Design thinking

Indoor Navigation Experience

Anders Arnqvist

I’m very excited about indoor navigation, and I’m sure we will leave conceptual thinking and start designing for real applications soon since the giants are now investing heavily in making it come true. Exciting opportunities are just around the corner and I can see a great number of engaging experiences that can be accomplished through the use of already existing technology.

Whether the different technologies that enables these experiences makes use of audio, light, radio, wifi or any other network data communication technology, they all have pros and cons. We now see many players getting onboard; Apple through their acquisition of WiFiSLAM and Google through the indoor maps initiative, along with all the startups. Despite that the technology has been shown by many at the tech fairs, I have not yet come across an application beyond prototyping stage or full implementation in real life and there is yet no standard across handsets.  One company that has caught my attention is ByteLight that build their navigation around utilizing existing infrastructure by building in communication nodes in light sockets using the camera on the device to read the signals. It’s a pretty cool way to be innovative and utilizing what’s already there.

While dreaming about how indoor navigation will impact the service landscape, I came to think of one scenario after another. What would it be like to get helped finding the right track on a train station while in a hurry, the right gate at airports, a store in a mall, a friend at a huge fair or even how to get my grocery list sorted according to a how groceries are disposed in a store, without running back and forth like I do? Almost an infinite number of strong use cases, right?

Indoor Navigation Concept

A real life example

On top of my mind, and this I guess have a lot to do with my very Swedish relationship to IKEA, is a recent experience in which me and my girlfriend finished renovating our kitchen. Having done our fair share of round trips for that last piece of hatch and what not, we have a thing or two to say about locating items at IKEA. Here below is a sketch I did for an imagined W8 phone application to illustrate a couple of use cases we would have found valuable throughout that process.

We started out casually

Navigating an IKEA store is very dependent on which mode you’re in. Early in the kitchen decorating process, we where open to inspiration, in which we would joyously walk the maze and stumble on things we needed. Each product has a price tag conveniently equipped with aisle and bin number so you can pick it up yourself later on; they even provide pen and paper to write your own pick up list. This is where the first use cases appear:

Scanning to add to a list; creating your personalized pick up list with aisle and bin information.
Suggesting which products would complete the set-up I’m planning to buy.
Getting the list organized in a walking pattern that makes sense.
Know where I am in relation to the other sections, where I can find restrooms or a cup of coffee. 

Once through the maze you reach the self service area where you pick up your flat packages, which by itself can be a bit intimidating, e.g. loosing the list means game over and return to square one. The list we got from the kitchen planning tool was unfortunately not sorted in a walking pattern with the shortest route, but in an ascending order which had us running back and forth.

I added a scan function to the concept, so that the phone camera can be used to read the item off the list as I collect. 

And since both of us are smartphone-addicts it would be; oh so convenient if our phones communicated so that we don’t have to worry about who takes what, or me picking the same item twice for that sake.

Of course the IKEA pro shoppers come prepared. Unlike us, in the beginning, they have their list ready from extensive online research, although not automatically sorted in a walking pattern. These people want to be efficient, getting their items and navigate the store in the best way. Just the type of experience friction indoor navigation can

Phones that communicate, are you mad? Yes, the future is here and phones have grown so smart they’ve completely taken over the communication part from us humans.

The dedicated stare

But as I noticed returning to the store for the fifth or tenth time in one week, I’m not open to all those impressions and inspiration anymore. I’m there to get my item and check out. In which indoor navigation will be able to tell me how to get to my items, not having to navigate that constant up-stream of wide eyed Sunday walking flounders (me a week ago).

So navigating and being shown the shortcuts to a specific item, for an in and out mission becomes very valuable. 

Checking out

To the last bit of friction, the long line at the end. Ideally, I’d like to check out by sending the list of scanned items to the payment terminal and pay through one of the mobile wallet services, to reach the sausage stand quicker. Kvittar are one of the companies that specialize in this.

Introducing  digital lists would make things so much easier, not just for the consumer. The lists become your digital receipts for you to better keep track on what you have bought. You’ll always know where to find them which will make returning items so much easier. And as long as you have batteries you’ll never again loose your pick up list while in the store.


I’m glad to share some of my ideas on how a indoor navigation and a mobile shopping experience can reduce some of the experience friction while acknowledging that we have different needs depending on our mood and motive. If you are interested in learning more on how to add value to a user experience by design that acknowledges users changing emotions throughout a customer journey, this is you link, Emotional Experience Mapping.

As for me, I’m eagerly awaiting my very first indoor navigation kit so that we can stop creating concepts and start making it happen.

Thank you for reading.