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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Israeli innovators map future of indoor GPS


How do you get around unfamiliar maze of new shopping center, where location-pinpointing satellites don’t reach? As global race for next big app heats up, startup nation charges forward

A modern scenario: You check Facebook on your phone and see that a friend has posted about a one-hour-only, everything-half-off sale at a high-end electronics store in the new mall on the other side of town.
By clicking on the name of the store in your friend’s post, your phone automatically pulls up driving directions. You get in your car and, using the phone’s navigation system, arrive quickly at the shopping complex. But the sale is soon ending, and as soon as you enter the mall, your phone’s GPS no longer works.
Then you have a dilemma: When everything else in the world is just a few finger taps away, how do you get around the unfamiliar maze of a new shopping center, where location-pinpointing satellites don’t reach?
Upwards of 70 companies around the world are trying to solve this problem, and several Israeli startups are among the best – and latest – to enter the race.
Haifa-based GeinusMatcher recently released Mally, their indoor GPS app, at a shopping center in Toledo, Spain, with three more malls in that country signed up to begin using the service in the next couple months.
Mally is unique among its peers for its relative ease. A commercial complex wishing to utilize the program simply pays a monthly fee to GeniusMatcher, and shoppers can download the app for free to their mobile phones.
Other malls in Spain currently use technology wireless Internet-based technology from Google to provide in-store navigation for customers. With Mally, the Israeli developers wanted to prove: “It isn’t enough.”
The app, which is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Catalan, uses the phone’s internal camera to determine where you are standing and then provides a 3D map steering you toward a desired location.
“Our solution is hardware free. We don’t need to go and install anything in these places,” said Frida Issa, a 31-year-old engineer of computer science and management information systems, who is co-founder of GeniusMatcher.
It’s also light on battery use. Whereas a mobile map from Google, for example, might continue providing directions even when it’s in your pocket, Mally only navigates when you need it. Now, a two-hour trip to the neighborhood mega-mall won’t leave you with a dead phone.
“We don’t want that experience draining your battery,” Issa explained.
Lest you worry about entering a shopping center full of screen-bound strangers with no time to talk, by the end of 2013, Mally’s developers hope to have social functions fully integrated into the application, allowing users to meet old friends or make new acquaintances based on who else is in the mall and using the program.