Mister Beacon Episode #178
Indoor Location Services with IndoorAtlasJuly 11, 2023
This week on Mr. Beacon we return to the world of indoor navigation with Erik Piehl, the CEO of IndoorAtlas. IndoorAtlas is transforming the way we navigate indoors by pioneering deployment of a GPS-like experience without the need for extensive infrastructure. How do they achieve this remarkable feat? By harnessing the power of the Earth's magnetic field and utilizing your smartphone as a reliable guide.
In this episode, Erik reveals the innovative technology behind IndoorAtlas and how it enables businesses to offer seamless indoor navigation solutions. Forget about getting lost in large malls, office complexes, or event venues. With IndoorAtlas' cutting-edge "beacon planner," businesses can effortlessly determine the optimal number of beacons required to create a smooth navigation experience for their customers.
What sets IndoorAtlas apart from the competition? Erik Piehl explains how their solution excels in various building types, accommodating diverse architectural layouts. Whether it's a shopping mall, airport, or museum, IndoorAtlas has the versatility to enhance navigation experiences in any indoor space. Moreover, unlike other indoor navigation systems reliant on constant connectivity to the cloud, IndoorAtlas can be run offline. Erik Piehl discusses how this unique capability ensures uninterrupted navigation even in areas with poor or no internet connection.
Tune in to this episode to gain insights into the future of indoor navigation, as Erik Piehl shares his expertise and unveils the incredible potential of IndoorAtlas. Discover how this technology is revolutionizing the way we navigate and explore indoor spaces.
Red Barchetta by Rush: https://youtu.be/_LXKZq0fYDw
Indestructible by Disturbed: https://youtu.be/Hj2vU2nr5Jw
Dreaming by gattobus: https://youtu.be/bxSDXqBFxGU
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Steve Statler 00:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. In many ways, this week's episode is spank to the classic focus that we started this podcast with many years ago, which is the core location technology, the beacon technology, that helps us figure out where people are, and can be the trigger to so many compelling user experiences. Now, I'm going to be talking to the CEO of indoor Atlas, Eric Peele. He and his company are real veterans of this space, indoor Atlas, as our highly original approach to location, which was started over a decade ago, which is when I first came across them, and they've been on my list of companies to interview since this show started. So gives me great pleasure to introduce this, this particular episode. And Mr. Beacon ambient coyote podcast is sponsored by Williard, bringing intelligence to every single thing. So Eric, welcome to the podcast. Thank you, Steve. So endo Atlas has been, I have this sort of mental list of all of the companies that I want to speak to, and this podcast really started off as focusing very much on the technology of indoor location. And your company has always been one of the most interesting companies in this space, you pioneered a really innovative set of technologies, you've got some interesting patterns. So I'm pleased to get the get into it. I sort of think that the first time I met someone from your company, God had been 10 years ago, and you can tell me if I'm imagining it will go into the history of your company. But I think it was 10 years ago, and I was in San Diego. And we were walking around a staples. And there were no Bluetooth beacons. And the guy that I was talking to one of your colleagues from the very early days was showing me this dot moving around. And it was based on the geo there with the magnetism of the building and the earth, I just thought it was like magic. And I've always been fascinated. And I think since then you've you've the solutions matured, and you have this cocktail, a fusion of lots of different sensors. So I'm really keen to understand more, see how you progressed. As a company, you indoor Atlas has been around for a long time. And so we want to know the secret sauce, and where you're seeing the money's to be made and the areas to avoid. So I think we can learn a lot from you. Maybe we should start off where, you know, I've given you my observations about your company. But tell me what is your elevator pitch when you're introducing indoor Atlas to people? How do you do it?
