assistance in route creation; use directions to find destination.
Users also benefit from the following nice-to-have features:
- AR directions or voice guidance – improves guidance by visualizing the route.
- Push notifications via BLE beacons – lets users receive timely notifications on interesting events.
- Login via Android/Apple account – frees users from having to memorize yet-another set of login credentials.
- Guest mode – suits users who prefer using the app in incognito mode.
- Find your friend – helps users find each other faster inside the shopping mall.
- App Clips – works for iOS users who want to try indoor navigation without installing app.
Lets app admins manage the app.
Two access levels include businesses operating inside a shopping mall and facility owners or their representatives.
Features for businesses
Let users promote their stores and get analytics on visitors.
- Promotional notifications – inform customers about special offers and discounts.
- Front-store management – link certain items to the user app and make on-the-go purchases possible.
- Analytics – receive analytics on number of customers, time they spend inside via a heat map.
Features for facility owners
- Beacons and map management – detect and eliminate flaws fast.
- Alert notifications – send users emergency notifications and activate instructions.
- Analytics – get insight on facility usage.
- Build trust and responsibility – helping visually challenged people and first-time visitors.
Advanced proximity-based marketing with BLE beacons
With advanced beacons, more features are possible for businesses.
For example, Estimote Nearables can be attached to items. They have their own memory, an accelerometer, and temperature sensors.
With the help of the accelerometer, Estimote Nearables can identify changes in an item’s position. They can collect analytics on how many times the item with the
attached beacon was touched, thus determining the item’s popularity. Or, Estimotes can activate a TV screen inside the store. The screen displays useful information
such as item materials, price, and discounts, “customers also bought this item”, and more.
Kontakt.io offers even more sensors for installation into every beacon.
App owners can choose the desired components from the following list:
- environmental temperature sensor
- weight sensor
- humidity sensor
- light sensor
- linear acceleration sensor
- magnetic field sensor
- orientation sensor
- pressure sensor
- rotation sensor
All of these sensors help monitor the environmental conditions and their changes in real time.
For business owners, administrators, and managers, this function can become essential for the monitoring of the storage conditions and observance of all required standards.
Costs of indoor navigation development
Costs of an indoor navigation app vary between $10,000 and $50,000 for a basic app.
They tend to increase when extra features are added to the system.
Indoor navigation development costs depend on:
Number of integrated technologies
The more navigation technologies development team adds to an app, the better the precision. Precision demands more time needed to synchronize all the navigation technologies.
Shopping mall area
Size of a shopping mall directly affects the number of BLE beacons developers need to buy, install, and tune. Also, the larger the area, the more time developers need to create maps.
They require extra beacons because BLE beacons can send only one type of signal at once. Also, a special server handles promotional notifications. It must be included in scope of work.
Anticipated number of users
A large number of users requires more servers to handle requests. Software developers also need to pay extra attention to different types of load testing.
Fast apps rely on back-end, source code optimization. Routing requires heavy calculations. A non-optimized app drains a smartphone battery and might cause the device to overheat. All calculations must be done on the server side and sent to the smartphone. The same is true with maps. They are stored on servers and sent to users so that users do not run out of smartphone memory.
Last but not least, app maintenance is critical for app success. Maintenance costs usually take about 15% – 20 % of total indoor navigation app development costs. The app owner must ensure an engineer or team constantly monitors the entire system:
- app server state
- beacons state
- geomagnetic maps
Also, app updates are important each time navigation technologies or user smartphones receive updates.
How does IT Craft work on indoor navigation app development?
At IT Craft, developers use a six-step path to indoor navigation development.
It includes the following steps:
Project discovery and estimates.
As with any app, everything starts when you send a request to us with your requirements. If needed, a call is made to clarify any details. Based on your requirements, a project manager prepares an estimate. It includes scope of work, timeline, and required team squad. At the next step, we further discuss details and negotiate on terms.
