In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Navigine CEO Alexey Panyov and CMO Elvina Sharafutdinova join us to talk all-things indoor positioning with IoT. Alexey and Elvina share their experience building an indoor positioning solution, some of the use cases they’ve tackled, and where the technology is going in the near future, and what use cases we can expect that will unlock.
Alexey Panyov has a PhD in Physics and Math at Moscow State University and has over 15 scientific articles and more than 10 years of experience in software development. In Lomonosov Moscow State University, Alexey was engaged in various navigation projects in the defense area including the development of navigation systems for aircraft, underwater, underground moving objects, and vehicles.
Elvina Sharafutdinova serves as CMO of Navigine and possesses a master’s degree in economics. She’s the former chairwoman of Unilever millennials board and is highly experienced in sales and project management, as well as the building and managing of sales departments.
About Navigine: Navigine is a global provider of integrated positioning technologies that enable advanced wayfinding and tracking solutions, with over 500 implementations worldwide.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:28) Introduction to Alexey Panyov and Elvina Sharafutdinova
(02:29) Introduction to Navigine
(03:12) Navigine Use Cases
(05:08) How do the different kinds of indoor location applications differ?
(06:57) What sets Navigine apart from other indoor tracking solutions?
(10:56) In terms of marketing and go-to-market strategy, what did Navigine do to set itself apart in the market?
(12:23) What’s the current state of the indoor tracking/navigation market?
(14:55) What technologies are playing the largest role in the indoor positioning space?
(20:07) How do you see indoor navigation and positioning playing a role in the healthcare and logistics spaces?
(23:53) What advice do you have for companies in the space and companies looking to implement indoor positioning?
– [Presenter] You are listening to the IoT for All media network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IOT For All podcast on the IoT for All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon, one of the co-creators of IoT For All. Now, before we jump into this episode, please, don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at iotforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. Before we get started, does your business waste hours searching for assets like equipment or vehicles and pay full-time employees just to manually enter location and status data? You can get real-time location and status updates for assets indoors and outdoors at the lowest cost possible with leverages end to end IOT solutions. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com. That’s iotchangeseverything.com. So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT for All podcast. Welcome Alexey and Elvina to the IoT for All show. Thanks for being here this week. It’s great to have you both. One way I wanna start this off was have you both jump in and give a quick introduction about yourself. So Alexey, let’s start with you, and then Elvina you can follow.
– [Alexey] Yeah, great, I will start. My name is Alexey, I’m CEO at Navigine, and I’m responsible last eight years for international business development. We are doing software, software for precise, indoor and outdoor positioning, and asset tracking. And my previous background was like related to R&D, R&D stuff and positioning also. I have done a lot of work in inertial and satellite navigation and also published some scientific papers.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Elvina?
– [Elvina] Hello everyone. My name is Elvina and I’m CMO at Navigine. And I have over five-year experience in marketing and joined the Navigine team as marketing manager. And now I’m Chief Marketing Officer. This is all about me.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, thank you both for the introduction. Alexey, I’d love if you could kind of jump in and talk a little bit more about Navigine, just kind of introduce our audience to the company, you know, high level, what you do, the focus and anything around around that area you think is important.
– [Alexey] Yeah, of course. At Navigine, we are doing software. We are software company. We are not doing any kind of hardware like beacons, WiFi routers or things like that, no. We are doing software platform. And our platform could work with almost any hardware available on the market, starting from Bluetooth beacons, WiFi routers, gateways, and even the ultra wide band solutions. It could work with all this hardware and provide our clients with best-in-class solutions in terms of total cost of ownership–
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And if you could expand a little bit more on kind of the focus areas or industries that you may all focus on and kind of, if there are any individual use cases you’re comfortable sharing just to kind of bring it full circle so our audience can kind of see real life examples of things that you all have done.
– [Alexey] Yeah, we are focusing on three main verticals, the retail, transportation, and production. And last year we also add here healthcare due to all this COVID stuff. And one of the cases, for example, which is very simple, imagine you have, you’re entering the museum and you wanna know where everything is located. And so we have a partner who develop mobile application for a couple of museums. And inside this museum, you have a feature which shows you the map of the museum where everything is located, and you see yourself on the map actually. It works like Google maps, but when you enter this building and when you are inside, you could build a route, you could find interesting stuff, additional contact, content and stuff.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So I imagine that could be applied to a whole variety of different areas, not just obviously museums, which make a lot of sense. But there’s outdoors kind of things that people could, like amusement parks and different kinds of experiences that this wayfinding technology could be very beneficial in.