Erik Piehl 03:24
Oh, yeah, so from an elevator pitch standpoint, so Well, what we do is that we are a interruptin processing and technology company, the aim of the company has always to be able to produce an experience that's similar to what you get outdoors with GPS, but indoors, and do so with minimal infrastructure. And, indeed, like I mentioned, one of the recipes on how this has been achieved is actually the geomagnetic positioning, as we call it. And I think that, well, I'm not sure if this is any more really in the space of the elevator pitch, but it's just a reminder, the historical background you mentioned, so the company has been founded in 2012, in Finland, and I joined at the beginning of 2017. Nice to see oh, so I don't know first hand information from the very beginning, I have heard a lot of very cool war stories. The one that you alluded to the staples, this it might have been one of those via and the the value of promise that we had early on was that you don't need any infrastructure. So you can just install our software onto your smartphone after doing the site survey, and then you as a customer can experience the interpreter listening in, in virtually any venue. And that was the beginning and that was and still is, by the way, a great value proposition. Things have become a little bit more difficult from the value proposition irrespective of since at one point in time, what happened was that Apple made the decision of preventing applications from doing Wi Fi scans. And what that means is that on iOS devices, you can't do those anymore. So you can't observe the infrastructure that happens to exist on a given location head of time. But rather, what tends to happen these times these days is that you would, at least when deploying our system put in what we call a supporting beacon infrastructure. So the positioning is not based on decomposition, but we do use beacons. And so the the way we kind of split this into two phases is that there's the first phase, which we call the first fix calculation, first fix estimation. And that's done with radio versus learning algorithms, since they are the ones who are able to or which are able to compute the location estimate immediately. And what follows then is that when you start to move around, we are able to observe the environment with all the sensors on the smartphone, including the geomagnetic fields, and that's what is bringing you the accuracy and to the experience, so the geomagnetic positioning early on, as to challenge that the location only effectively has one sample into India, which is where you happen to be. And that's not enough information to be able to tell where you are in a potentially very large building. So we're, over time when you walk around. And there's a path that we are able to compute from the Inertial Navigation component, which is giving us a relative motion understanding on how you as the user have been moving around. And we are then collecting the geomagnetic fields over the course of the same bath. And at a certain point in time, the bath information becomes unique and the geomagnetic field variation from birth becomes unique. And that's how the positioning works. So the, when we talk about geomagnetic positioning, people oftentimes have a little bit hard time understanding that, you know, how is our geomagnetic positioning different from, say, the use of Compass with solar. And if I tried to take a look at the different technologies that are available for indoor positioning, you can see that everybody is using geomagnetism, but typically, they are using it in their own companies are using it for the composite during our compass heading information. So the compass points to the magnetic north, and it's used that way. But what happens kind of behind the scenes is that the magnetic meters that you'll find in a modern smartphones, and you have been finding them while already for, for the said 10 years or more, they actually accurate enough so that you're able to really capture to three dimensional geomagnetic field. And so the nice thing about the geomagnetic field is that it sort of comes pre installed. So you have have the geomagnetic fields everywhere. If you take a plot of land, you will probably find that geomagnetic field is quite smooth in that it's really not having two main features. And it's from an information content standpoint, you know, when walking through short distances, it's not very interesting. But when you pick a building, and the building has some metal structures than the metal structures will interact with a geomagnetic field, therefore creating minut errors or variations. And the way our technology works is that we have two phases. So the deployment or site survey phase, there's a process that we call fingerprinting, where you need to walk through the area where you want to subsequently do the positioning. And during the fingerprinting phase, we are recording to three dimensional geomagnetic field in the building, and we are also at the same time recording the radio environment and all the other parameters may be able to use. And then all of that goes into what do you like, actually, but as a cocktail sorta cocktail is is the sense of fusion. So we're using 20 hours on every case using the geomagnetic information using whatever radio sensors we can use. We also use the barometer to detect changes in altitude as a relative information source. And then if you use our augmented reality mode, we are also using the camera information for positioning.
Steve Statler 09:51
Also, augmented reality is beyond just an output of showing the Point of Interest marker in, in some kind of a heads up display, you're actually using it to detect movement, which is smart. It's very good.
Erik Piehl 10:08
Yeah. So there has been a huge investments by the ecosystem providers to provide great AR capabilities. And we are using their money using the camera information in general to figure out motion. So it's a way to augment the information that we are able to collect from the gyroscope and accelerometer on a smartphone.
Steve Statler 10:30
So much to talk about, but one of the important things, a bit of a diversion, but your AR feature, this is something that we've been experimenting with Willie out as well. And it's pretty awesome, especially for demonstrations, what you can do, I think the question in my mind is, how much of use of AR actually goes beyond the demo phase to being used in production? Have you found that customers? Were at the stage where people are really using AR on a regular basis? Or is it more something that we as an industry need to use as a sales tool?
