NTT to roll out indoor navigation using smartphone sensors

Designed for Japan's complex rail hubs, the service would guide users based on their steps

This map from Zenrin DataCom shows what a new navigation service fro Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo will look like. The service uses motion and barometric sensors in smart phones to determine location in indoor environments where GPS signals may not reach.

This map from Zenrin DataCom shows what a new navigation service fro Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo will look like. The service uses motion and barometric sensors in smart phones to determine location in indoor environments where GPS signals may not reach.

Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo wants to go beyond GPS with a more granular smartphone navigation system for complex indoor spaces.

DoCoMo has partnered with mapping company Zenrin DataCom to develop the navigation system that makes use of sensors in smartphones. It's designed to help users find their way through Japan's dense indoor spaces such as subway complexes or underground malls where GPS signals may not reach.

Japan has some of the busiest and largest rail hubs in the world, with multiple floors, overlapping rail lines and subterranean shopping arcades. The new platform uses smartphone motion sensors to track direction when a user walks around. The data is plotted against preloaded maps from Zenrin, which supplies mapping apps for all DoCoMo mobile phones.

Atmospheric pressure sensors, or barometers, in some smartphones can also be used to detect when users of the navigation service climb or descend stairs or use elevators, according to DoCoMo. When that happens, the appropriate map for the floor or outdoor environment is automatically called up.

"There's strong demand for a low-cost indoor navigation service," Takuya Ori, a spokesman for NTT DoCoMo, said via email, adding there are no comparable navigation apps that use sensors in smartphones.

DoCoMo plans to roll out the feature from April in Japan as an add-on to its Android map application. It will start with 320 indoor locations around the country, and the monthly user fee will likely be around ¥300 (US$2.50).

The service will likely start with Android smartphones that have the appropriate sensors. DoCoMo also carries the iPhone 6, which includes a barometer that can determine relative elevation.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NTT DoCoMomobile applicationsconsumer electronicsmobile

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments


Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >


Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >


HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >


Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?