– [Alexey] Yeah, you’re right. For example, a wayfinding use case is important when you wanna go from your home to a plane, for example, as this technology could show you the exact route from parking lot to your gate, through the airport environment, or when you go to your appointment in a healthcare facility, again from the parking lots where like the whole hospital result and interacting with stuff.
– [Ryan] Absolutely So let me ask you a question then. So the terms indoor navigation, indoor positioning, indoor tracking, wayfinding, all get thrown around. Can you talk a little bit more about kind of what each of those terms kind of mean, from like how they differ from each other? Or are they just used interchangeably and how do you all think about it from a focus standpoint?
– [Alexey] That’s a very interesting question. So let’s start from simple one, like positioning. So when we mention positioning, it’s kind of, so we determine the position, it means that we determine the coordinates where you are located in terms of, you know, for example, if you’re inside of the building, we knows the rooms where you are, for example, and the floor, it gives us three coordinates. When we say navigation it usually means, technically it means that we also know your angles. So we know their hidden angle, where you’re going, and yeah, it’s navigation. And what is tracking? Tracking is another thing. So tracking means you know where the object is located. For example, you could track in a warehouse a number of assets. The assets itself could not know each position, but the owner or a warehouse owner knows the position. So usually, when we say navigation and positioning, you have a mobile app inside your smartphone and it shows you where you stay. And the tracking, it usually means it’s a small, a small tech is attached to a box, for example, or to a palette and the system, which is located on a server, calculate position of this asset and show it to the manager.
– [Ryan] When I think about navigation and positioning, obviously the first thing that comes to mind is like Google Maps or something like that, which we’ve all used in some capacity in maybe a new city or even a city we live in to help us get around. Can you talk a little bit more about kind of that maybe question I’m sure you all get asked often is, well, doesn’t Google do this? But I’m sure there’s definitely a more intricate reason as to why your solution obviously exists and what it does that Google does not do, or other services like Google. How do you kind of answer that question or that point when it’s usually brought up?
– [Alexey] So let’s start explaining what Google could offer. When we started the company, we think our first target client will be shopping malls because in the shopping mall, so it’s always a mess, you need to find the exact shop and you need to go through, I don’t know, three floors or four floors until you get there. And it’s a problem for you. And we went to shopping mall owners to say, okay, we could do a mobile app for you, which will cover this problem. And we faced two problems. The first one, actually shopping mall owners, they don’t want you to go exactly to the exact shop. They want you to walk around and spend your time inside a shopping mall. This is the first. The second, no one wants to download an application of a shopping mall. It’s weird.
– Right, right, right.
– [Alexey] So many application inside our smartphone, and so you will not download a new one just for visiting a shopping mall. That’s where Google comes. As an application which is already installed in your smartphone, it could help you with navigation inside shopping malls. And yeah, for shopping malls, or for example, in transport hubs like airports, and train stations. It’s a good case for Google. But when it comes to a B2B for hospitals, for production facilities, for warehouses, they don’t want to be placed on the Google maps because it’s their private locations. They have their own private business needs. And this is an issue for a small companies which do these use cases.
– [Ryan] That makes a lot of sense. so you’re basically saying that for Google it’s more public facing environments, places, those kinds of things that people can easily access from the Google app they have on their phone. And then for you, it’s more specific business related situations where companies are coming to you and they maybe a very specific thing that they want to be able to use indoor navigation and positioning for maybe internally for their own customers or maybe for their car or their own individual employees and creating an experience that they have more control over, as opposed to just putting a blueprint of some kind on a map for Google to be able to just help you get around from a store to store within a mall.
– [Alexey] Yes, you’re right. And the second problem is hardware. So now all technology, all indoor position technologies, they require hardware to be installed. So if you want to provide the good quality service, you need to install hardware. And even for Google, it’s hard to install hardware in all buildings, and then you need to support this hardware. That’s why maps the maps of the buildings are available on shopping malls and transport hubs, and navigation is also available based on hardware, which is already installed like WiFi routers. But when it comes to a business facilities, it’s hard.
– [Ryan] I mean, you all are able to offer a more custom solution for what they need, more accurate data or more accurate positioning, navigation. You can create the experience that the business owner is envisioning. As opposed to Google, you’re kind of relying on GPS. You’re relying on potentially other technologies that are readily available. But there not necessarily is a detailed infrastructure always in place to give the experience that you all are able to offer for a business.