Erik Piehl 11:16
Yeah, it's a it's a great question. So we released our AR support, I think it was in 2020, or, or maybe it in 2020. So it has been available for quite a while, of course, the timing kind of coincides with the pandemic as well. And the pandemic has been difficult for the whole industry, I think it's so our technology is useful, typically in large indoor spaces. And of course, during the pandemic, large indoor spaces, by definition, were either under lockdown us, or they were just suffering from the consequences of social distancing as offered. So it wasn't a great timing for the release of this feature. I think that, well, maybe just as a background, so what we wanted to do was to make it easy to combine our persistent headache emoji and AR experiences, we found out that that were well, rather, our initial assumption was that people will combine the information that's coming from the AR engines and our global positioning capability indoors. And they will do them. These can combine these capabilities themselves and of course, about building their experiences and applications. But it turned out that it's not so easy, apparently, then for many companies, and rightfully so. So you have to kind of do a pretty good job in combining those two elements together to create a fluid experience. And to answer your question, I think that we still haven't, at least on our side, seen the best use cases of this come out yet. It's super useful as a demonstration or as a sales tool, because it's something that captures everybody's imagination. And is also easy to understand, you know that you are seeing where you need to go, you see the path ahead of you where to go, so forth, it's highly useful for people who have trouble orienting themselves on a normal, two dimensional or be three dimensional map for that matter. And from our point of view, since we are a position a technology company, we are not a digital maps company, nor do we want to be such a company. So rather we partner with companies that create digital maps, I think it's a much better strategy for our type of company. So having the AR capability enables us to demonstrate our technology in a useful way, even if you don't have a fancy and you know, well designed digital map of the location.
Steve Statler 13:57
That's really interesting. I wonder, you know, this AR is not standing still. We saw one of the biggest announcements from Apple with the vision Pro. I don't think people are going to be wearing vision pros when they walk around staples yet. So you know, maybe it'll take three, four or five years before it gets to something that wouldn't be comical doing that, but it's pretty clear that that's where it's going. And I think you know what you've pointed out which I mean, I have to admit with maps, I often struggle to orientate myself so I think it's a really it's a compelling solution. A U D, G you just so when I looked at your website, I saw the the arrows being the directional arrows being overlaid on the path in the aisle of a store. Do you see people doing and if The more are they highlighting where assets are or is your view, this will just be used to help people like me who aren't very good at reading maps navigate?
Erik Piehl 15:14
Well, we certainly are on our side promoting other ways to use that information. So we, of course, are building these components, such as the AR capability on top of the indoor positioning system, to be able to add value to the core, which is something capability. And if we kind of early mid ourselves only do navigation use cases, and there are only you know, the following a path or following a set of arrows or whatever, you know, the method of abstracts that you might have on how you guide somebody through a building, I think it's going to be a missed opportunity. And because of that, we have a support for Pio eyes in our content management system. And as attributes, that is what's of interest, one of the things that you're going to specify is a graphical representation of an object that can be attached into a location. And that we support both two dimensional bitmaps and three dimensional objects. And we have for the three dimensional objects, for example, we can support rotation, scaling, and things like that, so that you're going to put objects that might be meaningful in your environment there. And these capabilities actually supported in our demonstration software. So we have an application which is available for both iOS and Android, the application is called inter Atlas, positioning simply. So this application, the primary reason why we created this is to be able to show how the positioning works and to have a simple application that anybody can go and test without having to do any software development. But we have been adding over the years additional capabilities into this application. So we added wayfinding Wayfinding, Minh meant adding points of interest, we have been adding support for geo fences. So you can define arbitrary areas in your venue. And when you enter the you'll get a notification when you exit such a thing, you'll get a notification. And then we have been adding support for augmented reality and these AR objects. So for example, in your to continue on Earth retail sort of potential use case in a retail environment, you could put, for example, additional science that don't appear in the real world. And you know, here are the sale items, or if you're out there items of interest, according to your profile and so forth.
Steve Statler 17:43
Yeah, I mean, I see people wandering around stores with their phones out. But I think it's just maybe a step too far to get them to be use it to find their way, unless you're really struggling to find that part. So it'll be interesting to see whether any apps really go mainstream with this, with this feature. I thought it was interesting, you described, I think you gave a really nice breakdown of the components of indoor location, I think people come to this and they kind of lump it all in one. And I just want to call those out. So there's like, where am I? Then there's kind of the navigational piece, how do I find my weight. And then there was this whole geofencing, which is the ability to actually initiate actions based on where I am. So someone's gone into the wrong place or your place they shouldn't be or, and well, there's a ton that I want to get into. I want to talk about asset tracking a little bit more, and the different use cases in different industries. But before we go on there, I want to make sure that we really understand the solution, the core technology. And you said another interesting thing, which was we don't do maps, and I think a lot of people would sort of assume, Oh, indoor Atlas, does maps, but you're you're not you're doing that location, you're doing the wayfinding you're doing the geofencing. Why not do maps as well?
