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Towards an efficient indoor navigation system: a near field communication approach

Wilson E. Sakpere (Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Nhlanhla Boyfriend Wilton Mlitwa (Department of Research and Innovation, University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, South Africa and Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa)
Michael Adeyeye Oshin (Department of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Sheridan College, Perth, Australia)

Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology

ISSN: 1726-0531

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




This research aims to focus on providing interventions to alleviate usability challenges to strengthen the overall accuracy and the navigation effectiveness in indoor and stringent environments through the experiential manipulation of technical attributes of the positioning and navigation system.


The study followed a quantitative and experimental method of empirical enquiry and software engineering and synthesis research methods. The study further entails three implementation processes, namely, map generation, positioning framework and navigation service using a prototype mobile navigation application that uses the near field communication (NFC) technology.


The approach and findings revealed that the capability of NFC in leveraging its low-cost infrastructure of passive tags, its availability in mobile devices and the ubiquity of the mobile device provided a cost-effective solution with impressive accuracy and usability. The positioning accuracy achieved was less than 9 cm. The usability improved from 44 to 96 per cent based on feedbacks given by respondents who tested the application in an indoor environment. These showed that NFC is a viable alternative to resolve the challenges identified in previous solutions and technologies.

Research limitations/implications

The major limitation of the navigation application was that there is no real-time update of user position. This can be investigated and extended further by using NFC in a hybrid make-up with WLAN, radio-frequency identification (RFID) or Bluetooth as a cost-effective solution for real-time indoor positioning because of their coverage and existing infrastructures. The hybrid positioning model, which merges two or more techniques or technologies, is becoming more popular and will improve its accuracy, robustness and usability. In addition, it will balance complexity, compensate for the limitations in the technologies and achieve real-time mobile indoor navigation. Although the presence of WLAN, RFID and Bluetooth technologies are likely to result in system complexity and high cost, NFC will reduce the system’s complexity and balance the trade-off.

Practical implications

Whilst limitations in existing indoor navigation technologies meant putting up with poor signal and poor communication capabilities, outcomes of the NFC framework will offer valuable insight. It presents new possibilities on how to overcome signal quality limitations at improved turn-around time in constrained indoor spaces.

Social implications

The innovations have a direct positive social impact in that it will offer new solutions to mobile communications in the previously impossible terrains such as underground platforms and densely covered spaces. With the ability to operate mobile applications without signal inhibitions, the quality of communication – and ultimately, life opportunities – are enhanced.


While navigating, users face several challenges, such as infrastructure complexity, high-cost solution, inaccuracy and usability. Hence, as a contribution, this paper presents a symbolic map and path architecture of a floor of the test-bed building that was uploaded to OpenStreetMap. Furthermore, the implementation of the RFID and the NFC architectures produced new insight on how to redress the limitations in challenged spaces. In addition, a prototype mobile indoor navigation application was developed and implemented, offering novel solution to the practical problems inhibiting navigation in indoor challenged spaces – a practical contribution to the community of practice.



Sakpere, W.E., Mlitwa, N.B.W. and Oshin, M.A. (2017), "Towards an efficient indoor navigation system: a near field communication approach", Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 505-527.



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