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The Benefits of Way-finding are Finally Being Realized

Have you ever noticed how practically nobody asks for directions anymore? And why should they? Directions or maps are literally at our fingertips these days. With smart phones, GPS, and online mapping software, I think most of us are now empowered to know how to get somewhere; I believe there’s also a certain mind-set that develops along with that. I think that people are now becoming so accustomed to this information being readily available that they never expect to get lost or be unable to find their way around.

For example, on a recent trip out of town, I had to find a particular route to a specific place, only to be in the middle of a 3G dead-zone. So, with my maps app on my phone not working, I had to rely on my own intuition and sense of direction (which, pre-smartphone, was actually good) to find the highway. In retrospect, I realized that my entire way of thinking — my historical penchant for pre-planning a trip and visually memorizing all potential routes had nearly failed due to my neglect to regularly use it!
Well, for better or worse, this paradigm will probably never change back and, most likely, it will evolve even further, like augmented reality (Project Glass, anyone?).

So with this paradigm shift in mind, we’ve been developing a new feature for Connections which allows a MediaPort to display a map or floor-plan; on that, it will display egress routes in the form of a flashing line (straight or curved) with arrow. We’ve purposely left this feature as flexible as possible so that it can conceivably be used for nearly every type of situation. The really neat thing about this feature is that it’s location-aware — intelligent enough to know which LCD panel is being used, relative to a given floor-plan or map. Because of that, a single event can cause multiple LCD panels throughout a building or campus to each display their own locations (a map, literally with a “you are here” red X on it), with appropriate egress routes flashing, showing people where to go, specific to each location. It’s really something neat to see it working, in-person.

I think it’s obvious what kind of added value that might have for an existing safety and security system; but what about everyday use? One example immediately comes to mind: hospitals. Many hospitals have not had the luxury to be designed wholly from the ground-up. Instead, they are typically older buildings that have been repeatedly expanded and renovated over the years; as a result, they are virtual labyrinths. Just think how easy it would be if there were a digital sign at each fork and turn in the hallways, giving you personalized directions (literally with arrows) to your destination within the hospital. It might make all the difference in that first visit to someone’s hospital room or even just to find that great cafeteria food!

Well, we’re not quite there with that customized level of way-finding, yet — but we’re getting close. In the meantime though, Connections does currently support location-aware routing, which I think is a significant addition to Connection’s capabilities (and it’s fun to draw the routes, too).

About Chris Rider

Chris Rider is a Systems Architect for MessageNet Systems, focusing on several areas including client-side software (e.g. browsers), micro-computer hardware components, and mobile platforms such as Android. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with an Electronic-Business degree, and has done website development and intranet-supported workflow process consulting with businesses ranging from locally-owned restaurants to global Fortune 500 companies. In his off-time, he enjoys tinkering with new technology, Linux, photography, videography, writing, media-content creation, learning new languages (trying to tackle Korean, currently), and travel.

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