Erik Piehl 19:23
It's a great question. And I guess it's a question of timing a little bit. So we're we have been very focused on developing our core technology and the goal core algorithms. And we have been adding more and more sensor modalities into our sensor fusion stack. And since that's the core product that has been a core priority for the team to work on. And by the time we started to be happy with that functionality, there were really quite a few companies creating digital maps and there's I think there's a lot of value in digital maps. But from our point of view, where we are coming from, it seemed to make much more sense to partner with these companies. And that's actually kind of What has also happened. So we have many partner companies who have integrated our positioning SDK into their map platform. And so if you are a company, somebody like maps people, for example, who is offering digital maps, and if you are using their map SDKs, on map visualization technologies and things like that, then you can simply enable inter Atlas as well. And the maps people software may be immediately able to use because it's a huge opportunity, because it's pre integrated into the software on their side. And the same has been done by other companies as well.
Steve Statler 20:47
So we can you give some examples of the companies that you work with? Yeah, so
Erik Piehl 20:52
we have a well, if we start from East, so. So Yahoo. Japan is one of actually our shareholders. And Yahoo has an application called Yahoo Maps. And they compete with Google Maps, they compete with Apple Maps with their own maps application. And their map application is using their maps, they I think, are partnered with somebody else, potentially for part of that. But anyway, they are using our location services. If we then go to Hong Kong, we have a product company called Cherry picks, they're they do their own, or they have their own digital maps platform that they deploy. And it has a nice map representation layers, they have also integrated our technology into that. In Europe, if we think about the European companies, there are mazemap is integrated with our technology, we have a watch map, have done an integration. I think I might already message it mess up. Yeah. on the US side, we have we have been a longtime partner of local slabs, local slabs, as system being at acquired by Acuity Brands. And they have they also well, what local clubs did and does all the same team does is creating digital maps for certain places, like they have deployments in many airports, for instance, also in the UK, and it's another platform that we have integrated or rather they have integrated our technology into and then in Canada mapped in is as also done. This is the course and I'm probably forgetting some of our partners as I go about this list.
Steve Statler 22:39
But it's a good selection Acuity Brands, really interesting company we interviewed the head of Acuity Brands IoT team years ago now, but they're the lighting company, one of the big, big three lighting companies and a great source of beacons. Sometime sometimes an overwhelming source of beach switch. Yeah, really audition deployments where they've been, like, just flooding, flooding the whole spectrum with the the, the beacons, but they're a great company. And I think there's a huge potential there because, you know, lighting is a staple. And you know, why not use that for IoT? So getting back to your technology, just a detail of how do you read the Earth's magnetic field? Is it you're just in? Is it just the compass that tells you that, that the field is fluctuating? Do you look at the the essentially the jitter in the needle of a compass? Or how do you do it?
Erik Piehl 23:49
Yeah, well, if you think about the compass needle was that the compass needle is some kind of 2d projection of the geomagnetic field, or maybe even almost a one day because it has only one axis of freedom. But what we do is that we are using the three dimensional figure, and so it's, you know, X, Y, and Zed coordinates that we are using for those things. I think that it's actually a good thing that I see I don't know intimately to tech matches, I'm not going to leak anything. But the hard part with this is that you have to be able to pick up the good signal from the noise and also compute what is known the bias. So every smartphone has a bias component, which means that it will distort distort geomagnetic, the 3d McDonald's i vector in a certain way. And the way it is having this bias is something that also changes over time. So it's not a fixed thing. And if you for example, in your purse, put your smartphone next to metal objects or whatnot, the bias component will change. And, and it's a kind of a difficult problem to solve. It's one of the areas where we also have either been granted patents about how you how they, how you manage that. So the difficulty with the gym, I can feel this is kind of a starting from, first of all getting the actual thing out of the way out of the noise. So the and then it comes to the deadline matching algorithms, which are able to match the path over time, revenue. One of the peculiarities of the geomagnetic positioning is that I kind of said earlier on, it's not a unique signature in a way that you have, you typically in any building will have features at that represent themselves in the geomagnetic field, the same way in multiple locations. So you need to use other technologies and other components and other smarts to be able to know that, you know, out of those five, potentially matching places, the place where we actually are, is, is here. Yes, that's the that's the kind of the some kind of a high level overview on how it works.