– You’re right, yes.
– Okay. Elvina, I’d love if you could kind of talk a little bit more about the marketing side of this. So when you kind of moved into the CMO role at an Navigine and kind of looked at the markets that you’re focused on and the solution you have, how have you kind of worked to help differentiate your offering in the market? Like just from a tactics or strategy standpoint, what have you been kind of focused on?
– [Elvina Yeah, I can share about the market. We’re one of the player in the location-based services market and real-time location system market, and this market has grown quite rapidly. For example, from 6 billion in the last year to 40 billion by 2024. And this is the numbers according to the research carried out. And as Alexey noticed, the solution applies to different industries, such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and also entertainment like museums, events. And in this market it’s always faces new technologies to increase positioning accuracy and reduce equipment manufacturing costs. And we always try to find a new needs of our customers and how we can help them and how can combine different solution and provide the best one. The market is growing and developing and we grow and develop together.
– [Ryan] How would you kind of define at a high level the current state of the indoor tracking? Let’s not go tracking, let’s just stick with navigation and positioning. But the current state of the indoor navigation and positioning market and the overall potential that you both see in this space going forward.
– [Elvina] Yeah, sure. The market is developing here as I noticed. And now we have more and more new players, and they provide, they use different technology and we try to find the best way, how to culminate. And as Alexey noticed, we are hardware agnostic and we try to combining different technologies and provide the solution which can, we can, how to say, combine different one in one platform. Yeah, I think this is a future of this kind of platforms when it can integrate everything what you want. Yeah, and we try to go to this way. And also there are different trends which are habits ones in market now. And the most one in the area of pandemic and the emphasis of healthcare and logistic industry for example, has significantly increased. And for example, for healthcare, there are more requests for medical equipment due to the large volumes. And for the logistic, more cases have appeared related to dark school, like changing delivering process. And also on the market in the industry like manufacturing, like industry 4.0 is the last trend in digitalization. And hundreds of thousands of people gathered the Hanover message, for example, the huge event in Germany. And on this event, you can find a lot of different solution, which are also very close to the indoor positioning and tracking system and technologies.
– [Ryan] We’ve mentioned something a couple times, you talked about technology. And Alexey, I’d love if you kind of jump in here and talk a little bit more from your perspective what technologies are playing the largest role in the indoor positioning and navigation space right now and kind of where do you see the technologies kind of evolving? And which technologies do you see kind of winning out as the leaders in this space?
– [Alexey] Yeah, sure. So I think there are three technologists, three main technologies. It’s technology based on Bluetooth, technology based on WiFi, and technology based on the ultra wideband solutions. It’s all radio-based technology, as well, many, many others. So I will mention them, but we’ll not jump into details. For example, ultrasound-based camera-based solutions, ultrasonic-based solution, RFID, QR codes, and things like that. Yeah, let’s start from Bluetooth-based. So I think six or seven years ago when Apple first time introduced Bluetooth low energy standards and iBeacons and start pushing the standard to the markets, a lot of application appears which works with this Bluetooth-based positioning, starting from simple museum application to more advanced to retail application where shoppers could get discounts when they pass by brands, special brands, or shop, for example. It’s relatively precise technology and relatively, in terms of money, it’s like in the middle, I think, implementation based on Bluetooth beacons. It’s a very simple technology which use already installed infrastructures, WiFi infrastructure. It’s indoor position based on WiFi, working well on Android smartphones and not so well on iPhone. Actually, you could not use WiFi for positioning for iPhones since last three or four years, unfortunately, because of the privacy limitations. and as well, Apple pushed Bluetooth beacons on the market. But now two or three years ago, Google introduced a new extension of WiFi. We usually call it WiFi RTT. And this extension of the protocol provides a very high precision solution. So you could be located as precise as one meter by your smartphone, and it’s enough for most of the cases, which you could . So even in production environment. And it’s again, a WiFi-based solution. It’s the local solution and a well accurate usually. The third one, it’s ultra wideband solutions. They’re usually applied for production facilities because they need a very high cost equipment called anchors or texts, anchors or antennas should be installed inside the facility. All antennas should be cabled by a power over their net cable or power and Internet in separate cables. But this solution could provide up to 10 centimeters accuracy, rich enough, for example, for collision avoidance application or for robots navigation for highly automated facilities. So this technologies is used especially in such areas. And now in the latest update, Apple also released ultra wideband solution inside their latest version of iPhones. So it looks like maybe in couple of years we will see the ultra wideband technology available also inside our smartphone.
