In May 2016, the Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research (JCITR) awarded more than $160,000 in grants to seven projects at Indiana University Bloomington through the Translational Research Pilot Grant program. One of those projects is “Indoor Positioning System,” led by Kylie Peppler and Joshua Danish, School of Education; and Armin Moczek, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences.
Question: What problem are you addressing with this project?
Kylie Peppler: With the exponential increase of mobile devices and embedded systems, a user’s or an object’s indoor location becomes more valuable and tangible through the advent of our indoor positioning system. Any location-aware system can make use of this new innovation to provide a much better use experience while increasing safety measures as well, e.g., rescuing people from a fire through pinpointing their exact location in a building.
Question: When did you realize you had a solution to the problem?
Joshua Danish: There are currently many solutions for indoor positioning with different levels of accuracy, infrastructure, and cost. However, competitors on the market are outrageously expensive, offer inaccurate internal positionings, or have other serious limitations. We had a strong feeling that we had an innovative solution after a lengthier literature review. When we first tested the viability for its use in our BioSim work, we knew we had something quite strong and able to solve a lot of these prior issues.
Question: How does your solution work?
Kylie Peppler: A laptop computer with the custom software pre-loaded is needed as well as a set of three wireless anchors, which we have pre-attached to tripods for easy assembly. The anchors need to be distributed broadly in an indoor area. At that point, any tag within this area can be positioned/tracked by using a trilateration technique, i.e., the hardware can capture the time of travel of the signals and thus calculate the distance from each of the anchor points to estimate x, y, and z location of the actor in real-time. This is then visualized and recorded for later playback and future analyses in our custom software. We are currently able to support up to 25 actors but hope to expand the system up to 1000 actors.
Question: What applications does your solution have for government, industry, and commerce?
Joshua Danish: Potential applications of our system include experiences in shopping malls to track a particular store or item within a store, airports to track a particular gate or find a restaurant with a menu to accommodate dietary needs, or other locations like an enhanced game room or factory/warehouse settings where users need to track the locations of items and inventory over time. The chip we use also could be embedded into cell phones as a new standard feature, and then any Wi-Fi spot or additional hardware could then act as an anchor, which would render the applications in government, industry, and commerce nearly limitless.
Question: How has the Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research grant moved the project forward?
Armin Moczek: The grant has enabled us to begin work on a new patent application that is now pending on the indoor positioning system. We have additionally been able to work on creating a new extensible system based on the early BioSim work as well as the creation of devices that can be used in other settings to explore various applications in a broad array of settings, including new collaborations with folks on campus and in other settings.
Question: How does the Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research benefit Indiana University researchers?
Kylie Peppler: JCITR is a vital resource on the IU campus to help catalyze and share a variety of new innovations beyond campus. As a faculty member with expertise in our own disciplinary areas of research, it’s difficult if not impossible to understand what to do with much of the innovation coming out of our respective labs though often we recognize that there would be greater interest in this work but are not sure about next steps. This is where JCITR steps in with a variety of supports in the process, including consulting, coordination with lawyers and pre-vetting for patents, sharing resources and outlining options for taking innovations to market and the various roles that IU could play in the process.
The Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research works with faculty throughout the IU Bloomington campus to identify current and new research programs that hold commercial potential and to protect intellectual property. Based at Simon Hall, it also assists with grant applications, identifying industry partners, negotiating industry contracts, project-management support and developing strategies to increase the use of core IU facilities by industry partners.