Important note. For indoor navigation projects, only a preliminary estimate is possible due to a high degree of unpredictability.
If you already have project requirements (and some source code), the team completes a pilot task to see if they can handle the project.
After both parties agree on terms of cooperation, the contract is signed and an NDA also, if required.
Indoor navigation software development.
Development team works with Agile to deliver the indoor navigation app source code. The Agile approach makes it possible to both work on different parts of the system simultaneously and handle changing requirements.
The entire workflow is divided into Sprints. At the beginning of each Sprint, we discuss the Sprint scope. You get a Sprint plan.
After each Sprint, you get a part of working functionality and detailed report on hours worked.
The roles on an indoor navigation development project include:
- Project manager – Oversees the entire development workflow.
- Business analyst – Handles requirements; helps the team prepare user path.
- UX/UI designer – Works on the visual part of the app.
- Mobile developer – Prepares mobile app. Usually there are at least two mobile developers, one for Android and another for the iOS app.
- Front-end developer – Develops administration panel.
- Back-end developer – Responsible for the server part. Usually, there are several back-end developers on an indoor navigation project.
- QA engineer – Ensures app quality and conformity to requirements.
- DevOps – Automates different tasks, saving developer time.
Hardware installation and tuning
At this step, developers install beacons inside the facility and/or prepare geomagnetic maps. Physical testing starts. Developers walk through different levels and see how the system works. They also look for the best spots for BLE beacons to avoid being taken by visitors. When needed, developers fine-tune maps and beacons to make precise positioning possible.
Launch and user acceptance testing
At this step, you test the system on your own to see how it works and how it corresponds to your expectations. Beta testing by early adopters is possible to ensure a large testing base. Tuning is also done at this step to meet requirements.
Post-launch software support
The development team supervises the project for the next 1 – 3 months, depending on the amount of produced source code. The team eliminates bugs and flaws in the source code that are discovered when early adopters start operating the app. These fixes are included in our original estimate.
Software maintenance and expansion
The same development team can help you maintain your software available for end uses. They can add new features into the indoor navigation app and optimize source code.
If you plan to manage your indoor navigation solution on your own, please make sure you assign a person who can maintain both software and hardware parts.
Wrapping up: Indoor navigation inside shopping malls required
Nowadays, indoor navigation has become so significant that many companies, from startups to world leaders like Google and Indoo.rs, have released both hardware and software solutions for indoor navigation.
The features of a mall navigation app are greatly appreciated by people who love shopping—especially by those who value their time, create shopping lists, and want the optimal route to all necessary goods and services.
For a shopping center, an up-to-date, highly available navigation provides an immense opportunity to distinguish themselves among the range of other similar shopping malls. They can improve their status and to increase their competitive advantage.
This is crucial considering the large number of shopping centers in every big city. Customer attraction leads to an increase in the number of tenants inside a mall. Therefore, iBeacons development services is a sure way to build an advanced but efficient marketing tool.
Indoor mapping is a special digital solution that makes it possible
to visualize a plan of a facility on users’ smartphones. Indoor maps
help users identify their exact location inside a facility and
create a fast route to a desired destination point.
Roofs and floors block GPS signals. Also, it is impossible to
determine on which floor the user is situated using the GPS. This
all makes it the least precise and least attractive technology for
An indoor positioning system makes it possible to analyze visitors’
behaviors when they are inside the shopping mall by tracking where
and how they spend their time. Beacons can also track what items
users take from the shelf and how long they keep them in their hands
helping better understand visitors’ preferences.
Pay special attention: If you plan to track user devices, your
indoor navigation system must comply with GDPR
- Analyze the facility (size, walls, obstacles, number of
- Decide on navigation technologies. For the best results, use a
- Buy beacons and/or subscribe for geomagnetic mapping services.
- Develop user app and admin panel.
- Create and integrate venue maps.
- Install beacons if needed.
- Tune beacons and/or maps.
- Test your app on a limited user group.