Steve Statler 26:18
The way I remember it being explained to me 10 years ago, and it's incredible how these metaphors and images that we often use to communicate can just stick in people's mind. But the way it was explained to me was, it's a bit like running a credit card through a credit card reader. And, you know, that generates that, it's important that you can't just stick the credit card in the credit card reader, or at least you can't do that with the old mag stripes, you have to kind of move it through at a velocity for it to work. And that was really helped me get my head around the the nature of the technology. But it was also, you know, problematic because if people don't always move. Yeah. So I guess that's why you have the other you use for the beacons and the GPS to get the initial fix and, and so forth. But how big a part is that geomagnetic? thing? I kind of looked always with interest, as you added more sensors over the years, and I was kind of left wondering, Well, is it did it? You know, is it just a clever pivot on their side to something that does work and the geometric magnetic thing is just kind of a little seasoning, to kind of differentiate? Or how much of a help is the geomagnetic in figuring out where you are?
Erik Piehl 27:53
Yeah, it's a great question. And it's a question I sometimes also get from our customers. And it's also one of those questions, which is a little bit hard to reply to, because the answer is that it depends. Yes, and it depends on many factors, but one of the important factor is that how does the geomagnetic landscape of a building look alike? So sometimes, you may have a building that doesn't have a lot of features, in terms of the Germanic nightscape. So and by the way, as an aside, it's interesting to note that the geomagnetic fingerprint on every floor on a multi storey building is different. So the, it does vary, and it's unique. But if you have a location that has a relatively rich geomagnetic field, which probably means that the building has sufficient metal structures, which are different from each other, you know, pipes and whatnot, maybe metal and concrete and different things can happen, then it actually is the technology that brings the highest level of accuracy in our stack. It is all the the especially because we are using it to our advantage to minimize the amount of beacons that one has to deploy.
Steve Statler 29:16
And that's a benefit. Yeah, I mean, it's so infrastructure or no infrastructure isn't binary, it's like what's the density of beacons I need? And obviously, the, the less dense, the better at means significantly better as far as the costs and the friction to getting this in place.
Erik Piehl 29:36
Yes, and we also do still support the model where no beacons are being deployed. So if you have Android devices, which are able to do Wi Fi scans, then you don't necessarily need to deploy beacons depending on the kind of Wi Fi infrastructure that you have in place. And then Wi Fi can take the role of providing the first fix And then the geomagnetic is bringing into Aquarius and to tracking behavior to kind of a, you know, in a nutshell, to conclude the answer to that question, it's, it's not mere seasoning. And it's not also, I don't think a matter of doing a pivot, it's, it's an integral part of the, of the sensor fusion stack that we have. And the reason why we have been adding these other modalities in place is that we of course, want to be able to have a preach versus an instructor and be able to operate in different types of environments that they can advantage to have the whatever sensors and infrastructure happens to be available. And it's also possible to deploy our technology without using the geomagnetic part and still work. So we then are relying on the other modalities. Yes, performance is gained when you have a good quality fingerprint and are using the full stack.
Steve Statler 31:04
So I know this is gonna be an it depends answer, but I'm trying to get a sense of how how many beacons do you need, given that you have geo magnetic so if I add geo magnetic and I'm in an environment, like a department store shopping center that has a fair bit of, of metal in it. But you know, I really want optimal location positioning, then what's what's the kind of the the density of beacons that you would your teams would typically recommend.
Erik Piehl 31:44
So our typical recommendation, perhaps, would be to have a beacon, at least a starting point per 200, square meters, something like that. Depending on the environment, it can be less, it can be more, we have actually added a tool into our web application a while ago called The beacon planner, and beacon planter has the capability of providing reference plans for your location. So you, you put in the Floor Plan, and you draw out the area where you want to perform positioning, and then it will give you a recommendation on how to deploy the beacons there. And it gives you certain options, you can do a dense deployment, medium deployment, or, or, you know, you're gonna learn in other words, you can vary the amount of beacons you put in place. Normally, it makes sense to be a little bit smart about where you put the beacons. And so and it is also something that kind of depends on your goals. So if the goal is to minimize the amount of beacons, then you might want to choose to put the beacons into a some critical points, you know, within the venue from a positioning standpoint, like for example, you might have a beacon nearby an elevator bank on every floor. So today for detection chemical, operate fast, and you might also want to have a beacon nearby, a place where people are likely to start their purchasing experience and so forth. So like you said, yourself, it depends. Yeah, or whatever. And one of the things, which is kind of interesting, which has happened in the industry is that the Wi Fi access points have gained the ability to also operate in the Bluetooth frequency range, and they have embedded BLE capabilities themselves. And that's actually a very good fit to what we do, because then you are kind of having an infra structure installation, to provide Wi Fi access that has a low density beacon infrastructure to go with it at the same time, which is a good match to our expectations.
