Space expertise helps Expo visitors

ESA BIC start-up company Insiteo guides visitors at trade exhibitions
6 July 2010

A start-up company supported by ESA’s Business Incubation Centre has developed a new mobile phone indoor navigation system, which will soon help the six million annual visitors find their way around at the largest exhibition centre in Paris.

This navigation system, developed by Insiteo, is especially effective for large inside spaces such as exhibition grounds, because the vast, complicated layouts of such tradeshows can be confusing.

Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris
Trade exhibition

Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris, with its 575 000 sq m of total exhibition space, 220 000 sq m of which is indoors, is a prime site for using the system.

“Finding your way at Expo Porte de Versailles is difficult, with its eight large halls, 32 meeting rooms and several auditoriums,” explains Arnaud Masson, CEO and founder of Insiteo.

“During trade shows you will have thousands of exhibitors in individual booths. For a visitor to walk around and quickly and easily find the ones that interest them is not that easy.”

Insiteo’s pseudo‘navigation satellites’

Insiteo’s solution provides a seamless continuation of location services to indoors, where GPS is unavailable.

“We install a synchronised network of low-cost transmitters simulating indoor GPS and Galileo navigation signals with a high level of accuracy,” adds Arnaud Masson.

“The users download and install our Insiteo mobile application on their phones, which allows the display of the precise location on an indoor map, to search for any point-of-interest, product or event, to display and follow an itinerary and to receive multimedia content. Our application runs on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian systems.”

Mobile phone navigation

Insiteo was supported by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office at its Business Incubation Centre Noordwijk in the Netherlands, where the company developed its patented solution.

There, Insiteo obtained support from ESTEC engineers and access to ESTEC’s sophisticated laboratory equipment to calibrate their system and carry out detailed measurements for their customers.

Insiteo system shows the way on Porte de Versailles floor plan
Insiteo system shows the way on floor plan

“Accurate, ubiquitous localisation remains one of the key inhibitors to future location-based services growth,” says Patrick Connolly, Research Director at IMS Research from the UK.

“For certain applications, GPS alone doesn’t offer sufficient coverage or availability and WiFi and Cell-ID do not offer consistent accuracy.

“Insiteo promises to address this problem head on and does so using technologies already widely available in mobile phones today.”

The company concluded the first phase of a funding round of several million euros in September 2009, securing investments from Emertec and a small group of business angels. This allowed Insiteo to equip its first clients, including Expo Porte de Versailles.

“We were impressed by the depth of the market for indoor localisation where Insiteo has a unique value proposition. Its founders are experienced managers with a strong international culture. Our investment, even at this early stage, has attracted the unanimous enthusiasm of the team,” said Bernard Maître, President of Emertec.

Insiteo is based in Toulouse and at ESA BIC Noordwijk in the Netherlands, with offices in Paris, Amsterdam and soon in Silicon Valley, USA. The company was awarded ESA’s Special Prize for its submission to the Galileo Masters Competition in 2008.

More on ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme on ESA TTP website.

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