Indoor maps have become as indispensable as a cup of coffee on a Monday morning - you just cannot function without them.
In the past, maps were primarily used for navigation, but today use cases go far beyond wayfinding; from workspace management solutions to smart building solutions to leveraging data insights, the technology’s use cases across industries are nearly endless.
If you want to keep up with your competitors, the question is not whether you need a map for your solution, but whether you should build your own or buy from a mapping provider. To help you make the right decision, we have created this article that will guide you through the things you need to consider before making your choice.
Determine what you need
Indoor maps help solve a number of challenges across industries, but different use cases require different features - some more advanced than others. To decide whether building or buying a map is the right solution for your company, you need to determine the main purpose of your map so you can identify which features are ‘must haves’, which are ‘strongly desired’, and which are ‘nice to have’. This will help you assess the scope of the project and whether or not you have the needed resources to develop the map.
To help you get started, here is an overview of some of the most important indoor mapping features.
Static map vs. dynamic map
If you only need a map to provide an overview of a building, a static map might do the job for you. Static maps are nice-looking CAD files, pdf files, or images that show the layout of a building. By overlaying data on the map, you allow users to get a clear overview of both the space and its amenities. However, just like a printed map, you cannot change the layout of your static map once it is published.
Buildings are dynamic structures that undergo constant changes and renovations. Whether you work with corporate offices, sports and event venues, airports, healthcare centers, or retail and shopping malls, chances are that they make changes to their layout frequently. At MapsPeople, some of our largest customers update their floor plans up to 30 times on an average day, but even if your clients only need to make weekly or monthly changes, a static map will quickly become obsolete.
If your clients need to make frequent changes to the map, a dynamic mapping platform is a better choice. MapsPeople’s dynamic mapping platform, MapsIndoors, comes with a content management system (CMS) that allows your customers to make changes to their maps quickly and easily. As changes are instantly displayed on the map, users are always equipped with an up-to-date map and reliable data.
While the uses of indoor maps go far beyond wayfinding, navigation is still one of the most important features of indoor mapping and end-user expectations for accuracy and reliability are sky-high.
To provide indoor wayfinding, you need to create a route network for each map you build. This enables users to get directions from point A to point B, but it does not give them turn-by-turn navigation. To get turn-by-turn navigation and the well-known blue dot experience, you need to integrate your map with an indoor positioning system. This is a must if your map is going to be used for asset tracking, ‘find my colleague’ solutions or the like where a high degree of accuracy is needed.
In addition to indoor wayfinding, the MapsIndoors platform leverages the technology of Google Maps and Mapbox to offer outdoor-to-indoor navigation. This means that users can get seamless turn-by-turn navigation from any point outdoors to their indoor destination. Moreover, it can provide them with both distances and the estimated time of arrival, so they know when to leave for their next meeting or how long it will take to get to their gate at the airport.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
If the majority of your clients are based in the US, you may want to consider adding indoor wayfinding to your map even though it is not a ‘must have’ for your solution. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, requires all businesses to have ADA-compliant wayfinding. This regulation includes businesses such as restaurants, stores, theaters, and public buildings.
MapsIndoors makes it easy for everyone to find wheelchair-accessible routes by offering users an ‘avoid stairs’ feature. In addition, MapsIndoors is WCAG-compliant for iOS, Android, and web. WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and it is a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible. When users change the text size in iOS settings, the text in MapsIndoors will change too. The platform also allows them to use different color schemes to make the visual information work for their eyesight.
Dynamic integrations allow indoor maps to integrate with other technologies like IoT devices, beacons, and sensors to provide real-time information to users. This information could include turn-by-turn directions, location-specific promotions, and even customized recommendations based on the user's location within the building. With dynamic integrations, indoor maps become more than just a static blueprint of a building. They transform into an interactive experience that enhances the user's overall journey.
Dynamic integrations also enable indoor maps to collect data that can be used to improve the user experience. By analyzing user behavior and movement patterns, indoor maps can be used to identify areas of the building that may need improvement, such as changing the layout of certain areas. This data can also be used to optimize building operations, such as identifying high-traffic areas that require more frequent cleaning or adjusting HVAC systems based on user occupancy patterns.
MapsIndoors is built to easily integrate with any third-party systems and can also integrate with some of the most used integrated workspace management systems (IWMS), such as Serraview and Tririga. By using dynamic integrations, MapsIndoors can draw information from these systems. This is helpful when your clients need to make changes to their floor plans, like the outline of a room or the number of desks. MapsIndoors will automatically detect these changes and update its own data to match the workspace management system. This means that facility management only needs to update the changes in one system instead of multiple ones.
User roles and profile-based map views
Chances are that your solution is used by multiple people with different responsibilities and challenges so maybe it needs to support user roles and profile-based map views.
With user roles and profile-based map views you ensure that your map can be used for multiple use cases and that everyone has access to the data they need but not to data that does not concern them. Like this, office workers will have one map view that shows room and desk occupancy, cleaning will have a different map view that shows how many people have used each bathroom, and security will have a third map view that shows where security cameras are placed.
With MapsIndoors you can even create map views for visitors or other external users such as first responders and technicians so they can quickly and easily get to the right destination inside a venue.
Scalability is a crucial factor to consider when deciding whether to build or buy your indoor map. Maybe you have the resources to create and update maps for 10-20 customers, but will you also have the resources when you have 100 customers?
One of our customers, an IT company that provides a workspace optimization platform, used to create their own indoor map. On average, the company spent 60-80 hours and €6000 creating an average-sized map of approx. 10,000 m2 and 1,000 POIs. At that time, their platform covered 100,000 m2 but with a 2023 objective of doubling the number of square meters, they needed a more scalable and cheaper solution and turned to MapsIndoors (if you want more detail, you can read the full blog post here).
At MapsPeople we have a dedicated automation team that works exclusively with machine learning and deep learning to automate our map creation process, which enables us to minimize our time to delivery. How long it takes to create a map depends on the data we get, but with the right data, we can create a 10.000 m2 map in just a few days.
Calculate your complete development cost
How much does it cost to develop your own map vs. buying one from a mapping provider?
Calculating the costs of creating your own map and comparing them to the costs of buying one, is of course a key step in deciding whether to build or buy the map for your solution. However, calculating the total development cost is easier said than done.
Investing time and money in developing a map means spending less time and money on something else. Before making your choice, you need to compare the benefits of buying a map through a mapping provider with the benefits of building your own map, assessing both the development resources needed and the opportunity costs.
An often overlooked task is updating. Unless your solution comes with a content management system, where customers can control, manage, and edit their map themselves, they will need your help every time they need to make changes to their map.
Maintaining indoor maps also requires a significant investment of IT resources, creative input, and ongoing product management to keep the map up-to-date and relevant for end users. This includes introducing new features, ensuring that the map remains functional, and avoiding obsolescence. Additionally, user feedback must be taken into consideration to ensure that the map is meeting the needs of its users. All of these factors require ongoing investment and add to the overall cost of developing your map.
Finally, developing a map takes time. If you choose to create your own map, it may take 6-12 months of development time before you can roll it out to customers, depending on the features you need. By buying a map through a mapping provider, you will be able to increase your product value almost instantly.
Figuring out what is right for your company is not an easy task. If you want to discuss your solution and needs for an indoor map, we are always happy to help.