Steve Statler 34:00
Yeah, we we've had representatives on from Cisco and Aruba multiple times from both companies, and it's really interesting to see what Cisco has been doing with their spaces, DNA spaces. ecosystem. What's your general assessment of the health of the market? I mean, you survived. You survived COVID As a company, and how did you do that? I can't imagine that anyone will consider deploying solutions such as yours during the the pandemic?
Erik Piehl 34:43
Yeah, so that actually is an excellent question. And it actually allows us to talk about one topic that we haven't been speaking about yet, which is that one of the capabilities that we have in our stack or in the workflow rather, is that we have they'll have a service model. So our approach to the market has always kind of had two spirits. One of them is to operate through the Self Service way whereby anyone can come in and register as a developer, they gain access to our tools, we provide a three trial license. And that enables you to do a deployment anywhere on the world, you know, on your premises, provided you just meet some pre requisites, which typically are that you need to have physical access to the space so that you can do the site survey, you need to have a floor plan that's accurate enough to support that site survey activity. And then you need to have some kind of radio infrastructure, which typically would be supported by beacons. So So those are kind of the elements that you need. So during the pandemic, what that meant was that we were actually able to go on and continue to make new commercial deployments with our partners. We did then what we do now, which is that we provide remote support in case somebody has questions or issues or wants advice on how to go about doing the site survey. But the deployments, and actually this is true in general. So most of our deployments have been done by people that are not our employees. So our partners have become skilled at doing the fingerprinting. And we have at the same time trying to make the thing in the process as simply as simple as possible. So what that means is that the, during the pandemic, we were able to sign up new customers and make new deployments and we actually were able to gain some growth even during the pandemic, albeit you No, it was, of course, slow going.
Steve Statler 36:52
Well, I think that's really commendable, that you've got to the point where your teams don't need to be there that shows a level of maturity of the product that I think any business in our space should be, should be proud of. And I guess it's very valuable for balance sheet that you don't need to have all of the you don't need to have a massive field force that's doing everything. How big is the company at this stage? My guess is that it's gone up and down over the years, no one survives as long as you have without some ups and some downs. But how big is endure Atlas today?
Erik Piehl 37:34
Yeah, so indeed, we have had our ups and downs several times over the years. And at the moment, I think the configuration that we have is on the small side. So we are, I think 14 People at the minute, we are a little bit scattered around. So we have a couple of guys in Japan, one in China, and the rest of us are here in Finland. So that's how we are and we have deployments at the moment, I think, in 31 countries. So when I say deployments, I mean commercial deployments.
Steve Statler 38:09
Yeah, and you've got some pretty amazing stats in terms of the active use of your product. I remember seeing on your website. So but one thing that I maybe a tough question, I don't know, when I first found indoor Atlas. To me, you were just completely unique. And you'd got some essential IP. And I think, since then, other companies have doing similar things in terms of the geo magnetic piece. How do you differentiate yourself against those companies?
Erik Piehl 38:49
Yeah, so the differentiation is really coming from the topics that we have already discussed, or the capabilities. So we have a capability of supporting the self service model, we have proven that that technology can be deployed into very many different types of buildings. So you know, it can be office spaces, shopping malls, train stations, airports, and, you know, exhibition centers. I don't know if I already mentioned that. But but so large and small, you know, with corridors, without corridors, large open areas, you know, close areas. So that has been working capability. The Self Service workflow enables anybody to go and try so it's easy to take into use and you get to test on how it is working. Another capability, which we haven't discussed so far is the offline capability that we have. So the we store the fingerprints that we collect in our cloud, but the engine that over the years has been transformed to work in an offline manner, meaning that the positioning algorithms to run on the device itself, and we don't require internet connectivity during a process analysis. And what that means is that if you have a, for example, if you have a hospital that has multiple buildings, and maybe there are some underground tunnels, which maybe don't have connectivity, or they have intermittent internet connectivity, we're able to support them perform well in that type of environments. And we even have a separate version of the SDK that we provided that we call the offline SDK with, which embeds the position and maps. So that's an interesting capability, which gives robustness to solutions that are built around our technology.
