NIST Competition Hunting for Indoor GPS Apps

The Commerce Department agency is sponsoring a competition, PerfLoc, to generate the best apps from the developer community. Developers have until Aug. 17, 2017, to submit their entries.

A new NIST Challenge seeks smartphone apps for indoor navigation -- apps that would analyze data from smartphone sensor readings, radio frequency signal strengths, and GPS fixes to help firefighters and other users find their way inside unfamiliar buildings. The Commerce Department agency is sponsoring a competition, PerfLoc, to generate the best apps from the developer community, with developers given until Aug. 17, 2017, to submit their entries.

There are no smartphone apps for indoor navigation, but new data collected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology may help to solve the problem, according to the agency, which reports that a NIST-headed research team spent more than 18 months collecting data from four different smartphone models to facilitate the development of indoor navigation apps. Indoor localization tools could help emergency responders find victims—or each other—when seconds count and could assist with locating specific works of art in large museums or misplaced equipment in hospitals, factories, or warehouses, according to NIST's announcement of the competition.

"The user community has expressed the need for careful testing of indoor localization solutions," said Nader Moayeri, NIST's principal investigator on the project. "Fire departments, for example, strongly desire ways to find a comrade who's fallen inside a burning building and who may die because he cannot determine the exit location due to low visibility from smoke or some other reason. Fire departments need to know how well these solutions are going to work before they invest their limited financial resources in them."

The announcement reported the Federal Communications Commission has estimated more than 10,000 lives can be saved annually with better and timely location information for 911 calls placed from cellphones, many of which are made from indoor locations.

NIST is offering cash prizes of $20,000, $10,000, and $5,000 to the top three submissions. The grand prize winner will be flown to a conference in Japan to present the winning idea and do a live demonstration of the app. "Of course, the biggest reward will not be the cash prize," Moayeri said. "The prestige that goes with it will matter to the designer."

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