Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 18, 2013

Internal GPS systems offer unique approach to mapping


Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — I remember many years ago when Decatur County underwent a county-wide 9-1-1 address transition.

We went from using rural routes to using the current county road numerical-ID system. Perhaps I remember it so well because my dad worked for the US Postal Service at the time. I can remember him talking about the enormity of the project, and I got a sense of the extra stress that the address changes caused.

To me, the 9-1-1-inspired grid system makes sense. In particular, I especially appreciate the logic of the mapping system every year when I deliver Cheer Fund packages in the county. I know that if I’m delivering packages to 4200 South County Road 300 West, I need to travel 4.2 miles south and 3 miles west from the base point to reach my destination.  I often find myself wishing that this same mapping system existed in larger cities. Instead, devices like Magellan, TomTom, and other navigational systems have come to the rescue, becoming a great alternative for those of us who are directionally-challenged.

In the wake of the popularity of GPS systems, I recently read about a new application for these devices. A Miami hospital took navigational systems to a whole new level when it designed a way of using these internally.

According to an article written by Matt Hambien for www.computerworld.com, Miami Children’s Hospital recently launched an iPhone app that helps patients and visitors navigate through their hospital. The hospital’s campus is so large that signage alone was not enough. Despite what the hospital considered to be adequate markers, there were still constant requests from visitors for directions to the lobby, to the help desk, to a patient’s room, etc. The hospital recognized it had an issue, and went to work creating a unique level of customer service.

With the app, known as Fit4KidsCare, the user appears as a dot on a Smartphone screen. The app can direct people to their destinations, even detecting vertical distance when a person is on an elevator.  

A similar app is used at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

While the concept of a directional device is not new, the way it works in these types of internal settings is unique. Traditional mapping applications rely on communication between a satellite and a cell phone or other device. With the internal directional apps such as those utilized at Miami Children’s Hospital and the Museum of Natural History, communication is between a cell phone and hundreds of Wi-Fi points throughout the building.

While Greensburg does not have any buildings large enough to warrant an internal GPS mapping system, it will be interesting to see to what extent this idea catches on throughout the country.  The use of GPS systems in this manner is just another example of how technology is ever-changing. It’s up to us to be willing to change with it and take advantage of all that it has to offer.