Steve Statler 40:40
Definitely. Yeah, as whenever I've worked for cloud companies. And that's been the biggest objection when there's what do you do in the cloud? And of course, in Finland, you're no stranger to tunnels, where your company is based? I was, it's one of the things that I get, it makes it an exciting place to visit you you have these cool tunnels that I was never clear whether that was because of the weather or some for defense reasons. Or maybe it's maybe it's both but
Erik Piehl 41:13
yeah, I guess it's both. But it's true that the defense element has been a key component of this. Since the Second World War, we have been building shelters, and these shelters, of course, during peacetime, which means hopefully, forever, used for other purposes at the moment for commercials or for exercise. Also, what not?
Steve Statler 41:32
Yes, so I love Finland, I, I was there at the tail end of the pandemic, in fact, that's where I first got it. In Finland. That doesn't sound like it comes from I didn't mean to come. But if you're gonna, let me tell you, if you're gonna get COVID, then Finland is the place to do it. It was a wonderful, I got to walk along by the sea and the fish suit was amazing. It was it was really cool. So can't wait to come back. And, you know, obviously, as a country, you have the legacy and the current manifestation of Nokia, which is on those so much innovation, especially in the wireless space. So what are the use cases that where you operate? And where do you see the momentum? Where are people using this? Because, you know, when when I first got interested in beacons, it was, you know, the Apple store was the shining example of of that. And back at Qualcomm, we provided the beacons for the Apple Store, which was like a privilege to to see that. And beacons have become a little bit more quiet, but the need for indoor Positioning and Navigation hasn't gone away. So where do you see the momentum? In your business today? What are the use cases?
Erik Piehl 43:03
Yeah, so what we have been doing over the past several years, throughout the pandemic, for example, is that we have been starting to a little bit specialized into different verticals, and also try to understand what are the business needs of different verticals. So one of the issues our kind of a company has is that since the positioning technology is something that you can apply to virtually any business domain is such a central piece of of any activity now, knowing where you are, or the devices or whatnot. So we're, the even if the technology can be the same for different industries, the way you sell it, the way you productize it, you know, the types of solutions that Craig get created, are going to be different. And also, of course, from our perspective, because we don't do solutions, we operate through partners who make two solutions. What it means for us is that we have been gathering a lot of partners in different industries and different fields to be able to serve the different markets. And while doing so, we have also been trying to really gather understanding from directly from the customers of our customers, meaning the partners. So the In other words, typically they will be the venues that are deploying the technology for different use cases. And that's really something that is necessary to understand, you know, how somebody is using this technology or wants to use it at an airport, how would you deploy this technology in a retail setting? How do you do you know, the retail is also a complex space, you have supermarkets, big and small. And then you have shopping malls, you know, how do you go about there? Who is your customer? You know, are you selling to the brands, are you selling to the venue and so forth? And, and so it goes but the the the use case, that most often our technology is used for is still navigation and wayfinding as the enabler of wayfinding Doing navigation. But increasingly, we are seeing that people are also using our technology for analytics. So, and we also have done some use cases where our technology has been deployed in an application. But the application doesn't even have the concept of a map. So it's doing the positioning, but the positioning is used for analytics purposes, for example, to enable social distancing, or something like that, rather than Wayfinding. But the space of analytics of courses is very rich. And we have been adding gradually capabilities into our own software stack, to also support different types of analytics use cases. And we have also been tilted a bit into the space of in the area of geo marketing. So enabling new types of use cases that are pretty being made possible by the fact that you do have knowledge of the location. And that, of course, is the direction where we as a company want to go because that kind of brings more value to the core product.
Steve Statler 46:04
They use one of this business question is, is how does the growing capabilities of the the base platforms, the Apple Maps, Google Maps? How does that impinge on your business and impact it?
Erik Piehl 46:24
Yeah, it's a great question. And, of course, it's one that's completely beyond our control. So in the ecosystem providers have a lot of power, and they can create businesses, they can destroy businesses. But at least so far, what we have seen is that there are a lot of people who want to do cross platform applications and enable cross platform capabilities. And at the moment, it's not something that you're gonna get from Apple or that you can get from Google. The other thing is that, we want to make sure that you as our customer are in charge of your data. So we're, if you work with us, then you can decide how you want your data to be treated. And we are very open about how that goes in our system.
Steve Statler 47:07
That's a really good point. So there's a tradition on the podcast. Hopefully I mentioned it, but you, I asked you about three songs that are meaningful to you.