– Yeah, for sure. So it’s fair to say that there’s enough technologies out there right now that are able to be specifically chosen for individual use cases. It’s not a one size fits all necessarily situation, and it’s gonna be something as, or an environment in which there’s gonna be multiple technologies that exist in order for people to have the most appropriate technology available for their individual use case based on price, based on accuracy, based on all those different kinds of factors that you’ve mentioned.
– [Alexey] Yeah, you’re right. And it’s very complicated for the common user. For example, let’s think that you are like IT manager in a company and your boss give you a task, please find me indoor position solution. You start Googling it. And you see a lot of companies available in the market. A lot of companies like using different kinds of hardware and you need to dive deeper and deeper in all the details to understand what you exactly need. And that’s where we come to arena because we integrate all this technology and could provide you our expertise, could help you to select the right equipment and for the right task, right hardware. We will help you to minimize your total cost of ownership. So I think here is a huge opportunity for small companies because a big company, as they usually provide one or maybe two solutions based on hardware that usually they produce. This is like their limitation.
– Makes a ton of sense. So one of the things we talked about kind of before we started recording was how you have a focus on retail, transportation, production initially, but due to COVID last year, you’ve seen a lot more demand on the healthcare and logistics side of things. So can you talk to us a little bit more about kind of how you see, and more at a high level, how you see indoor navigation and positioning kind of coming into those spaces that kind of were, I guess, drummed up in the last year or so because of COVID that is now on your radar?
– [Alexey] Yeah, well, we see a huge trend which digitalize everything. Soon we will have a digital twin of almost any building in the world. I mean, starting from public buildings. It might be train stations, shopping malls, healthcare facilities, warehouse, manufacturing plants. And of course, as a part of this digital twin, there should be a map and you need to have data, real-time data about all events, which happens inside your facility, you need to know where all things are located at each moment of time. And it gives like indoor positioning system a huge, huge opportunity. And of course all this building will acquire this real-time location system. Maybe some of them will require not so precise system. Some of them will require a system with maybe one centimeter accuracy, it’s also possible. And I think that maybe in the next five to seven, eight years, we will see a significant increase in demand from the market for such applications like digital things. And especially in areas like healthcare and logistics, because due to COVID and increasing demand for all services, they start digitalizing their processes. For example, in healthcare, as we mentioned, there are some use cases. The first one you need to control your valuable assets, for example, your ICU units. So there are a lot of ICU units inside the hospital, but when you need one, you don’t know where is the nearest one or where is one which is free. And it should work. So when you have an RTLS system, you will have this data in your pocket and you could make a decision faster. And moreover you could for example, see position of all patients. For example, if you have a patient with dementia, you should control them because he could like leave the building, and you need to tie them. All these use cases could be powered by indoor positioning and real time location systems. This first it’s about healthcare and in logistics and warehouse operation, things last year, even the small warehouses, they start digitalizing their processes because of increasing demand capacity, turnover. At its rise they need to implement a system, IT system, which help them to do a routine and paper-based work almost online. And that’s where they also need to know the location of each forklift, each employee, each box inside the warehouse, and they should be able to locate this box in a second and pick up, pick it up like in one minute. And it will help them to do one hour delivery, 15 minutes delivery.
– [Ryan] One follow-up question to kind of what we were just talking about there is with these new customers that you engage with, and customers in general, how have you worked on solving the common challenge that is understanding the customer pain points and being able to showcase how your product can solve those customer pain points? The reason I asked is because this is a common thing across the industry, and I would love if you’d kind of approach it from both sides. One, you know, from the Navigine side of when a customer comes to us, what can you do to better understand the customer pain points and showcase your product to kind of solve that problem? And then on the other side, is anybody listening who may be approaching a company like Navigine, what can they bring to the table to make this, make that conversation much more easily understood for the company who may not have as much experience in the domain in which they work?
