March 9, 2021

Guide to using indoor digital maps and wayfinding

Point Maps
Superior Digital Maps

Key learnings:

Choose a known digital format to convert your building plans into (we recommend IMDF)

Don’t overthink integration, use a webmap that is optimised for mobile deployment unless SDK integration is a necessity

You don’t need to be a GIS expert to extract value from building floor plans

Keep your use case simple; start with a map, then build your application from there - complex applications look great on paper but rarely deliver on their initial design thinking  


Let’s take the assumption that you are interested in indoor maps, you have done some exploring on the internet and you want to see how they could benefit your business. This could be to help visitors to your building search and find their chosen destination and then get directions to that place or you may be looking at maps to help you visualise and share key information about the building itself. Whatever the benefits and the use cases that are being explored, these are some of the points to keep in mind when taking it further:


Where is my starting position, i.e. what format of maps do I currently have?
Building Floor Plans

In a lot of cases, building floorplans will come in a format of PDF and CAD and these are often the blue prints of the building. The primary challenge is that they either have too much information or not enough – either way for most of us, unless we are suitably skilled, these formats are rigid in format and not usable in their current state. The first step is to convert them into a digital format that solves these challenges.

A digital format that is now being more widely adopted is the Indoor Mapping Data Format (IMDF). This open data model is useful for any indoor venues to adopt indoor wayfinding. As a mobile-friendly and compact model, it serves as a standardised foundation for venues and users to explore their way in indoor spaces. It has been formally recognised by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) community standard and IMDF makes implementing indoor mapping solutions across multiple platforms user-friendly and uncomplicated.

Without going further into much detail on the data format, the key here is that format is lightweight – i.e when loaded into applications, you are not spending an age for the map files load. The added benefit is that IMDF is used by Apple so if you do want to add your map to Apple Maps, having the map in this format is a good start.

Whatever format decided, this a fundamental stage that needs to happen to start benefitting from an interactive map experience. There are tools out there in the market to help create maps, but we would recommend working with an experienced provider to get this part ofthe process done especially if the venue is complex and future changes could be needed.


The Digital map is created –what is next?

Once the map is in a digital format, the next step is to find a vehicle for this map i.e. a platform that you can use the map with. This is where you need to consider how the map is going to be used and through what channels you would like it to be viewed. The most typical use case is that the map will need to be used on a website and a mobile application.  

Options usually come in two formats – SDKs or Web deployment. Dependent on your application needs, we would recommend to set yourself up on a web platform to minimise integration and duplication of any work and support. That said if you use web then this should also be optimised for mobile deployment as in most cases your users will be accessing the map on the go and will want the interface to be set up for their smart phone usage.



Integration – what do we need think about?

This is where having a web based platform really adds benefit as it can be as easy as adding a URL link into your website, mobile application or other connected digital format to start using your maps. The word integration often comes with alarm bells that time and resources are going to be tied up in some IT project that the business is not ready for. This is definitely not the case with web deployments and even if integrations are needed to link to internal CMS or other third-party data, steer clear of jargon and ‘blah’ as good developers will streamline all these activities into manageable deliveries.



Getting the map looking great for your users
Simple design is great design.

Now the maps are ready to be deployed, this is the opportunity to play around with different colour palettes and visuals to ensure that your user experience is top notch. If you are a user of Google or Apple Maps, then you will appreciate that there are a number of subtle design elements that add to a superior use experience. From the colours used to how icons are shown and how zoom levels affect what information you see– these all contribute to a positive experience that enables the user to focus on what they want to get out of their own map journey.

Using a platform that can leverage off similar capabilities will let you control this experience and ultimately let you design your own experience that aligns to your visual identity.



Managing maps and your data – how do I maintain and control the data?
Map Editor

The next key element of the process is understanding how you are going to manage and edit your map data. For this part of the process, you will need a content management system. This typically will come with the map solution and will enable real-time map content changes as well as a number of other features relating to map management.

Often integration with your existing IT systems may be a necessity to align with your own in-house CMS but again this can be a simple process and should not a viewed as a deterrent to usage.


Final thoughts:

Maps are great visual tools to help bring data to life and if you are looking to make your building data discoverable then hopefully these words have provided you with a helpful guide on your own mapping journey


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