Erik Piehl 47:22
Yeah, yeah. Okay. That's a pretty interesting one, and took some thinking and did because choosing only three is a tough, tough call. But I went with something. Yeah.
Steve Statler 47:33
Well, terrific. Let's get into it. What did you choose?
Erik Piehl 47:37
Yeah. So the, I was kind of trying to think about songs that are a little bit different. And also, for me, personally, representing a little bit different eras in my life, and in my career in general. So I'm a lifelong fan of Rush, as you may know, the Canadian progressive rock band and from their vast collection of songs, I went with the red Barcia, which is from the moving pictures album was probably is one of the most famous albums that they have. And the so now, unfortunately, the drummer passed away. I think it was last year or the year before. So I don't think they will be making tours anymore. But in the last tour that they did, they did play this entire album, from start to finish over the tour. Yeah, that was pretty interesting. Yeah.
Steve Statler 48:33
And you were on the tour. Did you hear it all?
Erik Piehl 48:35
Yeah, I was there. So they came to Helsinki. And obviously, when they come here, I'm there. So actually, it's kind of how it worked. And the reason why I chose that song was that it's about well, I guess it sort of the bit about youth, but it's about driving. And I remember, you know, listening to this song, just when I got my driver's license, and I was driving with my friend's son, it would be one of the sort of the de facto songs that we would listen to when we were practicing. Drive.
Steve Statler 49:05
Very good. That's a great memory. I'm gonna have to give that album A Listen, I have to confess that I haven't been a rush fan, nothing against them. I just know there's so much music to listen to. And I so I will, based on your enthusiasm. So what's your second song?
Erik Piehl 49:24
Yeah, so the second song is something different. So it's a heavy metal song by the band had disturbed and they have an album and the song called indestructible and the reason I chose that was that it was actually a song that I used to listen to when I really started doing exercise at the gym. So it was always you know, when I kind of would start a a serious with serious weights, then that would be the song that I would be listening to And that's great and gathering the energy. And I actually, at a later stage, I studied a little bit like, what's the background is of the song. And apparently it has been created in support of the US troops in Iraq during the war. So oh, I think it's kind of fitting also to my sort of small gym exercise things as well.
Steve Statler 50:25
Very good. So when did you decide to get back into going to the gym?
Erik Piehl 50:30
Ah, this was approximately 20 years ago. So I used to do it during high school time, and, and I liked it then. And then I, you know, then wife got into the way and I had small kids and everything. And, but then I got divorced. And as is typical, you know, during the divorce to come and get a new hobby, so I kind of went with two, so I bought a motorcycle, and I also started to go back to the gym. And that was great.
Steve Statler 51:04
So it was very good. Yeah. Yeah, I've found myself like, I just hit 61. And I'm like, now I have a renewed interest in exercise, because I see, you know, you see your peers going off in one direction or the other, the people who kind of managed to hold it together physically and the people that don't and, you know, obviously, it's pretty obvious which side you want to be on. Yeah, so. Okay. And the third song?
Erik Piehl 51:34
Yeah, so the first song is, it's a completely different one. So this is actually something I found in YouTube. So there's a channel by by the artists that goes by the handle Gatto bus, and I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing that right, but cutterbar says the name and the logo seems to be a reference to the Japanese Studio Ghibli, who has been making this very famous. Very famous movies and spirited away. And either way, exactly. And Totoro is one of them. And I think that it appears that his logo is coming from the cat boss in total. So that's, I think, it comes in. And there's a song called dreaming, that letter that he made. And, you know, that's available for anybody to look at in YouTube. And it's a song using two synthesizers that he apparently started to play as he had some difficulties getting to sleep. So that was somehow interesting for me, as I also started to kind of play for my own enjoyment of music around five years ago. And that's when I discovered this song. And, and I can also relate to the fact that it's hard to get to sleep. So that's the theory there. Yeah. So
Steve Statler 53:08
that was great. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Erik Piehl 53:13
Thank you very much, David. It has been my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.
Steve Statler 53:18
Good. So thank you very much for listening to the whole this week's episode. I can only imagine that you're among an elite queue. If you've been putting up with a few adverts on the way, then hopefully it will give me some satisfaction to know that throughout the time that I work at Willie out we're giving 100% of the advertising revenue that we receive to a really good cause. Monica school for children of homeless people. So I hope you enjoyed the show. hope it was useful. I'm always learning something I hope to add to. Lastly, my thanks to Aaron hammock, who does the editing for this show? And until next time, be safe and be well