– [Alexey] Yeah, Ryan, that’s a very good question. So first, I think the right way is to share more experience from the Navigine side. It will be better if we will share more experience with our clients during during a very simple way, like maybe video tutorials or video examples of how the system works for example in healthcare facility, in warehouse, in industry environments, in retail. If the customer see a similar use case, they trust you better. They trust you, actually, because they see that, okay, this solution work in particular same environment that I have, and it helps. And what else could help is proof of concept. Maybe half of our project and half of our customers, they ask for proof of concept. It means that for example, we have a warehouse that you could select a small area inside the warehouse and you could set up a system on a small area. And for a small period of time, for example, two or three days or one week, we could show how it works. But it’s vital part of this is to set up a measurable KPI for this pilot, because it’s hard to move to the next step from pilot stage to the actual deployment real-time production environment. And that’s why it’s vital part again, it’s to set up, when you’re planning to start a proof of concept, you need to agree on the measurable KPI, for example. I dunno, you will measure as a time spent by order pickers to get like box, or you’ll measure distance traveled by a forklift, or you will propose something that will help a venue owner to optimize logistic process. You need to realize that. And only after that, you need to do a pilot because if you start a pilot and you don’t know what to expect, it’s very hard at the end to convince clients to like a good scalable project.
– [Ryan] I totally agree with you, I think one of the most interesting things is the KPI point you made is, you know, when you go into an engagement like this with a customer or a new customer, let’s say, if you’re gonna venture down the path of setting up a pilot to basically prove out the value, there needs to be some level of clear understanding of what the ROIs the customer is looking for. So not only can you and your company make sure that the solution is focused on addressing those and kind of meeting that ROI, but it just sets like the metrics for success that every, it’s very clear for everybody. So you kind of have a good idea of how likely is this to kind of proceed past the pilot stage into being something that can hopefully scale, which is where everybody basically, you know, ideally would win there. So I think putting emphasis on that KPI point in those discussions is important for companies to come to the table and say, here’s what we hope to see to solve our problem. Here’s some numbers that we’re looking to see. Here’s some costs that we’re looking to stay around. And then you’re able to then better customize and address those points and tailor the solution for the pilot to show them that this is realistic for them. And I think that’s something that oftentimes is not always focused on and I think it’s very important.
– [Alexey] Yes, Ryan, KPI is very important and top of the user.
– As we finish up here, I wanted to bring Elvina back in for a second. And if our audience out there, Elvina, has questions, follow up discussions, things they’re looking to kind of maybe learn more about after they listened to this episode, what’s the best way they can do that? And then on top of that, are there any kind of new announcements or things coming out from your end that our audience would kind of pay attention to?
– [Elvina Yeah, sure. We have a lot of different social media and also you can find our website, it’s navigine.com There you can find our blog part where we write different articles and news about our company and also news about the market. And also you can find us in Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, and now we try to use Reddit and Quora, it’s our new instrument. And so we can communicate with you there. And of course you have any question, we are always open to answer them, And you can write to us by the email. It’s [email protected]
– Fantastic. And on the new side?
– [Alexey] Yeah, yeah. So I could add more information. So there are two things I want to emphasize. The first one now very interesting competition is going on at the Kaggle. It’s a site where like artificial intelligence and some machine learning guys could practice their skills and it’s a competition actually held by Microsoft. It’s about indoor positioning and the quality of indoor positioning. And it’s very interesting, very, very interesting. More than 1,000 teams already played with it. That’s provided by organizers. And the quality of algorithms are very good. For example, some of them already reached two meter accuracy. If you’re like a R&D person or student who is interested in this technology, I think it’s worth time to visit this competition and maybe take place, like take part in this competition. That’s the first. The second, last year we announced our open source initiative at our page at GitHub. You could find out some algorithms, which is published on the open source approach. And this algorithm helps to determine position in a Bluetooth and WiFi access point environment. And soon we will publish more algorithms and it will help for engineers who wanna start working in this area to implement their first solutions. And we think that this approach will help even boost the market different application and it will help everyone on the market. So we are totally open to like new approaches. If you want to take part in open source approach or you think you have a very good experience in indoor position, please contact us. It will be very great to talk to you.
– Fantastic Well, I really appreciate both of your time on the show today kind of talking a lot more about a subject we don’t cover very often, or we haven’t talked too much about navigation and positioning in an indoor sense. We’ve talked about asset tracking a lot, indoor and outdoor, but the navigation positioning definitely has its own kind of worth when it comes to the conversation and kind of the value it provides for the industry. So thank you both for your time and I appreciate you being here.
– [Elvina] Thank you for having us. It was very interesting conversation. I hope a lot of people find the answer to their questions about this market, about this technology.
– [Alexey] Yes, thank you, Ryan, for inviting us.
– Yeah, thank you very much. Thank you very much.
– Thank you.
– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT for All podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a future guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.